The Best Places to Play Right Now
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.
Located on a huge natural sand deposit, it has the kind of dunes and ridges designers dream about. Keiser engaged different firms for the two courses: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw; and David McLay Kidd, who designed Keiser’s first course at Bandon Dunes. Coore & Crenshaw’s course has just opened – an intoxicating intoxicating mix of windblown bunkers, exposed sand dunes, and fescue turf – and has already been praised for coaxing maximum variety and risk-reward options from the site. “Made of sand, the perfect sculpting medium for the creation of natural looking, interesting features for golf, the terrain at Sand Valley is a collection of meandering ridges and valleys over which and through the course has been routed,” says Coore.
McLay Kidd’s is slated to be unveiled early next year, and his assessment of the resort (below) does little to dampen expectations that this could quickly be an all-world golf destination.
Accommodation options are just as enticing: cottages located on the highest ridge on the property, overlooking Lake Leopold; The Fairway Lodge in the heart of the resort, just steps away from the 1st tee of Kidd’s course; and the Clubhouse Lodge, with views down Kidd’s 1st and 18th holes. Accommodation starts at £140 a night, green fees from £70. sandvalleygolfresort.com
TRAVEL ESSENTIALS How to get there It’s between Chicago and Minneapolis, so the closest airports are Central Wisconsin (an hour) and Madison (1hr 40). You’ll need to connect from a US airport for them. Or fly to Chicago O’Hare and drive for four hours.
WHY SAND VALLEY WILL BE SPECIAL By top architect, David McLay Kidd
“There is no doubt about it, this could be the Keisers’ greatest achievement; to bring links golf to 30 million people – that live within four hours’ drive – who have never experienced it before. The original purchase was 2,000 acres, so given it was such a huge parcel I used CAD technology to analyse the entire land and find the most dramatic topography. Then I used my feet to see what it felt like on the ground. Our site has an enormous V-shaped ridge running through it, 80 feet tall.
My course will be uber, playable. It will be the biggest golf course you’ve ever seen or played; the 7th fairway is 160 yards wide! Just try missing that. The closest thing I can think of to relate it to in the UK would be Carne in western Ireland. It is that kind of huge dunescape,
but it’s 1,000 miles from an ocean. We played the CooreCrenshaw course all the time as it matured toward opening. The courses will be very different; ours is on a scale and in a landscape all its own. My desire to ensure fun and playability means that misses are generously forgiven, less so on the C&C course. Both will be a tough test but I hope ours is less testing to those trying to break 100. Theirs is almost as good as ours, which I say with tongue firmly in my cheek…!