Wisconsin golf courses already feeling Ryder Cup impact

Biennial competition expected to bring 50,000 visitors, $135 million to region in September

Fans fill the grandstands and viewing areas as the final groups play the 18th hole during the U.S. Open at Erin Hills.

All eyes in the golf world will turn to the lakeside fairways of Whistling Straits during the 2020 Ryder Cup next September. The Sheboygan County golf course, however, won’t be the only area venue benefiting from an influx of visitors who not only want to watch the biennial competition, but also play golf. 

Tournament officials are expecting the event, set to take place Sept. 22 to 27, to bring about 50,000 visitors to the course each day and an estimated $135 million in total economic impact to the region.

Washington County’s Erin Hills, which hosted the 2017 U.S. Open, announced via Facebook earlier this month that it is already booked for the week of the Ryder Cup.

It’s not unusual for Erin Hills, like many area golf courses, to sell out the entire month September, which is often known as the best time of year for golf in Wisconsin. In fact, September is typically the first month to book up, Ryder Cup or not, said John Morrissett, competitions director at Erin Hills.

“But for next year, the main difference is we have sold out earlier than we usually do for that week,” Morrissett said.

Several months earlier, to be exact. September doesn’t usually reach its full capacity until the start of summer the same year, he said.

The course still has availability during the rest of September 2020 as well as a waiting list for tee times during Ryder Cup week.

“We’ve done what we can to try to accommodate as many people in terms of making sure we have as many tee times as we can or maximizing things to give as many people as possible an opportunity to play here,” said Morrissett.

At Geneva National Resort & Club in Lake Geneva, preparations for the 2020 Ryder Cup have been underway since 2017. That includes a new luxury lodging development, set to open in May 2020 along its 18-hole Gary Player Course.

“It was a little slow to begin, but ever since tickets went on sale we’ve seen a spike in people’s interest,” said Rob Booth, director of sales at Geneva National Resort & Club in Lake Geneva.

With three golf courses, Geneva National has separate tee times for its private members, hotel guests and daily fee golfers. While hotel guests can book tee times up to one year in advance, individual daily fee golfers can’t make reservations until 30 days prior.

Booth said much of the interest so far has come from daily fee groups of 16 to 20 golfers, who can book tee times sooner than smaller groups. There’s also been interest from European visitors.

He expects Ryder Cup week to sell out soon, but tee times are still available.

Other public courses in the area are not yet taking public reservations for the 2020 season, but are already receiving inquiries about Ryder Cup week tee times with expectations of a busy September.

“We aren’t able to book anything (for 2020) at the moment, but we’ve gotten quite a bit of calls from folks trying to book times for that week,” said Chris Van Pietersom, head golf professional at The Bog in Saukville.

Tee time reservations will open in the “near future,” he said. The course plans to offer a shuttle services to and from Whistling Straits for Ryder Cup attendees and other promotional packages.

“A lot of people are going to be exposed to Wisconsin, Wisconsin golf, many of them for the first time and they get to see what a great state we are for golf and hopefully that will encourage them to come here to play golf,” Erin Hills’ Morrissett said. “It’s so exciting to see the momentum of the growth of golf in Wisconsin continue, whether it’s with the U.S. Women’s Open Championships, PGA championships, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open and now the Ryder Cup. That’s a real series of honors.”

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Maredithe Meyer
Maredithe Meyer started as an intern reporter at BizTimes in summer 2015. She currently covers entertainment, sports, tourism and restaurants. In May 2017, she graduated with a journalism degree from Marquette University where she worked as an in-depth projects reporter for the Marquette Wire and Marquette Tribune.