The 10 best new golf courses of 2018
Right site, wrong track. Taking an existing golf course, abandoning it and draping over its terrain an entirely new layout — or at least one infused with completely new features — is a recurring theme in design these days. Perhaps it’s splitting hairs to label one course brand new as opposed to calling it a major renovation or redesign. But there’s no ambiguity about our best new course of the year: Sand Valley’s Mammoth Dunes, in Wisconsin. No design in memory so successfully melds strategy, playability and spectacular aesthetics. It’s tons of fun, too.
BEST NEW COURSE OF THE YEAR: MAMMOTH DUNES AT SAND VALLEY
6,935 YARDS, PAR 73
Architect David McLay Kidd faced a tall order when tasked with creating the second course at Central Wisconsin’s Sand Valley Golf Resort. After all, its Coore/Crenshaw–designed track, Sand Valley, captured our Best New Course You Can Play award in 2017 and ranked No. 52 in the U.S. among all courses. How do you match or possibly top that? Easy. You craft a layout that checks every box — from its distinctive, sand-based setting and joy-filled appeal for both low- and high-handicappers, to its plethora of individually memorable, strategy-laced holes that unfurl on a massive scale.
Hewn from restored sand barrens speckled with native vegetation and perimeter trees, Mammoth Dunes plays like an inland links, with emphasis on the ground game. The ball darts here and there, and it’s up to the player (and perhaps his caddie, on this walking-only course) to solve the puzzles the contours present. Enormously roomy, rumpled fairways allow golfers to choose their own path to the target, amid vast areas of open sand and gargantuan greens. While the landing areas are plenty wide, finding the spot that provides the most advantageous angle into the green is paramount.
The drama soars at the drivable 332-yard, par-4 sixth, which wows with a gigantic sand feature short and right, and a horseshoe-shaped green. The top postcard moment arrives at the shortest (90-150 yards) hole, the 13th, which plays across a chasm of sand 50 feet deep to a narrow green that stretches 50 yards front to back. Kidd’s current design credo is to deliver maximum fun and minimal frustration. After what you’ve accomplished at Sand Valley, here’s looking at you, Kidd.