With Wisconsin's Mammoth Dunes, designer David McLay Kidd forgoes frustrating for fun
Armchair Architect 2016: Construction and Kismet
Don't call it a comeback.
It's been more like an epiphany.
At least that's the word David McLay Kidd uses to describe his return to designing fun, rather than frustrating, courses. Kidd, the Scottish architect who developed a reputation for building penal, topsy-turvy tracks such as Tetherow in Oregon and the Castle Course in St Andrews, has warmed to the idea of shaping more user-friendly courses.
The Best Places to Play Right Now
Virtual golf design met the real thing in mid-July at Sand Valley Golf Resort in central Wisconsin. Brian Silvernail, winner of Golf Digest's 2016 Armchair Architect contest, spent a weekend consulting with golf architect David McLay Kidd on the site of the resort's second 18, Mammoth Dunes, now under construction. Silvernail's winning design, selected last fall by Kidd and resort owner Mike Keiser from among 532 entries, serves as the template for the downhill, drivable par-4 14th hole.
Silvernail, a 47-year-old Melbourne, Fla. graphic designer who moonlights as a computer golf game architect, got a generous taste of the full experience of building an actual golf hole, from flagging the edges of fairway grassing lines to receiving a crash course in operating both a bulldozer, used to shape fairways and greens, and an excavator, used in carving out bunkers.
Golf Odyssey: Our First Look
Sand Valley, Wisconsin Wisconsin was unusually the focus of the golf world in June when the heartland state of America staged its first US Open. Erin Hills impressed many, especially given it is just 11 years old. And yet its status as Wisconsin’s shining light in golf terms might be short lived, for a new resort with two courses of mouth-watering potential has just opened. Sand Valley is 130 miles north-west of Erin Hills and is the brainchild of Mike Keiser and his two sons, Michael and Chris. Keiser, of course, is the man who left his first career in greetings cards to create Bandon Dunes – arguably the most successful golf resort in the world.
Only an exceptional site would persuade Keiser to do another in America, and Sand Valley appears to be just that.
Mike Keiser Knows Where Golf is Alive and Well. (It's not Illinois)
If you are an avid golf traveler, you probably regard Mike Keiser with the same admiration New England Patriot fans feel for Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. We certainly do. A Chicago-based greeting card magnate by trade, Keiser's foray into golf development began with the quiet back-to-golf basics Dunes Club in New Buffalo, Michigan, whose design, which reminds us of the great Pine Valley, is one of the best nine-hole golf courses in the world.
The Dunes Club being private, the greater golfing public took little notice of Keiser until the 1999 opening of Bandon Dunes on Oregon's remote southern Pacific coast. Naysayers acknowledged the merits of David McLay Kidd's design, but dismissed the place as a curiosity that was so difficult to get to that few but the most determined would go to the trouble to see it. Four more golf courses later, Bandon Dunes Golf Resort is a pilgrimage site for all golfers, especially those who yearn for the sorts of links layouts on which the game was first played.
Sand Valley is the Bandon Dunes of the Midwest
Mike Keiser made his fortune in Chicago, co-founding a greeting card company that was sold for nine figures. Working from offices in Chicago, he then gained his fame as a golf course developer, constructing courses in Oregon, Michigan, Canada and Australia. His newest property, Sand Valley Golf Resort, laid out on 1,500 acres in central Wisconsin, stands to be the most important course to open in the nation this year.
Keiser has never built a course in Illinois and probably never will. The landscape is too flat and dull, he says, to interest modern-day golfing connoisseurs. "Illinois means cornfields, and cornfields are not good places to be building courses," Keiser says. "Wisconsin has more interesting land."
Sand Valley Community Day
It might be hard to believe now, but Bandon Dunes wasn't a guaranteed success story. The golf course celebrated its grand opening on May 2, 1999, and it was nestled in a tiny, hard-to-get-to town that most people, at the time, had never heard of. Two years later, Pacific Dunes opened, then Bandon Trails, then Old Macdonald, then Bandon Preserve, then the Punchbowl, and who knows what might open next.
On May 2, 2017, exactly 18 years after Bandon Dunes opened for play, Sand Valley celebrated its grand opening. Like Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley is located in a small, off-the-beaten-path town called Rome, which is almost exactly in the middle of Wisconsin. And like Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley is the first course of what will soon be a multiple golf course destination.
Wisconsin Golfer - Q&A with Michael Keiser
ROME – Despite the cold and rain, dozens of community members gathered Monday for Community Day at Sand Valley Golf Resort in the town of Rome.
The event was held ahead of the public grand opening on Tuesday. Residents gathered at Craig’s Porch, a restaurant and bar that overlooks the first hole of golf, and heard from the resort's managing partner and general manager.
Mike Keiser, one of the owners and the managing partner of Sand Valley Golf Resort, said the Rome resort is unique.
“(It has) incredible landscape,” Keiser said. “I have never seen any other place like it in the world.”
Keiser said golf is symbolic of endless opportunities, and he saw endless opportunities as well as warm hospitality in Rome.
Golf Advisor's Top 10 Golf Destinations to Visit in 2017
After a season of preview play both satisfied curiosity of many golfers and whetted the appetites of many more, the much-anticipated Sand Valley Golf Resort will officially open its first course for public play on May 2, followed by a celebratory grand opening on June 19.
As opening day neared, Michael Keiser, who is overseeing the day-to-day operations at the Adams County facility, spoke with Wisconsin Golfer about the newest must-play destination on the state's golf map.
Bill Coore’s Contribution to Game is a Less-is-More Proposition
Sand Valley, plus the 2017 U.S. Open at Erin Hills, are two reasons why it's a big year for Wisconsin golf. (Matt Ginella/Golf Advisor)
We're counting down the top 10 golf destinations to visit in 2017. For destinations 10-6, as well how we determined our list, click here.
The five best golf destinations to visit in 2017 are at the top of their game in different ways.
Two centennial celebrations highlight the festivities, as well as a prestigious, new No. 1 ranking, as well as domination in our own Top 50 ranking.
So start rallying the group and tallying up those credit card miles, here are the five best destinations to visit this year:
Second Course at Sand Valley Begins to Take Shape
f you are a fan of the National Football League, it’s safe bet you’ve heard of the phrase Coaching Tree. It’s used to describe a group of coaches that all went on to greatness after mentoring under a legend. Prime examples of this phenomenon include The Bill Walsh, Mike Holmgren, or Bill Belichick Coaching Trees.
When it comes to golf, an Architectural Design Tree has evolved around the legendary Pete Dye, who will celebrate his 91st birthday this year. The Disciples of Dye include Tom Doak, Tim Liddy, and Lee Schmidt, who have all produced masterpieces throughout the Midwest. Of that impressive list, Bill Coore has set himself apart as the lead understudy that now is a master of his craft.
As Sand Valley prepares to open next summer, Mike Keiser talks about his successful formula
The first course at the resort, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, has now opened for preview play. Currently under development, the second course is set to formally open in 2018, with a third course following soon after. An announcement on the designer of the third course is expected in the near future.
GCA caught up with McLay Kidd, who previously worked with Keiser at Bandon Dunes, to discuss the second course and putting his own mark on one of the biggest current golf developments in the US.
“The site is as near-perfect as you’re going to find, short of being on an ocean,” he says.
Could Wisconsin's Sand Valley Be the Bandon Dunes of the Midwest?
Mike Keiser is the driving force behind the most dramatic golf resort developments of the past two decades. Starting with Bandon Dunes along the remote coast of southern Oregon, Keiser has continued on with Cabot Links in Nova Scotia, Canada, and is a driving force behind Barnbougle Dunes in Tasmania. These highly rated destinations are geographically diverse, but share many similarities that are important elements in their ongoing success. Keiser’s latest project – Sand Valley in Nekoosa, Wisconsin – is scheduled to open next June.
PGA Magazine recently conducted an exclusive interview with the Chicago-based avid golfer to discuss his current and future projects, hear his suggestions for improving golf at other facilities, and learn more about the formula behind the “Keiser mystique.”
Golf Digest Armchair Architect Winner Named!
LOST IN WISCONSIN—Pardon the dateline, but I’m not exactly sure where the hell I am.
That’s strange because I lived in Wisconsin for 18 years and even graduated from a small-town high school maybe an hour away. But I couldn’t put an I Am Here dot on a map.
Here is Sand Valley, a fabulous new course and future resort that’s about to open for public play. It is the brainchild of Mike Keiser, the man who put Bandon Dunes on your golf bucket list, and his sons, Michael Jr. and Chris. There’s only one drawback to Sand Valley: getting there. Funny, but Bandon Dunes, on Oregon’s remote coast, initially had the same problem. Now, 81 stunning holes, spectacular ocean views and an upgraded commercial airport have made location a moot point. Bandon is a smashing success.
America's Next Great Golf Resort
Brian Silvernail first developed an interest in golf architecture in the late 1980s, when Accolade released its first computer golf game. Not content just to hone his computer golf skills, Silvernail, trained in graphic arts, began designing golf holes on computer, then entire courses, becoming so skilled he beta-tested several Jack Nicklaus Golf games and even helped lay out some imaginary courses.
It was that background that helped Silvernail win Golf Digest's 2016 Armchair Architect contest...
Golf Digest's 2016 Armchair Architect Contest - Design David Kidd's 14th Hole at Sand Valley!
Two hours north of Madison, tucked away in small Rome, Wisconsin, is the home to America’s next great golf resort, Sand Valley. Up until now, Rome’s fame has been the paper mills that employ much of the area and supply paper to the world. Sand Valley is the latest project by Mike Keiser, who has the goal of bringing the seaside links golf we see at the Open Championship to the heart of the midwest. I was able to make a trip up to Sand Valley with three buddies for preview play a few weeks ago, and we were all blown away at what’s being built. As of now, two courses are under construction with many more on the way.
First Course at Sand Valley is Phenomenal
The owner of Bandon Dunes wants your par 4 on his next resort.
Everyone who plays golf thinks they could be a golf course architect. It starts at an early age. Tiger Woods was just 11 years old when he entered Golf Digest's first Armchair Architect contest back in 1987. (Officially, he was too young to win, so he had his father mail it in.) His dream hole was a U-shaped double-dogleg par 5 with an island tee, island traps and an island green (see below or click here to view his design entry in large-PDF format). Even at age 11, he probably had the talent to cut the corner by smacking an iron from the back tee over his 120-foot-high hill and onto the green where he'd have a putt for a double-eagle 2. (If he avoided the bunker in the center of his green, that is.) The rest of us would likely take the long way around, dodging trees, bunkers, mounds, a creek and a bog.
Rome Prepares for Sand Valley
Town of Rome – On my way up to Stevens Point for an annual Memorial Day golf getaway with 15 buddies, I stopped off at Sand Valley at the invitation of B.R. Koehnemann, director of communications for KemperSports, to play nine holes on the new Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw course.
I walked off the ninth green convinced I had just played what is going to be one of the best public access courses in America. Whistling Straits (three PGA Championships and the 2020 Ryder Cup) and Erin Hills (2017 U.S. Open) are the gold standard in Wisconsin, but Sand Valley is destined to join them as an international destination.
Next on the Tee for Coore and Crenshaw - Sand Valley
When a well-traveled golf course developer builds a world-class facility in a relatively undeveloped part of middle Wisconsin, a small township faces a world of…opportunity.
Chicago businessman-turned golf course developer Mike Keiser gravitates to naturally unique places to build. The area near Nekoosa contains ancient sand dunes as high as 80 feet, left behind when some 15,000 years ago a glacial ice dam burst creating the inland dells of central Wisconsin. Red pine plantations were carefully removed to make way for an almost seaside landscape of rolling dunes. After the removal of tree cover, the open areas are showing some signs of primitive plant life that once may have grown in this part of Wisconsin, including a small cactus that blooms in spring.
They’ll also finish up Sand Valley starting in April with preview play on 13 holes this summer. “What I like about the site is it’s got completely different contours than what we work with generally,” says Coore. “It’s not really so much dunes as it is big sand ridges and valleys. It’s very aptly named. They created large situations for some really interesting golf holes. You look out over these long vistas and big rolling hills. It kind of feels like Shinnecock.”