The second course at Mike Keiser’s Sand Valley Golf Resort in Wisconsin, USA, is taking shape under the watchful eye of golf course architect David McLay Kidd.
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. “Every time I climb up and over a dune, I half expect to see the Atlantic or Pacific right there. It’s a strange thing, being in the middle of a continent, and a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, but surrounded by sand dunes.”
McLay Kidd says that his design is in a two season build, with six holes already grassed, and the other twelve to be finished next year.
“The dunes on the site are not like many I’ve played or worked on, where they are perpendicular to the prevailing wind,” he says. “They’re more random and they’re big. The biggest dunes on the site are 80 feet tall.”
The construction method for McLay Kidd’s course and the Coore & Crenshaw course has been the same, involving the clearing of trees and flipping of the sand.
“All of the undersoil of the forest is being turned, with white sand being brought back to the top,” McLay Kidd says. “That’s a pretty time consuming operation, which requires a line of excavators acting like gardeners turning over the bedding. Helpfully, the course also lies on a giant aquifer, so water is no issue.”
McLay Kidd says that, in true Keiser style, nothing at Sand Valley is being done by half. The owner’s favouring of ‘real golf’ has led to both courses being all fescue, with the only exception being on the greens, which use creeping bentgrass.
“As well as out on the course, a lot of effort is being made to rehabilitate the out of play areas back to the pine barons, which is what would have been there a thousand years ago,” said McLay Kidd. “Keiser is very keen to reestablish those ecological and environmental factors back on the site. As much effort is going into that restoration project as is going into creating the golf courses.”
This article first appeared in Issue 46 of Golf Course Architecture