Golfers visiting Sand Valley have come away split on which course they prefer. Are they thrilled by the genius of Coore and Crenshaw’s Sand Valley or the brilliance of David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes? Do they love the strategy and crafty nature of the original Sand Valley course, with holes that demand you walk back to the tee to test yourself again, or do they prefer the thrill and enjoyment a golfer receives from putting their back into one on the wide fairways at Mammoth Dunes?
To investigate further, we asked Wisconsin golf expert, and long-time Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist Gary D’Amato for a good-natured debate with Fried Egg founder Andy Johnson about the merits of each design. D’Amato, a 12-handicapper, supported Mammoth Dunes, while the long-hitting low-handicap Johnson backed Sand Valley.
The scale of Mammoth is huge. The fairways are exceptionally wide and the greens are very big. It gives a lot of variety day-in and day-out. The routing is incredible, the way he was able to move around the big land forms. One of the things that is cool with Mammoth is it has short fours, and great threes.
The one that stands out for me at Mammoth Dunes is the sixth hole, a short par 4 with a boomerang green. For a guy like Andy it is a drivable par four, while for a guy like me, I’m hitting a driver down there and a flip wedge. But the green is monstrous, with a lot of movement in it, and they can put the flagstick in any one of a number of places. Sometimes you might hit the green with your drive and have 120 feet for a putt with 20 feet of break. That’s the fun factor. Anyone who plays Mammoth Dunes is going to remember that hole.
As David McLay Kidd said when he built Mammoth Dunes, his main objective was for the 15-handicapper to be able to play without losing a golf ball and would make a few pars and go to the 19th hole and feel pretty good about what he did on the golf course. That’s sorta the feeling I had, not only on the first tee, but as I played throughout my rounds.
The closing hole at Sand Valley has one of my favorite design concepts in golf—when the pin is in the back you have to shoot away from the flag to get close to the flag. One of the first times I played it I had a caddie and the caddie said, “You’ve got to aim 20 yards left of this flag.” I had an iron in my hand and said, “No way.” I went right at it and ended up in the bunker.
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