by Steve Habel, CBS Sports
Door County has more than 300 miles of shoreline and is known for its quaint harbor towns, beautiful parks, sandy beaches, and - thanks to 11 golf courses - a place to tee it up in a different village just about every day. Set virtually in the middle of the rolling and wooded region close to the eastern shores of Green Bay, the Orchards at Egg Harbor is widely considered Door County's best public golf course. Designed by William Newcomb, a Michigander who worked with Pete Dye in the early part of his career, the Orchards at Egg Harbor opened for play in 2000 and immediately became the go-to place to play when visiting "The Door."
Carded at 7,206 yards from its back set of four tees, the par-72 track carries a rating of 75.0 and a Slope of 131 but plays at least a few strokes harder because of the constant winds off the massive lake. Newcomb's routing takes advantage of the site's 200-plus acres and two types of terrain: the front nine winds through mature hardwoods and blossoming fruit orchards (thus the name), while the inward half features dramatic elevation changes and a final trio of holes that border a five-acre lake.
The site is free of housing, although a neighborhood is planned for the surrounding area, and the course sports bentgrass from tee to green, one of only two tracks in the county so endowed. For the most part, the course is open and forgiving off the tee but demanding in its greens complexes and on the putting surfaces themselves.
Front Nine Builds Confidence:
The Orchards at Egg Harbor has a split personality, with a front side that allows confidence-building shots and a chance to score, and a second nine that can take all that away with a few loose swings. The opener (a 415-yard par-4) plays slightly downhill to a plateau and a green surrounded on three sides by forest. The 406-yard, par-4 second runs back up that incline to a landing area narrowed on the right by a tall pine tree. The toughest hole on the outward half is the 436-yard par-4 fifth, which has a fairway of plateaus and a bunker on the right that runs from the landing area to the green's right edge.
The fescue-lined par-5s (the 572-yard fourth and 555-yard seventh) are both hearty, with the former playing downhill to a green protected short-right by five bunkers and on the left by another deep sand cutout; the latter button-hooks hard to the right over its final 100 yards to an elevated putting surface. Make hay on the short but dangerous eighth, a 392-yard par- 4 whose green is guarded right-left by a large maple tree and on the right by a deep bunker. No. 9, a 401-yard par-4, moves out of the forest and into the type of terrain players will face on the holes to come.
Back Side Has Some Bite:
Most golfers feel the back nine at the Orchards at Egg Harbor is the stronger set of holes, and it definitely provides drama with a few blind tee shots, a handful of elevated tees, the ever-present orchards lining the holes, and several intimidating rock walls that add flair. It would be easy to say there is not one easy hole on the home half. For example, the 427-yard par-4 10th plays up to a landing area and back down to a green guarded left by sand and right by a large grass swale. No. 11, at 233 yards, is the longest and most difficult par-3 on the course. The green is lined by trees on the right and at the rear, and by a meadow of deep fescue left.
The 430-yard par-4 12th is the third-longest two-shotter here, and the tee shot is uphill on both the drive and approach, the latter of which is played to a green devoid of bunkers. No. 13 (the course's longest par-4 at 455 yards) starts with a blind drive to a fairway that brings a speed slot into play for longer hitters. The green is left of a large pond that also wraps around its rear flank. This is the hole that can be seen from Highway 42 (the main road through Door County).
The round at the Orchards at Egg Harbor ends with a postcard-pretty par-3 sandwiched between a pair of stout par-5s. The 577-yard 16th is consistently rated one of the hardest par-5s in northern Wisconsin. Long drivers can reach the three-tiered green in two while others must execute a lay-up in front of the lake. Either way, players will have some decisions on their second shot, especially because the wind batters the final three holes. The tee on the 195-yard 17th is set 50 feet above the green, making for wonderful vistas and questions about club selection as water looms on three sides of the target. An elevated tee is also found on the closer, a 550-yard par-5, where the drive must carry the lake to find the fairway. The second-shot landing area heads uphill and then it's uphill again to the putting surface.
The Orchards at Eggs Harbor is memorable for its shot-making, superb conditioning and a routing that stays true to the land. Newcomb got everything right here; the course is a must-play for anyone visiting the area!