The Next BIG Thing
NEKOOSA, Wisconsin — After attending the grand opening of his new Mammoth Dunes course at Sand Valley Golf Resort in June, architect David McLay Kidd didn’t get back to Wisconsin the rest of the year. But the Scotsman did, naturally in this day and age, follow Twitter and the golf press to see how his latest creation was being received.
Splendidly, he was pleased to hear again and again.
It wasn’t always so. In the past, Kidd has acknowledged building golf courses that were too penal, too difficult and too merciless, and he earned his share of criticism for it.
But in designing Mammoth Dunes, he set out to build a golf course that would be more playable, with wide and welcoming fairways that would instill confidence on the tee, lessen the penalties for errant shots and make recovery shots achievable. He envisioned golfers playing 18 holes without losing a ball, all part of what he called his new mission “to remind people that golf could be fun again.”
And by all accounts, Mammoth Dunes is most certainly that.
“I haven’t had anyone yet tell me they didn’t have fun (playing Mammoth Dunes),” Kidd said last fall, as the inaugural season was nearing an end. “I seem to have achieved what I set out to do, which is to accentuate that site … and let people have a blast playing golf.
“So far, it’s getting rave reviews.”
He wasn’t, pardon the expression, kidding. Despite following right on the heels of the Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw designed Sand Valley course, which was named No. 57 on one top 100 course list shortly after it opened in 2017, Mammoth Dunes was immediately declared a grand sequel. If Coore-Crenshaw delivered a popular movie in designing Sand Valley, said golf writer Joe Passov: “David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes captures the Oscar …
“It’s fair to say that Mammoth has the potential to be considered among the most fun courses in golf — in elite company, for sure.” And golf writer Len Ziehm echoed the notion, calling it “the most fun golf course I’ve ever played. And that’s saying a lot.
There are a lot of fun courses out there.”
If “fun” was a favored descriptor, it was closely followed by “gargantuan” and its many synonyms, because unlike the big man who answers to Tiny or the milquetoast to Butch, this golf course was well and truly named. Mammoth Dunes is simply mammoth, with fairways that stretch up to 120 yards wide in places, with massive greens and a routing that leaves first-time players wondering if they are wandering ever deeper into the golf wilderness.
The Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella called it “a big, big, big, bold golf course,” while Adam Lawrence, the editor of Golf Course Architect, said that “visually (Mammoth Dunes) is off the charts. I do not believe I have every seen a larger-looking golf course … one is simply blown away by the scale.”
So Kidd has a winner, and so does the Mike Keiser-owned golf resort that has already become a bucket-list destination in just its first few years in existence. The two courses now open have proven so successful that Sand Valley has announced the selection of architect Tom Doak to design yet another regulation course, tentatively called Sedge Valley, that will likely stretch to just over 6,000 yards and play to a par 68. That will be Sand Valley’s fourth course, because this year the resort also opened a 17-hole par-3 course called the Sandbox.