On the highest peak in Southeastern Wisconsin, just five miles from Erin Hills, stands The Basilica and National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians, otherwise known as Holy Hill.
“When you find yourself in the deep bunkers of life, then you need some serenity so that's where people come,” said Father Don Brick Prior of Holy Hill with a smile.
“It's like a castle,” Father Don also said. “It has the three beautiful towers and as you look up, it looks like this big, huge castle of Walt Disney but it's more a castle for our Lord and for our Lady… It's a place of beauty. It's a place of peace and it's a place of hope.”
And now it's a place tens of thousands of visitors will see from 13 of the 18 holes at Erin Hills during the U.S. Open Championship.
“I think God uses very ordinary ways in which to draw people to himself and I think golf, I know a lot of people who have grown in holiness by playing golf,” said Father Michael Berry with a chuckle.
Father Don and Father Michael admit they're not used to the extra attention but welcome the natural curiosity of its visitors.
“A lot of frustration one has on the golf course is often dissatisfaction with oneself,” Father Michael said. “Here you can come with that dissatisfaction and you're invited to let it go. That there is someone greater than you and that's where you find your peace.”
Most notably on the 435 acres are Stations of the Cross and a 178-step climb up the Scenic Tower. In the distance: Downtown Milwaukee and Erin Hills.
“The beauty of being up on the hill and miles away comes from building monasteries up on the hill because everyone wanted to go up close to God so being as high on the hill was a symbol of being close to the Gods, close to the heavens,” Father Don said. “It's one of the most beautiful and peaceful places there is because it brings the natural beauty of what God created and the sacramental beauty, both combined in Holy Hill and very rarely do you see that.”
Father Don goes golfing at Erin Hills once a year. And like his home, he appreciates the natural beauty of the course that only had dirt moved on two holes. The rest, as nature made it.
“So the people what they're actually going to see is the actual ground that they built the course on without changing any of it,” Father Don said. “So there's that correlation of the natural beauty of Erin Hills and the natural beauty of Holy Hill.”
“People can come here and find consolation after they've been humbled by the course,” Father Michael said with a smile. “They can have a nice beer and sandwich and then come over and just pour out their woes to the Lord.”