With earth movers crawling across acres of brown sand, it looks more like a moonscape than Madison’s newest golf course, but Cherokee Country Club is undergoing a transformation that will turn one of the area’s oldest courses into the state’s first PGA Tournament Players Club.
It will be the 30th course to receive the designation and the first in Wisconsin.
The redesigned course will have new tees, fairways and greens with features designed to reflect how the game has changed in the nearly six decades since the course opened: fitter players using better equipment can now hit the ball much farther and with more precision.
Stricker, a native of Edgerton and son-in-law of club owner Dennis Tiziani, said the opportunity to design a course where he’s spent most of his 30-year career and raised his family is “a dream project.”
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“It’s one I have taken great pride in designing what I feel will be a course that will test the best players in the world but also provide playability at every level,” Stricker said. “It will get every ounce of my energy and attention to be the best golf course and golf experience that there is, and I look forward to playing a role in bringing it to fruition.”
Jim Triola, chief operating officer of PGA Tour Golf Course Properties, said the decision to license the Madison club was “unanimous from the start” and the redesign “is sure to result in an elevated experience.”
The $15 million project includes a complete overhaul of the 18-hole course as well as renovations to the clubhouse, which houses tennis, pickleball and racquetball courts along with banquet facilities.
Clubhouse renovations started in February and are expected to be completed before the course reopens in August 2023. The clubhouse is open during construction.
Citing deteriorating conditions at the 58-year-old course, Tiziani last year proposed a redesign to draw top-level players and spectators from across the region.
“In order now to either get into the game or get out of the game we had to address what has to be done on the course,” Tiziani said.
The state Department of Natural Resources approved modified plans to dredge the waterways and use the sediment — along with fill from off site — to raise the playing surfaces and improve turf conditions while also improving drainage on the course and in the adjacent neighborhoods.
The reconstruction will disturb about 3 acres of wetlands, though the club plans to restore more than 30 acres of existing wetlands, mostly through the removal of invasive species, and convert 1.6 acres of upland into new wetlands.
“Long term and at the end — very, very beneficial,” Tiziani said of the environmental impact. “The quality of water that leaves here today is way better than it was in 1968.”
Cherokee’s consultants said the economic impact of construction alone will be about $39 million, and the renovations will result in about $8.6 million in additional spending each year as thousands of members, guests, professional players and spectators flock to the club.
Dave Olesczuk, who played the course from 1989 to 1994 as a member of the UW-Madison golf team and now serves as vice president of operations, said the modifications will make the course more difficult, though five sets of tees will provide opportunities for players of different abilities.
“With the greens and some of the sand traps and things like that it will be a lot more challenging than it’s been,” Olesczuk said. “Although I thought it was a difficult course to begin with.”