Golf Blog

Sand Valley

On May 2nd 1999, Mike Keiser opened a little golf resort called Bandon Dunes.  It was located in a remote coastal area of Oregon that was hard to get to.  Most golf experts told Mike that he was crazy for building a course in such a remote location.  But golfers came in droves to play the highly regarded David Mclay Kidd layout.  Two years later, Pacific Dunes joined the original course and then came Bandon Trails, Old Macdonald, and finally Bandon Preserve.  It is easily one of the greatest golf success stories of this generation.

After adding Cabot Cliffs to his portfolio of courses in 2016, Mike Keiser decided to open another golf resort in a remote location.  This time it's in the middle of Wisconsin, it's a little easier to get to, and its called Sand Valley.  With preview play already open on the resort's second course, Mammoth Dunes, and a par 3 course in the works, the Bandon Dunes formula that worked so well is looking to repeat itself.

The view from "Craig's Porch"  which is named after Craig Haltom, the landowner who originally brought the land to Mike Keiser's attention.

The view from "Craig's Porch"  which is named after Craig Haltom, the landowner who originally brought the land to Mike Keiser's attention.

The view of the clubhouse as you drive into the property.

The view of the clubhouse as you drive into the property.

Sand Valley Facts

  • The course opened to the public on May 2nd 2017, exactly 18 years to the day after Bandon Dunes opened.
  • Sand Valley is 4 hours from Chicago, 3 hours from Milwaukee, 2.5 hours from Whistling Straits, and 2.5 hours from Erin Hills
  • I drained a 40 footer on #5 for birdie and fell over attempting an overly unnecessary fist pump.
  • The course is designed for walkers only. 
  • The brisket tacos at "Craig's Porch" for $1.50 will knock your socks off
  • Ashley Mayo hit the opening tee shot at Sand Valley.  She found the fairway... she always finds the fairway.
  • Sand Valley has 53 rooms with 107 beds on property
  • The team of Coore & Crenshaw built Sand Valley and David McLay Kidd is the course architect for Mammoth Dunes.
  • Because of the name's negative connotation, the name for the par 3 course, "Quicksand" is up for review.
  • I disagree with the up for review thing.  Quicksand is an awesome name.
Even the parking lot at Sand Valley is filled with sand.  You can see the resort's par 3 course in the top left and the 1st tee and 18th green on Mammoth Dunes on the right.

Even the parking lot at Sand Valley is filled with sand.  You can see the resort's par 3 course in the top left and the 1st tee and 18th green on Mammoth Dunes on the right.

Sand Valley was built on top of a sand bed left behind from a glacier.

Sand Valley was built on top of a sand bed left behind from a glacier.

The green on the par 5 4th hole

The green on the par 5 4th hole

It's tough to make an uphill par 3 look this good.  Coore & Crenshaw  have figured things out at Sand Valley

It's tough to make an uphill par 3 look this good.  Coore & Crenshaw  have figured things out at Sand Valley

During my visit to Sand Valley Resort, I was able to play 6 holes at Mammoth Dunes and I was fortunate enough to get a tour of the other 12 while they were under construction.  For those of us outside the world of golf course construction, It's a unique experience to view a course in it's various stages of development.  I much prefer them with grass.

The sand dune I am standing on here partially obstructs the view of the green from the tee on the par 3 16th.  Given my experience with golfer's and their reactions to blind shots, this one should spark some debate.

The sand dune I am standing on here partially obstructs the view of the green from the tee on the par 3 16th.  Given my experience with golfer's and their reactions to blind shots, this one should spark some debate.

Basketball soon to be replaced by golf ball.  Kidd uses these basketballs to get an idea of how the green will break when finished.

Basketball soon to be replaced by golf ball.  Kidd uses these basketballs to get an idea of how the green will break when finished.

Fresh seed at Mammoth Dunes is coming in nicely.

Fresh seed at Mammoth Dunes is coming in nicely.

While creating Mammoth Dunes, Kidd and his team uncovered an old housing foundation.  Instead of removing it, they made a bunker out of it.  It's gnarly and awesome.

While creating Mammoth Dunes, Kidd and his team uncovered an old housing foundation.  Instead of removing it, they made a bunker out of it.  It's gnarly and awesome.

With Sand Valley Resort off and running, Wisconsin is quickly turning into one of America's go to destinations for amazing public golf.  With Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, Sentry World, and Erin Hills all a reasonable drive away from one another, the area is poised to see a dramatic spike in buddy trips and birdies.  I know I added a couple to the tally.

To get an idea of the courses you would like to visit, you can view all of my course photos from Wisconsin here.

Hello Wisconsin!

In town for a wedding on Lake Geneva, I seized the opportunity to play some of the best golf courses that Wisconsin has to offer.  A fantastic lineup of Erin Hills, Black Wolf Run, and both courses at Whistling Straits were on the agenda.    

After dropping off the wife and some friends after the wedding, I drove the hour or so to Erin Hills for my first Wisconsin golfing experience.  I was fortunate enough to join a great group of guys who were on the tail end of their 27th consecutive annual golf buddies trip.  Read the full review on Erin Hills and see all the pictures here.

The very cool par 3, 9th hole at Erin Hills.

The very cool par 3, 9th hole at Erin Hills.

The early morning view on the range at Erin Hills

The early morning view on the range at Erin Hills

Erin Hills will host the 2017 U.S. Open.  This will be an excellent new course for the Open and I am excited to watch the action.

Next up on the agenda was the Irish course at Whistling Straits.  Living in the shadow of it's next door neighbor, the Irish course does a great job of holding it's own.  

The course has a cool American links feel to it and served as a great warm up for it's big brother.  Read the full write up on the Irish course here.

the 16th hole at Erin Hills figures to be a pivotal hole in the 2017 U.S. Open.

the 16th hole at Erin Hills figures to be a pivotal hole in the 2017 U.S. Open.

Plenty of tall fescue to hunt down wayward teeshots on Whistling Straits' Irish course.

Plenty of tall fescue to hunt down wayward teeshots on Whistling Straits' Irish course.

The opening hole on the Irish sets a great pace for the round.

The opening hole on the Irish sets a great pace for the round.

One of the most scenic par 3's on the Irish course is the 6th hole.

One of the most scenic par 3's on the Irish course is the 6th hole.

The difficult 17th hole.  The superintendent cut us some slack with that pin position.

The difficult 17th hole.  The superintendent cut us some slack with that pin position.

 Whistling Straits was easily the most fun I had photographing a golf course.  With all of the huge sand dunes, there are tons of places to get unique vantage shots of the course.  It was hard to narrow down the shots for the gallery.

I got up on some of the partially taken down grandstands to get this one of the 15th hole.

I got up on some of the partially taken down grandstands to get this one of the 15th hole.

John Daly fired 3 balls into the lake here on the 7th and then threw his club in after it during the 2015 PGA.  A kid in a boat would later retrieve it.

John Daly fired 3 balls into the lake here on the 7th and then threw his club in after it during the 2015 PGA.  A kid in a boat would later retrieve it.

Next up was the Straits course at Whistling Straits.  Playing host to the 2015 PGA Championship just weeks prior, they were still taking down some of the final grandstands.  I managed to sneak an official program from the rubble beforehand, so I was ready to go.

There are no carts allowed on the Straits course and caddies are required.  Which means none of those cart path bounces or scuffed balls.  Although that won't save you from finding Lake Michigan on the course's 8 lakeside holes.  

The difficult par 4 8th hole.  I almost hit it in the lake and made a great par save from the beach.

The difficult par 4 8th hole.  I almost hit it in the lake and made a great par save from the beach.

The par 3 3rd hole is the 1st in a series of 4 jaw dropping waterfront par 3's.

The par 3 3rd hole is the 1st in a series of 4 jaw dropping waterfront par 3's.

One of my favorite moments in the 2015 PGA was when Jason Day flat out chunked one 20 yards short of the green with a wedge.  Unfazed, he got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament with a record -20.  What a stud

One of my favorite moments in the 2015 PGA was when Jason Day flat out chunked one 20 yards short of the green with a wedge.  Unfazed, he got up and down for par and went on to win the tournament with a record -20.  What a stud

Out of all the courses I have played Whistling Straits might just be my favorite.  It's a close call with Pebble Beach for the top spot.  Be sure to check out the full review and writeup here.

Here is the finishing 18th hole.  A great spot to watch the action.

Here is the finishing 18th hole.  A great spot to watch the action.

For the final round of my Wisconsin trip, I was greeted by these swans at Black Wolf Run.  After 3 days of taking on Pete Dye designs would I finally get the best of Pete?  Be sure to read the full review here.

Black Wolf Run is a must play for any golfer visiting the Kohler area.  The course features two 18 hole tracks, the River and the Meadow Valley course.  I played the River which is the more popular option. 

A big thanks to everyone that I played with and to the courses for being such tremendous hosts.

Plenty of risk reward options at Black Wolf Run

Plenty of risk reward options at Black Wolf Run

The tough 11th hole at Black Wolf Run

The tough 11th hole at Black Wolf Run

The view from the tee box on the par 4, 5th hole at Black Wolf Run.  Oh yeah.

The view from the tee box on the par 4, 5th hole at Black Wolf Run.  Oh yeah.