Field Notes: Destination Kohler cashes in on innovative winter

Winters for resorts near the Great Lakes can be harsh in more ways than one as they face challenges bridging the financial gap between six-month peak golf seasons. 

For the first time in frigid Wisconsin, Destination Kohler launched a Frozen Fairways concept on its Blackwolf Run course instead in the nearby village, offering ice skating, curling and fat tire biking on site. The result was a 35 percent increase in the resort’s food and beverage bottom line. While it’s now closed, plans are in place for it to reopen in November.

Frozen Fairways at Blackwolf Run included ice skating during the winter months.

“And I would say we definitely elevated the overall resort experience this year,” says Michael O’Reilly, the longtime general manger of the Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits courses. 

And for the first time in recent memory, a mild winter has brought just about 12 inches of snow to an area located between Milwaukee and Green Bay that normally averages between 30 and 40 inches. That has allowed Chris Zugel, director of agronomy and landscape, an opportunity to start on a few on-course projects earlier than expected, providing a head-start on course conditions for resort guests when the golf season opens in April.  

“We pride ourselves in the ability to provide championship conditions on a daily basis,” Zugel says. “What we try to spend the winter doing is setting ourselves up so that we can get everything in a row, to get everything all laid out because once we effectively open the doors and put pins in, we expect everything to be perfect.”

O’Reilly has been on site for close to three decades and has never seen such demand for resort golf. Destination Kohler will soon launch its pricing and reservations options for 2025. 

While Destination Kohler still has openings for 2024, it is already booking well into 2025.

“We had the additional bump of hosting the Ryder Cup in 2021, so we had that global exposure, which was amazing for us,” O’Reilly says. “Our 2022 was incredible and 2023 was the same. It would be an exaggeration for me to say we’re sold out for 2024, but there are certainly many days during our peak season that are at capacity. We’re starting to do things further and further out. And our competitors are seeing the same thing. COVID has been good for golf that’s for sure.” 

O’Reilly says the so-called “revenge travel” remains strong, referring to a large group of golfers who had destination trips cancelled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic. “I’ve never seen anything like our booking pace that stretches out 12, 13 and 14 months,” O’Reilly says. 

Destination Kohler has hosted six majors, including two U.S. Women’s Opens, a U.S. Senior Open, three PGA Championships and Whistling Straits was the first public course in more than 25 years to host the Ryder Cup.


The single largest society golf booking agent in Ireland, with more than 1,000 organized outings a year, is offering a company first for United States travelers — a trip pairing links golf and college football. 

MyGolfGroup Travel is the official ticket seller for the Georgia Tech vs. Florida State game to be played Aug. 24 in Dublin. And it’s offering a Golf X Game Package for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic for those wishing to enjoy the two popular sports on a weeklong excursion to Ireland. 

The Golf X Game package includes six nights at a bed and breakfast, four rounds of golf, luxury coach travel and what the Irish are calling a “match ticket” to the game between the Yellow Jackets and the reigning ACC champion Seminoles.

“We’ve been well established in Ireland for about 10 to 15 years now, but we recently launched our inbound travel, targeting the North American audience,” says Aaron Howard, sales manager for MyGolfGroup Travel. “We figured golf in Ireland and college football are two great things to kind of get North Americans over here.” 

The package also includes non-golfing activities for those who don’t play golf. 

“The college football fans can get something extra out of their stay without having to go through too much effort,” Howard added. “I mean organizing something like this on your own can be pretty daunting.”

As of this week, the travel company has 12 spots remaining for the Golf X Game package, but more could be added if it sells out, says Howard, who sports a thick Irish accent. He attended a small NAIA college in Arizona that has a football team, but said he became an Arizona State fan while he was briefly in the United States. 

“I’ll be honest, I don’t know a whole lot about football,” says Howard, laughing. 

Fair enough, but with a positive reputation in Ireland for organizing golf outings, Howard hopes those college football fans who are wanting a unique golf experience will give MyGolfGroup Travel an opportunity to show its wares. 

“The biggest thing with organizing a trip like this where you’re coming halfway across the world and spending quite a lot of money is trust,” Howard says. “It can be difficult to kind of just put that in someone else’s hands. But I guarantee our clients and customers will feel looked after from start-to-finish.” 

One nice feature of the trip is that all golf courses are with 20 miles of Dublin, the home base for lodging and the game. The top tier package includes a round at the K Club, which gained fame in 2006 for hosting the Ryder Cup.


There are few settings more glorious than Sensei Porcupine Creek outside of Palm Springs, California. And while golf and wellness are highlighted, the food experience is top-notch for those seeking culinary excellence and service while on a high-end golf excursion.  

The food at the new resort, the former retreat of Oracle Corp. software company co-founder Larry Ellison, is executed by superstar chef Nobu Matsuhisa, and ranges from Japanese A5 Wagyu beef at $38 per ounce to homemade beef jerky for a late-night, in-room snack.  

Sensei Porcupine Creek chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s prime beef tenderloin and mixed vegetables.

“All of the preparation is the very best, of course, but our chefs also take the time to hand dry all of our spices,” resort general manager Julie Oliff says. “They’re never putting anything on the food that comes out of a pre-prepared bottle. And that just puts so much more attention and flavor and, I have to say magic, but I’m supposed to say science into the food.”

And while the boutique desert oasis has a private, secluded feel with no more than 70 guests on the 261-acre property at a time, the dining experience tends to be social. 

“Our dining is an extraordinary experience, but the other reason why it’s special is the family-style dining approach that Nobu takes,” Oliff says. “It has had such a surprising impact on people.” 

Oliff says that type of dining is unwritten into the service code of Nobu.

“It seems like having food served in a family style manner at a table causes accidental conversation, unexpected interactions,” she says. “And we’ve seen that in everything from executive retreats to family gatherings to even two people traveling on their own. It creates a new bond and a new kind of dining experience that you don’t traditionally have in a really, really, really, really fancy restaurant where everyone gets a plate and no one’s allowed to share. It’s really a convivial experience of community and food here at the resort.”


Casa de Campo Resort announces that the award-winning Caribbean vacation destination in the Dominican Republic will host a luxury culinary and golf experience, March 10-14. Epicurea 2024 will feature four nights of celebrated chefs showcasing their culinary talents, fresh foods, golf and more. This culinary adventure will be led by acclaimed executive chefs Michael Anthony, Alex Lee, Esther Ha and Bryan Noury. Guests will be able to enjoy fine dining, well-crafted wines, cooking demonstrations, camaraderie and golf. … Lansdowne Resort, nestled in 500 acres overlooking the picturesque Potomac River in Virginia’s famed wine country, is offering a Pamper and Putt Package. Guests can embrace the best of both worlds — a round of golf on courses designed by Greg Norman and Robert Trent Jones Jr., and a tranquil spa escape.