Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Country Club Estates a diamond in the rough

by Mike Ramczyk

August 08, 2013

FONTANA — It’s called the little jewel of the area.

And why shouldn’t it be?

Nestled smack dab in the middle of the Geneva Lake West area, Country Club Estates, previously a vast corn field, is the Geneva Lake area’s only exclusively nine-hole golf course.

On Aug. 1, Regional News Office Manager Sue Hinske and I continued our summer golf series with part two at a quaint, golfer-friendly course that’s both challenging and suitable for all ages. Lush vegetation, a pond and undulative greens keep the best players guessing. But mostly straight fairways with manageable doglegs and a limited amount of trees are favorable for the beginning golfer.

Country Club Estates General Manager Wes Toton, who earned his stripes working at Hillmoor in Lake Geneva for 12 years, recently took over in March. A PGA Professional, Toton has started a junior golf program at Country Club Estates and says his course is on par, pun intended, with area big dogs like Hawk’s View, Geneva National and Grand Geneva.

Luke Bourneuf, a Big Foot High School golfer who advanced to state as a freshman, hones his skills at Country Club Estates.

“Our course is in terrific shape,” Toton said just before Hinske and I hit the links. “Everyone tells me we have the best greens in the area.”

An area staple who attended Traver School and Badger High School, Toton isn’t just saying that because he works there. The greens are top-notch. Both well-manicured and slow enough, even the worst putters like myself can have a field day.

Designed in 1929 by golf course architect Thomas Bendelow, who also designed Big Foot Country Club, eye-catching valleys, rolling hills and majestic greenery mimic the beauty of big-time 18-hole courses. However, it’s the friendly workers in the comfortable clubhouse, the time-efficient 9-hole concept and the shorter holes that make this hidden gem worth your two hours.

The place was packed when we played, around 4 in the afternoon. With twilight discounts that are sure to impress, Country Club Estates cares about being affordable as well.

One of the best values in the area, I will definitely return and would recommend the place to my wife, who has never golfed, along with an old pro like Jim Gaugert, one of the best players I know.

Finally, a win!

The biggest draw to Country Club Estates for me were the greens. Though difficult at times, the undulation never get out of hand like it does at bigger courses. Playing not long after a rainfall earlier in the week, the greens were nice and manageable, and I had the best putting day of my life.

This led to my first-ever win. I tied former editor Lisa Seiser at Lake Lawn a good four years ago but have never beaten her or Hinske. When you rock three straight bogeys, life is good.

On the par-4 fourth, I smashed a nice, long tee shot, which put me roughly 200 yards out. With a 3-wood (because I can’t use irons for the life of me), I hit a drive that landed about 30 feet from the hole. While Hinske struggled on the opposite rough, I tapped the ball uphill from left to right. Slowly, slowly, it looked like it might go in. The angled shot was perfect and dropped for bogey.

I had no choice put to high step Deion Sanders-style in front of Hinske before she finished the hole.

While this lucky shot got me rolling, I followed it up with two more bogeys on the par-4 fifth and sixth holes.

Hinske, who made the critical error of switching from a white golf ball to a yellow one halfway through the round, voiced her frustration after I built a three-stroke lead through six holes.

“The wheels have come off,” Hinske said. “I was doing better at Hawk’s View.”

Nothing could save Hinske from my new-found putting ability. Though she gained a stroke on the par-5 seventh with an eight as I embarrassed my entire family with a nine after five-putting, my luck returned on No. 8.

Hinske and I were neck-and-neck, approaching the same shot on the green. Then, I once again inflicted some devastating downhill damage. I lightly hit the ball, thinking no way it would go in. After all, I was a good 20 feet out and shooting down a sharp green. They say history sometimes repeats itself, and that gentle putt found nothing but the bottom of the cup.

This lifesaver gave me a seven to Hinske’s nine and pretty much assured a victory.

On the par-3 ninth, I pulled the ball for the first time all day, but I still landed just far enough up a hill to avoid the water hazard. Finally, a successful tee shot with an iron.

Hinske finished strong, but I held on for a 55-58 triumph.

With football and other fall sports approaching, Hinske and I will do our best to do at least one or two more courses this summer. Though it ended well, Hinske and I each needed three tee shots to start our round at Country Club Estates. For a casual pairing that doesn’t really practice, I’ll take it.

Hinske deserves her shot at revenge, and she will get it.

For now, all I know is you need to get off the couch and test your luck at Country Club Estates. It can make the worst golfer competitive but features challenging parts that would make Tiger Woods cringe. OK, maybe not Tiger, but at least Lee Trevino, now, at 73 years young.

The point is it’s a great course for all ages, and it could very well turn into your favorite.