Geneva National celebrates 25 years
It apparently doesn't take much to please Ken Maziarka, as long as golf is involved.
He grew up a White Sox fan on the South Side of Chicago and has a home in Wilmette, Illinois. But he and his wife, Sherlene, spend the bulk of their warm-weather time at their condominium at Geneva National.
And most of those days, Maziarka is enjoying one of the Lake Geneva resort's three pristine golf courses — and telling stories about his adventures.
“The golf season can be short here, but when the weather is nice, this place is as good as it gets and I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be,” Maziarka said. “They've got the restaurants, swimming pool and golf … I'm a happy camper. They could just parachute some food in and I wouldn't leave the grounds.”
Maziarka isn't alone in his praise for the facility and the golfing, which features a trifecta of courses that three of the sport's legends — Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Gary Player — designed.
The resort is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Palmer and Trevino courses opening in May 1991. Their namesakes returned in August of that year to dedicate their masterpieces. Meanwhile, nine holes of the Player Course opened in 1995 and the second nine was ready in 2000.
And golfing enthusiasts have been flocking to the courses from throughout the Midwest ever since.
Joseph and Lois Haas are two more good examples of that.
“We started playing here when the courses opened 25 years ago, and we have played in most of the league and club events over the years,” Joe Haas said.
The couple lived in Libertyville, Illinois, before moving to Geneva National. They lived in a weekend townhouse the first 12 years and then built a house on the property 13 years ago.
“I play four to five times per week and my wife somewhat less,” he said. “The Geneva National courses compare very well with other courses in the area. And there are three of them, so one is unlikely to get bored. You said the most special thing in your question — there are three of the best courses around on the same property.”
Debbie Hammes agreed that the golf courses, as well as the luxurious facilities and amenities, couldn't be better. She is a San Francisco native. She and her husband, Greg, lived in Carmel, Indiana, for nearly 20 years before moving to Lake Geneva in 2011.
“I play as often as I can, and being a member and a resident I tend to play golf here at Geneva National,” she said. “Other courses in the area are fun but do not have the scenery or options of the three courses at GN. Living here and playing golf at Geneva National is like experiencing a piece of heaven. I often say to my friends, 'Look around. We live here.' It is like being on vacation, even in the winter. The view from the clubhouse is stunning and the golf courses are some of the finest around.”
So, what about the actual 18-hole layouts?
• The signature hole on the Trevino Course is the par-5 fifth hole, a 530-yard dogleg right. A creek was built in front of the green to challenge golfers who drive the ball into a position to gamble with their second shots. This course plays to Trevino's natural fade and features subtle dogleg right holes on nearly every par 4 and 5.
• The Palmer Course offers views of Lake Como and is a good driving layout. The greens include few tricky contours. The natural elements are the features. Palmer has called the signature 17th hole one of his personal favorites and No. 11 on his Dream 18 in the eastern U.S.
• The Player Course takes advantage of the natural wetlands in the area and offers great risk-reward holes. It was honored as No. 36 on Golf Digest's list of Top 50 courses in America for women.
While all three courses offer their own scenic views, area golfers have their favorite courses for various reasons.
South Milwaukee native John Strasburg started playing the courses in 2005 and prefers Palmer because of the views of Lake Como from the 15th hole on.
“Palmer is cut through woods with gorgeous homes on some fairways and Lake Como views,” said Strasburg, who gets in about 30 total rounds of golf a year and rates GN as one of his top 10 courses. “Player is home to many sand hill cranes and the old Hunt Club house. The Trevino feels like you're more way out in the country … less civilization.”
“Over the years my favorite course has changed from time to time,” Haas said. “All three courses are very good, but the best thing about golf at Geneva National is that we have three courses and all three are very good tracks. Right now my favorite is the Palmer Course, but the other two are right in there.”
Hammes said Trevino is her favorite course.
“Being a new golfer, it's the course with the least places to get in trouble, at least the first nine holes,” she said. “I have played 18 holes on all of these courses only a few times. Mostly, I play nine holes. I do know the views on the last three holes at Palmer are spectacular.”
However, they all acknowledge that the courses present more than enough challenges.
Maziarka prefers Trevino because it's set up for guys like him who hit left to right, but No. 18 isn't among his favorites.
“It's a long par 4 that plays 390 to 410 feet off the tee,” Maziarka said. “There's a big weeds area in front of the green, so if you don't get off a good tee shot you're hitting long irons or a 5-wood into the green. I also try to avoid Palmer … it has the most difficult greens without a doubt, so getting on the green in regulation is the most important thing.”
Haas has recorded four holes-in-one and is the only club member to accomplish the feat on all three courses. But he knows there are plenty of obstacles.
“The toughest holes are Palmer No. 9 (par 4) … it is long with an elevated green that is guarded by bunkers on the right,” he said. “Trevino probably is No. 15 (par 4). It has an elevated tee, a fairway with bunkers and an elevated, sloped green with bunkers. Player No. 6 (par 3) has a pond in front and to the right, sand in front on the right side and an elevated tee box. There seems to be a frequent breeze to add to the difficulty.
“The Palmer can be hard throughout and the greens are a real challenge, especially if cut short and the wind is blowing,” Haas added. “Trevino seems to be difficult to score well on because many of the greens are elevated and there are plenty of areas the ball can run through or off the fairways. Player has its share of dogleg holes with changes in elevation. It can be a fun challenge.”
But these avid golfers love to play these courses regardless and have their favorite memories.
“One of my favorite stories is the first time a friend, also a new player, and I went out to hit some balls,” Hammes said. “She put a token in the dispenser and did not realize she needed to put a basket underneath the dispenser to catch the balls. The balls came out, bouncing all over the place. We laughed so hard chasing the balls and wondered if we really were ready to golf. To this day we still giggle about it.”
Strasburg said one of his favorite trips to GN — it's a 40-minute drive — occurred when his wife drilled a hole-in-one on No. 15 at Player. He also remembers a much cooler experience.
“Playing Palmer in January many years ago,” he said. “We had a 50-degree day and Geneva National opened this course. Fairways and greens were frozen solid, so it was just to say we played in Wisconsin in January. From the 15th tee you could see ice shanties, ice boats and snowmobiles on Lake Como … surreal.”