Cherry Hills

host, and playing partner at one of our fair county’s hidden treasures, Cherry Hills Golf Resort. Three years ago, I jumped into my own little slice of Door County living as co-owner and superintendent of Cherry Hills. And while there may be a smattering of bias, in general, our golf excursion will be not unlike any other outing to a new destination:  fun and informational. So let’s go. (Not to worry…we can get a tee time. I know the owner.)

Turning off Highway 42 just four miles north of Sturgeon Bay may seem odd. The majority of visitors to Door County are racing for the bustling villages of Egg Harbor, Fish Creek, and Sister Bay. However, we will avoid the traffic. Just one mile west on Dunn Road (County Road P) at the crest of the ridge sits the Lodge at Cherry Hills. This 31-room lodge and full service restaurant serves as a convenient retreat for golfers, boaters, shoppers, and sightseers. The close proximity to Door County shops, boat launches, lighthouses, and of course golf, makes Cherry Hills Golf Resort an attractive and comfortable vacation getaway.

In the Pro Shop, Golf Operations Manager Sam Andre begins our golf experience with his special brand of local charm. A native of Door County, Sam’s quick wit and gift for a story make guests feel like they are visiting old friends. Many long-time visitors to Door County are familiar with Sam and his wife, Sandy. For 17 years, they owned and operated the popular Andre’s Supper Club in Sturgeon Bay.

Golf Digest changed its ranking system in 2008 to put weight on playing surface, and less on the color of the playing surface, in a nod to environmental concerns.

On the wall next to the counter is an aerial photo of Cherry Hills Golf Course. I like to use this visual aid for a quick walk-through of the course, pointing out landmarks and “landmines.” At just under 6,200 yards, Cherry Hills appears on the scorecard as an under-sized par 72. A word of caution:  the professional division of the 2006 Cherryland Open hosted at this “short track” was won with a score of one over par.

The practice facilities at Cherry Hills are the next stop. Site of the Cherry Hills Golf School, the driving range has a half an acre of teeing area and a 300-yard fairway that affords golfers the flexibility to hit every club in the bag. After a bucket of balls on the range, a visit to the short game area is advised. The undulated green, spacious sand bunker, and large chipping fairway will help prepare you for what lies ahead.

Standing on the first tee, the front nine holes lay out before us. This downhill, 490-yard par 5 is a great starting hole that offers a true taste of the 17 holes to follow. Straightforward and reachable in two shots, the teeth of Cherry Hills are bared once the golfer reaches this first green.

Although Cherry Hills cannot claim a design by a renowned architect, many of the greens at Cherry Hills have been favorably compared to the crowned greens made famous by legendary golf course architect Donald Ross. The green on number one is a prime example of this design. Approach shots coming to rest above the hole make a tap-in, two-foot putt a knee-knocking experience.

Two of the more interesting holes on the front nine are the par 4 fifth and the par 5 sixth. The 353-yard number five is a true teaser. This downhill, dogleg right can be reached from the tee, but out of bounds lurking right and left, combined with a spruce grove on the dogleg, make double bogey a real threat.

The number one handicap hole at Cherry Hills, hole six, is a 530-yard roller coaster ride from start to finish. Out of bounds stakes run the length of the left side and a pond cuts the fairway in two. With a solid drive, golfers can clear the water with the second shot leaving an approach of less than 100 yards. A lay-up short of the hazard leaves at least 150 yards of uphill fairway to negotiate.

In between nines, a quick stop in the Pub and Grille gives me a chance to add some historical narrative regarding Cherry Hills, for it is important to appreciate this land as well as its layout.

The land that is now home to Cherry Hills Golf Course was once a small section of the world’s largest cherry orchard. Martin Orchards covered thousands of acres and employed over 1,000 immigrant workers every year. During World War II, 500 German prisoners of war were assigned to the barracks at Martin Orchards located near the present-day Cherry Hills driving range. Ultimately, the once-teeming cherry business slowed, and large sections of the orchard were replaced by apple trees or sold off.

While Martin Orchards covered many square miles of Door County, the 160 acres that are Cherry Hills Golf Course were in four distinct sections. Around the course, which opened for play in 1977 as Pepperdine Golf Club, rock walls and grown-over roads are the subtle reminders of this vast orchard. Today, no cherry trees can be found on the property. However, the proud past is still alive on the adjacent property west of Cherry Hills, where the spring countryside is awash with full blossoms, and the late summer is ripe with the rich harvest of Door County’s cherry tradition.

This history break, and a hearty sandwich, is beneficial in re-energizing for the next nine holes. In comparison to the first nine, several back nine holes play through the hardwood forest. These nine holes offer some of the more memorable golf holes of Cherry Hills, and Door County.

From the elevated tee on number 11, we are treated to a spectacular view of rural Door County. This 343-yard par 4 requires a right to left shaped shot off the tee. A well-struck utility wood will leave an approach of less than 150 yards to a postage-stamp sized green.

While other Door County courses boast memorable golf holes, none combines the unique design and true golf challenge of number 15, “The Cliff Hole.” This signature par 4 is a dog leg right that plays to 409 yards. A drive of anything less than 220 yards will leave a long, blind approach to a deceptively undulated green 80 feet below, while a drive of 260 yards or better will likely end up in the rocks along the face of the cliff. After the approach shot, step to the edge of the cliff and take a moment to enjoy the beautiful panorama of Door County farms and woodlands rolling out to the eastern horizon.

After 17 holes of up and down golf, number 18 appears to be an innocuous 120-yard par 3. The green is easily reached with a wedge, but this little uphill closer won’t let golfers go without a fight. The crowned green can be treacherous. Stay below the hole and be happy to walk away with a two-putt par.

After the round, my treat for a cold drink on the deck of the Pub and Grille overlooking the ninth green and another spectacular view of the Door County countryside. Thank you for allowing me to be your host, and I hope you have enjoyed your golf experience. Now, let’s sit back and plan another round at one of Door County’s true hidden gems, Cherry Hills Golf Resort.

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