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VIDEO | Come hit a bucket of balls at West Bend Driving Range

West Bend, WI – There is a gem of a facility in West Bend, Wi that often times is overlooked. The West Bend Driving Range has melted into the fabric of the community. Surrounded by mature trees on the south side County Highway D just across from Lighthouse Lane, it is one of those places people say, “We’ve got to stop there some day.” And it seems ‘someday’ never comes.

“I started golfing when I was in the service and that’s what inspired me,” said owner Richard Schuetz who will turn 92 years old, May 26, 2024.

Sitting on a red park bench under the overhang on the back of the building, Schuetz spoke fondly about the course and its history.

“I built the whole miniature golf course myself,” said Schuetz. “The wife and I went through the Midwest 50 years ago and we took pictures of various installations and that’s how we came up with the miniature golf we have.”

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Schuetz, 90, was dressed in a blue Korean Veteran hat and light red jacket. There was a certain old-school charm to the West Bend Driving Range and its owner.

The course can be accessed off a gravel road. The mini golf features 18 holes under a shady stand of mature trees. The white golf shack is simple, it overlooks the driving range that is 250-yards deep.

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Schuetz
Driving range on Hwy D in West Bend, WI

There are benches and buckets of balls sitting next to the shack. A simple handmade sign instructs golfers. ‘Please note. If you can hit the balls into the woods take a lesser club or go to the grassy area. Thank you.’

There’s a red arrow pointing to the grassy area to the south. The sign is just to the right of a white bench that, in its first life, appears to have served as a shower chair.

Driving range on Hwy D in West Bend, WI

The putt putt course is “challenging but fun” according to Schuetz. “We’ve had every type of golfer here from the very best to the very novice.”

The distinguishing factor on the miniature golf course is all the setups were made by Schuetz. There’s a metal horseshoe, a weathered deer statue, three bowling pins that sway, ever so slightly, in the wind, and a crazy metal loop-de-loop.

Wendy Wendorf

There’s somewhat of a dollhouse touch to the miniature course; one of the holes is just beyond a rustic castle. Another requires the golfer to aim underneath a red barn; some of the buildings sport a cloth-covered power cord indicating, maybe in its heyday, that doors would swing open.

“My family helped,” said Schuetz tugging on his white golf gloves. “When I’m not here people pay on the honor system. That’s worked out alright.”
There’s a small mail slot in the door of the golf shack; on the lid the words ‘HONOR BOX’ is handwritten in black marker. There are also signs in the windows that read, ‘Honor your veterans. Honor the honor system.’
A sheet metal worker for Ross Engineering, Schuetz bought the property from his boss Ralph Ross about 58 years ago. “I think I paid $12,000 for it,” he said of the 14 acres.

“You can hit the balls on the grass tee… we also have a sand trap,” he said motioning to the right just beyond the farm tractor. “I’ve had that for about 70 years,” Schuetz said of the rustic orange Allis Chalmers tractor. A Model B according to Schuetz who manufactured a cage around the driver’s seat and put an “outfit” up front to collect the balls from the range.

Schuetz doesn’t do much marketing at all for his business. The location next to the road and just east of the Highway 45 exit is what works in his favor. Many who were born and raised in West Bend or Kewaskum are familiar with the place.
Schuetz said it was farmland before it became a driving range. “I don’t have much plans to grow it beyond this,” he said.
When he first started Schuetz charged $1 for a bucket of balls. Now, over time and keeping up with inflation a bucket of balls is $7.

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