FAIRWAYS: Oh, How the 19th Hole Has Changed

You don’t play the clubhouse – you play the course.

That rings true for some golf purists, but facilities that provide a place to mingle, dine, sip a cocktail or enjoy a great view also attract those who’ve never teed it up on Door County golf courses.

But clubhouses haven’t always drawn in nongolfers.

For instance, a one-room shed with course rules painted on the wood siding served as Alpine’s clubhouse during the 1920s and ’30s. The Orchards had a temporary, portable structure while rebuilding its spacious, window-wrapped, hilltop clubhouse and restaurant after a 2007 fire. And a trailer served as Idlewild’s golf shop when the course was in its infancy and known as Lost Creek.

Today, Idlewild’s clubhouse stays open even during the winter, and the pub and grill attract patrons from the neighborhood for everything from a drink to a Friday-night fish fry. Course owner Brandon Hansen said Idlewild’s clubhouse provides golf course and nature views that are about as scenic as any facility in Wisconsin.

Floor-to-ceiling posts inside the Idlewild clubhouse delineate how small the octagon-shaped facility once was, before it was expanded to provide huge windows looking out over ponds, marsh and prairie to the first, second, fourth, ninth and 18th holes. Visitors get a great view of the plentiful wildlife on the course, and, during the fall, of the leaves turning vibrant colors on the Potawatomi State Park bluffs.

Peninsula State Park Golf Course’s pro shop and dining area can also lay claim to one of the state’s best views. Manager Jason Daubner said park visitors and golfers love sitting by the windows while enjoying breakfasts and lunches and looking over the course toward Eagle Harbor and Ephraim. Before the current clubhouse opened in 1954, a house that stood along the east side of Highway 42 served that purpose.

Historian Kriss Schorer recalled that Maxwelton Braes had a small lunch room alongside the club entrance. Demolished early in this century, the Wee Inn served golfers as they walked from the ninth green to 10th tee. Submitted.

Simon Ward of Alpine Golf Course and Resort said improvements will continue not only at the course, but also at the historical Golf Chalet and in the lodge rooms above the chalet.

Opened in 1949, Alpine’s Golf Chalet is getting updated plumbing and wiring and a new kitchen. After implementing a quick spruce-up in 2021, Ward and the owner want to further refurbish and enhance the comfort level and service in the clubhouse. Large windows behind the bar will continue to give a great view toward the bluff to the tee that became hole #17 this year. Ward also envisions adding more seating around the patio near the first tee and the green near the course entrance.

Golfers can expect clubhouse improvements at two other Egg Harbor courses as well. Stone Hedge, east of the village, has energetic new owners. And the operators at Horseshoe Bay, the private club south of the village, see a need to double the size of the original clubhouse, but they have not yet finished the plans, said Andrew Morel, Horseshoe Bay’s chief operating officer. 

Before the current Golf Chalet opened for golfers and lodging in the 1940s, Alpine Resort used a wooden shed with a service window as its “clubhouse.” The shed’s still standing and may be available for another use. Photo by Craig Sterrett.

Horseshoe Bay has two clubhouses. In a structure that replicates the historical Murphy Farm barns down the bluff from the course, Horseshoe Bay houses its pro shop, check-in area and casual dining spot for before, during and after rounds. Especially since a social-distancing-related golf boom in 2020, the mansion-like clubhouse overlooking the 18th green to the east and Green Bay to the west has become too small at times.

“We pull members from 28 states, but the trend over the last few years [is that] folks are staying longer during the summer, and some actually are staying through the winter now,” Morel said.

For years, Horseshoe Bay had to send club members to the beach house for dinner if there were banquets in the clubhouse at the same time. Since 2015, the beach house has had a kitchen, but for many years before that, employees transported all food down the Highway G hill to the site.

Maxwelton Braes once had plush facilities for golfers, including locker rooms inside the historical lodge where the bar and kitchen are now. The lodge, now owned separately from the course, also had shower rooms so golfers could change from golf clothes to tennis wear, said historian Kriss Schorer.

Today, Maxwelton’s golf shop occupies one end of a long, narrow building that housed horses, automobiles, chauffeurs and a caddy shack during the 1930s.

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