From Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten:
There's plenty to admire at The Glen Golf Park, an unpretentious little municipal golf course in Madison, one salvaged from a potential dumpster by Michael Keiser (son of Mike Keiser) and his wife, Jocelyn, who are Madison residents and funded a much-needed $750,000 renovation in 2021.
Originally called Glenway, it was staked out in 1927 by local banker Martin Loftsgordon (who also designed another city course, Monona) and city engineer E.E. Parker. For nearly a century, this 40-acre nine-hole track was entry-level stuff, where beginners and retirees didn't mind the patchy fairways, thatchy greens and absence of bunkers.
It's now been thoroughly upgraded by course architect/builder Craig Haltom with ideas and shaping provided by Brian Schneider, Brian Slawnik and Sara Mess, all of Tom Doak's Renaissance Design Company. Others in the design business—Jay Blasi, Andy Staples, Andy North (all Wisconsin natives)—also contributed ideas.
The result is certainly not a Bandon-like destination, but is a pleasant vest pocket layout worth stopping by when in the area. At 2,372 yards tops, with four par 3s and no par 5s, you can play the course with half a bag of clubs, as I did, leaving the driver in the car trunk. (I did wish I had kept the driver with me when I reached the 443-yard fifth.)
The Glen is a bit hilly, but it's an easy walk with a pull cart. The steepest slope is probably the tee shot on the 340-yard ninth, an Old School design where you drive blind over a ridge to an unseen landing area short of a punchbowl-like green. You're able to determine when it's safe to tee off by checking with the traffic light tucked in the trees to the right of the tees. A red signal means don't hit; green means the fairway is clear. (There's a big button about 50 yards short of the green that the group ahead is expected to push as they pass by to signal the All Clear.) I'm told the traffic light has been there for decades. Personally, I would have preferred something even more Old School, a mirror-atop-a-post.
The old routing was kept intact, and there are still no fairway bunkers, but the greens are vastly improved, most of them far bigger than before, and now containing lots of interesting slopes and contours. My one criticism of the redesign is that nearly all the greens are wide and shallow, and four of them have a large mound obscuring at least half the putting surface. As a result, during my round, I had the distinct sensation of playing sideways into a number of greens.
The aforementioned fifth is my least favorite hole. The tee shot is over a horizon to a downhill fairway, with a gulch of thick rough short of an elevated green. Big trees frame both sides of the gulch, leaving about 25 yards of airspace through which to thread a second (or third) shot to a domed green that seems to repel shots both short and long. It's followed by my favorite hole, the 127-yard sixth, a postcard-pretty downhill par 3 over the same gulch and through another slot in dense hardwoods to a pedestal green ringed with fescue-edged bunkers.
I played The Glen on a Monday morning with a college-aged golfer who was getting in a quick nine before heading to work. The course was busy but the pace was good, with a couple of foursomes of seniors in carts ahead and a foursome of teenage boys in tee shirts and sneakers behind. The entire experience reminded me of a course I played growing up in Omaha, also a par 32. So forgive me when I say that The Glen Golf Park made me feel 60 years younger.