Kohler, Wisconsin; 920-457-8000, americanclubresort.com
Rate: $377 per night
We recommend: treating your parents
If Hogwarts opened an Ivy League campus, it might look and feel like The American Club. The Tudor manor in the tiny town of Kohler, about an hour north of Milwaukee, enchants with courtyards and wood-paneled libraries sprinkled within the distinguished brick walls. Just when you think you’ve explored every nook and cranny and come across every hidden garden and located the cafe in a stained-glass greenhouse, you find yet another passageway. This one is lined with historic photos and leads to a lively pub that you didn’t even know was there. Immediately, layers of history peel away. The space was originally a taproom and bowling alley for the building’s earliest residents. The tables are made from the bowling lanes. You just saw the residents in those grainy photos in the hallway, along with a bill for their housing at the turn of the century—$27.50 per month for a single room and “plain washing.”
Everything at The American Club is this intentional (the hollyhock-scented products at the renowned Waters Spa? Hollyhock plants perfume the air outside the building). And it always has been. Kohler the small town is synonymous with Kohler the fixture company, and they are both synonymous with the Kohler family from Austria that created both. A massive, dignified factory and foundry sits across the main street from the luxurious American Club. The hotel was first built for immigrants Kohler employed, in the late 19th century. They were offered English and citizenship lessons and encouraged to become hard-working Americans. Kohler later built houses and sold them to employees at cost. Those fetching cottages still surround the property.
As you learn the origin story at the heart of Kohler—and it’s connected to nearly every detail in the luxuriously intimate hotel, the factory open for tours, and the surrounding village—it’s hard not to compare it to the state of immigration now. This gives a trip to Kohler a heady dimension you don’t expect, because you probably just came for the finery of the AAA five-diamond hotel—and the golf. Two venues here, Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, each comprise two Pete Dye–designed courses (greens fees $210–$515). Of all four courses, The Straits is the flagship, meant to replicate old seaside courses in the U.K. and frequently drawing PGA events, including the 2020 Ryder Cup. It’s a no-cart course, and a flock of Scottish sheep roams the slopes. Now it makes sense why the hotel bellhops wear knickers.
The route to the Blackwolf Run course passes the Waelderhaus—a fascinating Alpine residence typical in the part of Austria where the Kohler family comes from, and open for free tours—and ribbons through glorious farmland fragranced with honeysuckle. Pass the course to discover yet another of Kohler’s magical corners: River Wildlife, a private membership club for rugged outdoor pursuits. A log cabin houses a restaurant not open to the public, and hotel guests can dine there for the cost of a day pass to the reserve. They feast on kettle-chip-crusted walleye, an area specialty, and daily housemade soup, and watch bluebirds and cardinals from the windows. The spell in Kohler is never broken.
ACE THIS TRIP
Tour: The Kohler Design Center, stocked with the latest in soaking tubs and rain showers, offers a cutting-edge counterpoint to the town’s historic vibe.
Indulge: At the Waters Spa, book a massage underneath a Vichy shower with six rain nozzles. The two custom showers here are the only ones in the world.
Upgrade: Some King Heritage rooms ($668/night) feature Kohler’s VibrAcoustic hydrotherapy soaking tub, which connects to an iPod and plays music underwater. The surround is heated, too.