Sand valley. Wow, Sand Valley.
Of all the golf destinations to come online over the past decade, Sand Valley and its two 18-hole courses are among the most popular. Expectations were almost unbelievably high the night I walked into Nekoosa in central state, now with Golf week videographer Gabe Gudgel in tow.
Judging by Gudgel’s expression as we took a look at what lay behind the clubhouse, those expectations would be met. “Are you kidding me?” he asked, speechless, as he caught sight of David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes for the first time.
Our luck at Mammoth Dunes would have to wait two days. The next morning we walked up the hill to the original 18 of the resort, which is named Sand Valley and opened in 2016 with a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design. Sand Valley ranks # 3 among public access courses in Wisconsin and No. 32 among all modern courses in the United States
Sand Valley is a great example of Coore and Crenshaw’s work – take a perfect golf course, then don’t overdo it and mess things up. The minimalist layout plays through often exposed sand dunes left by glaciers, through firm, swift fescue turf to greens that appear to have been found there, waiting for golfers to wander around. It can be an incredibly difficult art to make everything look so simple, so indifferent – Coore and Crenshaw are the modern masters of this approach.
Kidd took the even more hilly terrain adjacent to the original Sand Valley 18 and created the Mammoth Dunes that must be seen to be believed, full of extremely wide fairways, quirky bounces, wildly beautiful sandy landscapes and smiles like you. swing tee shots. Much like he did with Gamble Sands in Washington after a moment of returning to Jesus when he realized he was building courses that were too difficult, Kidd filled Mammoth Dunes with fun photos that cannot be found nowhere else.
Mammoth Dunes has a horseshoe green at the sixth par 4 short, exhilarating descent and a maneuverable par 4 at the 14, and even our caddies couldn’t quite agree on how to approach the tee shot at through a minefield of bumps, pits and sand traps on par-5 11th. Centerline bunkers on many holes confuse strategy, although there is plenty of room on either side. It’s a ride to hold my beer and watch those shooting attempts, sometimes aiming far from the hole to hit it up close. All of this has resulted in Mammoth Dunes being ranked # 2 among Wisconsin’s public access courses and No. 29 among all modern courses in the United States.
These are two very different golf courses side by side, and players spend hours sitting around the foyers behind the clubhouse debating, which is better.
“When we are building resorts, the hardest thing to do, each time you add a golf course, is to make it different and distinct from its predecessors,” said Michael Keizer, who developed and owns Sand Valley. alongside his brother Chris. “David Kidd has done a fabulous job differentiating his Sand Valley experience. They are two magnificent golf courses that are completely different from each other.
The offers will not end with these two courses either. Sand Valley is building the Lido, a remake of a classic high-level course on Long Island that was paved during WWII. Architect Tom Doak and his Renaissance Golf team went to great lengths to revive the CB Macdonald development as it was, but this time in Wisconsin, with the help of golf historian Peter Flory . After its scheduled opening in 2023, the Lido will be a private club that will allow resort guests to play at certain times, surely adding to the buzz around the resort.
Doak also laid out the layout of a non-traditional layout called Sedge Valley, with plans for it not to play much beyond 6,000 meters with a par of 68. The construction on top of a giant dune has been delayed because the Doak team is working on the Lido, and a work schedule and opening date have not been announced. Again, bet on the buzz to go up when it does.
But don’t assume it’s just golf courses. Sand Valley has a unique feel, an energy that would be difficult to replicate. Michael and Chris Keizer are the sons of Mike Keizer, the founder of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in Oregon, which redefined the feel of an American golf resort 20 years ago. Sand Valley is similar in that it has energy, but the vibe in Wisconsin is noticeably different from Bandon Dunes.
Like Bandon, Sand Valley Golf Resort has a fun par 3 course where people are welcome to relax, even take off their shoes and play barefoot. Restaurants, bars, foyers – there are a lot of similarities with Bandon Dunes. But Sand Valley is more compact, with most guests staying closer to the clubhouse in perfectly suited accommodations overlooking the short Sandbox course. The guests meet more often, and there is a specific buzz. You can smell it at the food truck added to Sand Valley, serving burgers, kids, and beer to players who end up on the sandbox. And he’s there on the patio and the lawn behind the clubhouse.
“It’s genuine,” said Michael Keizer. “It’s the heart of our atmosphere here. Visually, it’s rough and sturdy. … And that creates a feeling of relaxation because things don’t always have to be rigid. It’s just laid back, laid back, fun.