BAILEYS HARBOR, Wisc. – Mark Murphy bought a golf course.
The Green Bay Packers president and CEO bought Maxwelton Braes Golf Course near his Door County home at the end of 2022. The 18-hole course, which straddles State 57 just south of Baileys Harbor, cost him $1.04 million, but the purchase did not include the adjacent lodge.
Murphy is a golfer, but his motivation for buying the course was more philanthropic.
“It all happened pretty quickly,” Murphy said. “We (he and his wife, Laurie) had heard it was up for sale. Our concern was we didn’t want to see somebody sell it to a developer to be turned into condos or townhouses. It’s a great community asset and we wanted to keep it that way.”
Maxwelton Braes Golf Course, 60 miles north of Green Bay, has a good backstory. It was designed by Joseph Roseman, a noted inventor and golf course designer, and financed by Baileys Harbor’s Michael McArdle, CEO of the forerunner of Sunbeam Corp. Its 11th fairway also served as a football practice field when the Los Angeles Rams used the course as a home base in 1948 during a three-week road trip for games in Chicago, Green Bay and Detroit.
“It’s pretty challenging. It’s got a real mix. There’s some short par 4s and then there’s some really long par 4s,” Murphy said. “There’s not really any water; fairly wide fairways. It’s a fun course to play. I’ve played it quite a bit over the years.”
The Murphys’ primary residence is in De Pere, but they’ve long been fans of Door County.
“We actually first came up to Door County when we were living up in Evanston,” said Murphy, who was athletic director at Northwestern University before joining the Packers at the end of 2007. “We really, really, really liked it. I think we ended up buying our lake house within two years of the time we moved here.”
Murphy has some experience running a golf course. When he was athletic director at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York, the school’s public course, Seven Oaks Golf Club, was the athletic department’s responsibility. Murphy is not, however, handling day-to-day operations at Maxwelton Braes. Previous owner Jim Bresnahan agreed to stay on as general manager for two years.
“He’s done a really nice job promoting it,” Murphy said.
Sandwiched between Lake Michigan and Kangaroo Lake, it is surprisingly lacking in water hazards, or even water. They are looking into whether an irrigation system is feasible, although it might prove cost-prohibitive. Tees and greens are watered by hand. Fairways are not.
“You get a really good roll,” Murphy said of the fairways. “The greens are the best in Door County.”
It may be short on water, but the course makes up for it in trees and sandtraps, although some of the latter were filled in and now are bunkers.
One change since Murphy took over: the course was readjusted from a Par 70 to Par 72 by changing a couple of long Par 4s into Par 5s.
“I think people like to get par once in a while,” he said with a laugh.
A new pro shop might also be in the course’s future.
Business has been good this summer and is running ahead of projections, Murphy said.
Murphy loves the game and already bought clubs for his two oldest grandchildren. He likes that Maxwelton Braes is a public course. Fees range from $11 for walking the back nine to $49 for the full 18 using a golf cart. Yearly memberships are available.
“You want it to be affordable, especially for younger kids picking up the game to be able to play on a course like this. I kind of grew up playing on municipal public courses,” he said. “It’s a course that all levels of golfers can enjoy. I think it will be something that will be good for the community.”