Herb Kohler, the owner of Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run and the Old Course Hotel in Scotland, has died at the age of 83.
Kohler was executive chairman of the family-run Kohler Company, one of the world’s largest plumbing businesses which was based in Wisconsin, USA.
Kohler joined the company that was set up in 1873 by his grandfather, Michael Kohler, as a R&D technician in the 1960s, working his way up the business to become CEO in 1974, a post he held for 43 years before handing over the reins to his son, David, in 2015, and moving onto the position of executive chairman.
During his time as CEO, he transformed Kohler Co into a world leader in the sector, employing over 40,000 employees and dozens of manufacturing facilities across six continents with an annual turned over in excess of $7bn. As of 2021, Kohler’s net worth was put at $9.5bn according to Forbes magazine, making him the 59th richest person in the US.
As well as being a titan of the plumbing and bathroom world, Kohler was also huge influence in the golf world, starting his portfolio of courses with the hiring of Pete Dye to build two championship layouts at Blackwolf Run in Wisconsin 1988. That followed by the development of Whistling Straits in 1998. The Straits course went on to host three PGA Championships (2004, 2010 and 2015), the 2007 US Senior Open and the 2021 Ryder Cup.
Kohler’s involvement in golf went international in 2004 when he purchased the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Scotland. He also bought The Duke’s Course, a heathland layout located just outside of St Andrews. It was followed by the development of the Hamilton Grand, a luxury apartment complex located behind the 18th green of the Old Course in St Andrews.
Kohler’s passion for the game morphed into him becoming a course designer as well, helping build the 10-hole, par-3 Baths of Blackwolf golf course that opened in June last year. He also had plans to build an 18-hole public course on Kohler Co property along the Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Sheboygan County.