By Greg Gerber | Photo © Destination Kohler

Spending an afternoon outdoors enjoying fresh air and some friendly competition over a round of golf has been an attractive feature of conventions and business meetings for decades … But getting the opportunity to play on a championship course makes the outing exponentially better.

Avid golfers watch legendary players maintain their cool and overcome setbacks as they drive, chip and putt their way to victory on TV. The chance to play on the same courses as the game’s greatest makes it a standout experience, says Justin Gephart, director of global sales for Destination Kohler. After all, the greatest golfers only play the best courses.

“They remember great moments, such as Jordan Spieth’s shot on the 17th hole during the Ryder Cup” at Whistling Straits, he explains. “The opportunity to walk in their footsteps and try to mimic a championship shot is tremendously motivating to committed golfers.”

Golfers in the Midwest have many opportunities to play on courses ranked by Golf Digest as being the best in their state. Planning outings at these courses adds an unparalleled level of excitement and can be a real attraction to attend meetings.


This entertainment complex along the shores of Lake Michigan is located an hour north of Milwaukee. It features four championship courses, including Whistling Straits, which hosted the Professional Golf Association (PGA) Championship in 2004, 2010 and 2015, as well as the U.S. Senior Open in 2007 and the 43rd Ryder Cup in 2021; and Blackwolf Run, which hosted the U.S. Women’s Open in 1998 and 2012.

“Our meeting and event team serves as a one-stop shop to knit together the perfect program to take advantage of unique spaces curated for specific groups, whether they are 12-member board meetings or 250-person incentive trips,” says Gephart. The American Club Resort Hotel has 186 guest rooms and the adjacent Carriage House offers another 55. Smaller private cabins are tucked away in secluded areas around the property.

“When our event team can be creative, and pair up with our culinary team who are always anxious to show off their skills, it generates really good energy for any group,” according to Gephart. “But getting onto the Straits course is the ultimate, must-have activity for the meeting.”

The course is so popular, planners need to make reservations 18 to 24 months in advance for large groups. To see why the location is so popular, Gephart encourages planners to make an on-site visit to help envision the ways the resort can accommodate a group.

Planners can even host events inside the championship locker rooms the professionals use during tournaments. “The lockers have nameplates on them revealing which professional player used that locker during one of our major tournaments,” reveals Gephart. “That space also enables us to bring in yoga instructors to help players stretch to get ready for the course. Afterward, we offer massage chairs and spa technicians to help golfers relax.”


The motto of this top course is “Pure Golf. Warm Hospitality.” It is specifically designed to host small groups of up to 32 people. “We offer a fantastically designed and conditioned golf course with a full-service outdoor practice facility with chipping greens and practice bunkers,” says Jim Wyffels, general manager. “We can also provide mini-events and even group golf instruction.”

“We provide everything from a quick overnight outing to a full stay-and-play experience, including golf, food and lodging,” he continues. “When guests arrive, they can put their keys away because they won’t have to leave the property for food options either.”

The Lodge at Spirit Hollow features eight guest rooms offering delightful views of the golf course, as well as a game room and library. The facility also offers two cabins large enough to accommodate eight people each. They include a fireplace and wet bar. The Competition Courtyard between the cabins features a community firepit and outdoor games.

The Toptracer range additionally allows golfers to hone their driving skills with lighted targets until 10 p.m. It utilizes the same technology as TV stations to track the trajectory, speed and distance of every shot. The adjacent Shankopotamus Golf Academy features seven suites where attendees can practice their swings or engage in a friendly competition over drinks and food.

A private shuttle can take guests to the nearby Catfish Bend Casino, located in the FunCity Entertainment Complex, which also houses an arcade, go-karts, laser tag, bowling and a waterpark.


When planning events, organizers often want to create an experience people will remember, explains Matt McQueary, director of golf, sales and marketing, Big Cedar Lodge. “There is something exciting about playing at a top 100 course designed by a notable architect. In fact, these courses are on many players’ bucket lists. Rather than a run-of-the-mill golf course, there is a notoriety to playing on a course they’ve heard about or seen on TV.

“We have five different courses that were designed by some of the best players in golf, such as Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Tom Fazio and Ben Crenshaw. Our courses are in the Ozark Mountains, and feature waterfalls, lakes, streams and rolling hills,” continues McQueary. “All the courses are Audubon International-certified sanctuaries, which makes playing on them a true nature experience.

“Not only is the golf itself an experience, but excellent service makes the event even more memorable when it goes above and beyond expectations. Plus, our marina, fishing, natural history museum and 10,000-acre nature preserve provide a lot to do in addition to golf,” he adds.

Meeting accommodations cater to anything from small groups to large conferences with breakout rooms or banquets for 500 people. From casual food to high-end bistros, 10 different restaurants offer dining. Visitors can also stay in typical resort rooms or four- bedroom cabins.

McQueary encourages organizers to bookend meetings with weekends so participants have more time to enjoy the resort on their own.

“Golf can certainly entertain someone for a week, but with all of our other outdoor activities, it’s tough to cram it all into a small timeframe,” he explains.


The historic French Lick Resort is located in a small town of 3,000 people. It offers 45 holes of golf on three courses designed by Donald Ross, Pete Dye and Tom Bendelow, says Dave Harner, director of golf operations.

The resort has hosted several big events, including the 2015 Senior PGA Championship, as well as multiple Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Senior and Big Ten championships. This year in October, French Lick will host the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in which 30 players will qualify to participate in the 2025 PGA Championship.

All three courses cater to players of different price points and skill levels. Planners looking for a simple outing can enjoy the storied nine-hole Valley Links course. Those wishing to treat avid golfers can book time on the Pete Dye or Donald Ross courses.

The Dye course is built on the second- highest elevation in Indiana, which offers 40-mile views. At 8,102 yards, it is the third longest in America, says Harner. In designing the course, Dye identified the 36 highest points on the ridge line and made them either a green or a tee.

“Our resort’s two hotels can accommodate 780 guests, and meetings as large as 4,000 with complete banquet service and audiovisual support,” he notes. “In addition to golf, the resort offers horseback riding, archery, shooting sports and two full-service spas. Later this year, we will be opening the new nine-hole Sand Creek course, which features a fun, yet challenging layout for players of all skill levels and ages.”


Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, Elkhorn Ridge Golf Club excels in creating exceptional golf outings, says Mike Mendelson, head golf professional.

“Not all meeting planners understand golf, so we can take care of everything they need to ensure a successful outing. We can handle pairing, sponsor signs and all the other details so planners can spend more time taking care of their people,” he explains.

The front nine holes, built in 2009, are nestled on the side of a mountain, which offers unusual views for a Midwestern course. The back nine, built in 2016, wind through Polo Creek Canyon with rock walls acting as backdrops.

“It’s not a flat course because the elevation changes up to 300 feet, which makes for stunning views. That’s what makes it so popular,” he adds. “Because we need to balance meetings with tourist traffic, we offer shotgun starts for 80 or more players Monday through Thursday, and 100 plus players on Friday or Saturday.”

The course can host up to 120 players and an extra 30 people for food, according to Mendelson. The site features 36 fully furnished log cabins. Meanwhile, a plethora of hotels is located 7 miles away in Spearfish, with many offering shuttle service to the golf course.

A native of Wisconsin now living in sunny Arizona, Greg Gerber is a former journalist who now helps people over 50 to enjoy more purposeful lives by pursuing things they’re truly passionate about.