The Bull at Pinehurst Farms
“Good morning!” said the man lining up the golf carts to get ready for the day’s play.
“Morning, beautiful day isn’t it?”
I found out about 10 minutes later that the man moving the carts was the owner of the course Dave Bachman Jr. In stark contrast to the nearby Kohler courses at Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms is a family operation – and a pretty darned good one at that.
Everyone I talked to at the Bull was extremely friendly from the cart girl to Head Pro Jim Font.
Originally a farm breeding grand-champion caliber cattle, Pinehurst Farms was a dairy farm for almost a century. However, fires in 1982 and finally 1993 got them thinking that maybe something else was in store for the future of the farm – thus plans for the golf course were created.
The Bull sits on 410 incredibly scenic acres and boasts the only Jack Nicklaus Signature Course in Wisconsin.
This was the very first round I played on my golf road trip, so needless to say I was a little tired (and nervous) after traveling the day prior.
When I showed up to the course, I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was bright sunshine…in October…in Wisconsin. We could not have had better weather to start the trip off.
My buddy Tom drove up from Milwaukee and joined me for my round – so it was nice to see a friendly face early on in the trip. He hadn’t played in months, and the twosome we were paired up from were playing from the white tees (6,027 yards) so I decided to stick with that and attempt to make it easy on myself for the first round.
6,000 yards may seem short, but it stretches out to over 7,300 yard from the tips – and as you’ll see, the white/green combo I ended up playing provided plenty of challenge.
One thing I learned halfway through the front 9 is that the white is very different than the longer tees. I found myself hitting from the greens pretty frequently as they were often elevated and much more fun. So if you find yourself debating one of the other, your score might be higher from the greens, but you’ll have more memorable golf shots.
I’d heard The Bull was a difficult course, so I strapped myself in and prepared myself for what inevitably became one of the most scenic, and most difficult rounds of golf I’ve ever played.
Just the Facts
- Designer: The Bull is the only Jack Nicklaus Signature in Wisconsin. Built in 2003.
- Rank: #77 Public Course in the Country. (Golf Digest)
- Location: Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Right across the street from Blackwolf Run.
- Greens fees: $55-85 depending on time of year and day
- Website: http://www.golfthebull.com
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/golfthebull
Hole 1 (Par 4, 344 yards)
A relatively benign opening hole, but make sure you keep your ball left as the bunkers on the right will happily swallow up any errant balls. I went right and landed in the rough which was my first sense of just how important it would be to keep the ball in play. The rough was grown out a bit and definitely made it tough to get the ball back in play.
Hole 2 (Par 4 360 yards)
The giant lake on the right of the fairway is just as dangerous as it is beautiful. You have plenty of fairway to work with, so it’s not the toughest drive in the world – but with that said, both Tom and I dropped one in the water, so defend against the slice on this one.
Hole 3 (Par 3, 169 yards)
Despite being the #18 handicap hole, I found this to be on the of the trickiest par 3s on the course – at least the first go around. The green is actually quite large, but from the tee you have water all to the right and you can’t get a good sense for how the green is shaped. Deep bunkers in both the back and the front of the green, along with the water make an accurate tee shot a must.
Hole 4 (Par 5, 469 yards)
This is when the course really gets going, with some fun and difficult holes.
A slightly uphill tee shot leads to a dogleg left downhill and a very tricky decision to make. You have trees all along the right and a very large, and very scary bunker defending one of the smaller greens on the course. Long is better than short here as that is one bunker I wouldn’t want to mess with.
Halfway through this hole, the course morphs from meadow to forest, and this is a great transition hole.
Hole 5 (Par 4, 361 yards)
This is where the elevated tees started coming into play. The 5th hole is a fun dog left with a giant ravine all down the left side. You’ll have some trees to contend with right, but in the end that’s much better than being in that ravine.
Hole 6 (Par 3, 163 yards)
A fun downhill par 3. Bunkers on the right and left, and a drop off short. If you go long and right you’ll have a little bit of room, and this is a much better place to be than short and left. We had two balls hit the trees and roll down to be playable from the rough just off the green. Feel free to give that a shot, but not sure that’s the smartest move 🙂
Hole 7 (Par 4, 229 yards)
One of my favorite holes on the course, but this could be because it was one of the few that I played well this day. A short par 4, our white tees made this one considerably easier and put me in easy driving range of the green. I pulled out my hybrid and knocked it on in one – but had an unfortunate 3 putt for par. For as much fun as hitting the green was, the elevated tees here would make this just as much fun hitting back.
Hole 8 ( Par 5, 487)
A dogleg right par 5 that is pretty unique in that it has two fairways and a river running between both of them. Not sure how often the left fairway is actually the best play, but the green is very wide but not deep at all – so depending on the pin placement, it could definitely give you the better angle at times.
Hole 9 (Par 4, 396)
A long uphill par 4 makes for a difficult closing hole on the front, but is also one of the most scenic with the clubhouse behind the green. Both the River Course at Blackwolf Run and the Straits Course at Whistling Straits had great finishing holes with the clubhouse in view, and 9 at The Bull reminds me of that.
Hole 10 (Par 4, 362 yards)
A mid length par 4 dogleg right. Fun tee shot from up near the clubhouse with plenty of room to miss left (as I learned). Watch out for water on the approach.
This is a great example of a hole where you should move back a tee box if playing the whites, as the elevated tees are what make this hole so much fun.
Hole 11 (Par 4, 309 yards)
This is where the wheels really started coming off for me. I had a quad bogey or something similar after a short tee shot, two balls in the water, and a poor putting performance. I found this to be much more difficult than the similar #2 as you don’t have as much room to work around the water and the green is much more protected.
Hole 12 (Par 3, 169 yards)
Long downhill par 3 with bunkers completely surrounding the green. Not quite as dramatic as the 6th, but a great hole nonetheless.
Hole 13 (Par 5, 509 yards)
13 is a very long par 5 with all kinds of trouble to navigate. You’ve gotta carry some marsh off the tee, and then have a row of three bunkers to contend with on your second shot. Add more bunkers at the base of the elevated green. The green complex reminds me quite a bit of Hole #12 on the Nicklaus Course at Pronghorn. Elevated green with bunkers at multiple levels beneath it. Very cool.
Hole 14 (Par 4, 382 yards)
Big dogleg right and where the wind really started howling on us. When it’s not blowing in your direction this hole gets much harder. Nearly 400 yards from the green tees, don’t miss right off the tee, but you have quite a bit of room on your approach shot.
Hole 15 (Par 3, 134 yards)
The last in a quartet of great par 3s. Water hugging the green on the left, and trees on the right. Wind continued to pick up making this a tough hole, and sending another one of my balls into the water.
Hole 16 (Par 4, 335 yards)
“Strap yourselves in, these next two get fun” said one of the older gentlemen we were paired with. And boy was he right. The tee shot was slightly reminiscent of the 16th at Cog Hill. Sharp dogleg left around a drop off and trouble at the corner. To make things even scarier you have to carry a deep ravine to get to the green.
Hole 17 (Par 5, 484 yards)
Downhill par 5 that is one of the better birdie chances on the course if you can hit a precise approach. I had my best shot of the day, pulling out my hybrid, carrying the sand and landing the green. I flubbed my tee shot, so I only made par, but felt good nonetheless
Hole 18 (Par 4, 365 yards)
This one is a beast. 432 from the green tees with water all left off the tee, and then marsh surrounding the elevated green on the right. Wouldn’t want to need a par on this hole to win a tournament.
In the end, playing The Bull at Pinehurst Farms was a great way to start the trip. If doing it again I might save it for a couple days in after I’d warmed up a bit, but what are you going to do 🙂
Similar to Forest Dunes in Michigan, it’s worth noting that every single person in the golf industry I’ve talked to on this trip in the area raves about The Bull. People at Blackwolf, people at Whistling, they all love it.
If you’re in the area stay an extra day, or save a few bucks and play The Bull one afternoon and I promise you’ll get just as good an experience here as you will at any other course in the area.