A photographers take: Redefining golf beauty in the dark north of Wisconsin

A visit to Big Fish Golf Club shows us the unheralded beauty of the dark forests of northern Wisconsin.

Not all golf properties can or should be immaculate.

Golf courses should reflect the land that it’s built on. That’s what you get when you visit Big Fish Golf Club in the small northern town of Hayward, Wisconsin, in Sawyer County.

Wisconsin’s Sawyer County in known for its logging industry dating back to the late 1800s. After many of forests were cut down; land was sold for farms and resorts. Logging, farming and tourism are still considered the key industries in this small northern town.

Each year, thousands of vacationers visit Sawyer County to escape the city and enjoy the beauty of nature and escape their busy lives

The course is located on Hwy B just east of town. As you crest a hill you notice a casino and a few gas stations. Aa long drive way under an overhanging sign that says Big Fish Golf Club gets you to pull into what seems like a farm area but immediately you see holes 1-3. These holes are a preview of what you will experience on the front nine links style layout.

As you step on the first tee, you quickly realize this isn’t your typical resort town golf course. It’s not pure, unblemished or all that attractive to be honest. That is until you find those little nuggets of beauty during your round.

Links style layout feeds into the farming heritage

As I walked my way through the front nine, I got glimpses into what it means to be a farming community in northern Wisconsin.

The Pete Dye designed course features concepts that are typical of all Dye courses; pot bunkers, rolling hills and false fronts. On almost every hole, I had a straight view of a local farm that is on the edge of the course property.

A back nine that fills the logging void

As I made the turn, I climbed up onto the tee of hole 10 and thought, damn is this the right course. What a stark contrast to the links style of the front nine. Each hole on the back nine is lined by the deep Wisconsin forest.

Steep drops in elevation, gusts of winds through the forest walls and narrow fairways make it a deep divide from the front half of the course.

The unheralded beauty of the dark forests of northern Wisconsin really shine through as you make walk the final half of this truly reflects the heritage of the local community; past and present.

As I walked the layout, I couldn’t help but think of the history of this property. At one point, I can imagine there were thousands of trees that loggers took out to mill at the Namekagon River Big Mill. Once the property was cleared of trees a local farmer most likely became part of the rich diversity of local agriculture. And not until after my round, I found out that the Lac Courte Oreilles tribe recently purchased the course and the property. That’s a rich history for a few hundred acres in the dark woods of northern Wisconsin.

It’s the history of land that really makes a golf course shine. I am true believer that if a course is maintained well enough to play on and isn’t torn up completely, it should reflect the land it sits on. And that’s what Big Fish Golf Club is all about in my head.

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