Sand Valley

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Golden Golf

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He’s been called the Golden State Warriors secret weapon—but Andre Iguodala’s passion for golf is anything but a secret. An important force in the Warriors’ NBA perennial success in recent years as the NBA’s best team, the 6-foot-6 Iguodala became hooked on the sport as his basketball career blossomed. These days, by Iguodala’s admission, the Warriors play more golf than any other NBA team: “I’d say we’re the best golf-playing team in the NBA.”

Having become fascinated by all elements of the game, Iguodala, a 9-handicap, was blown away by his visit to Sand Valley—a trip he took with some friends from Chicago, near where he grew up.

What were you expecting at Sand Valley?

You have Mike Keiser who set it up—and you get that Bandon vibe of the golf getaway. But it is different in the Midwest. The weather is amazing at Sand Valley, where at Bandon you can never be sure—you can get anything. If you’ve never played links golf, it is very different. It was a different type of experience and I wasn’t sure how to move forward. I was used to hitting a driver and just chipping around the greens. But in terms of links golf, it was a new experience—you learn to putt from 20 feet off the greens. You learn to like it after a couple of rounds.

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Did your trip involve friends?

We try to get eight guys and mix it up. I would say the larger the group the better. At Sand Valley, we built a great vibe. Our annual Ryder Cup trips are the best because you build your whole day around it—trying to get 36 holes in. You can play different games, like alternate, or matchplay. At Mammoth, when it was nine holes, we played a version of best-ball alternate shot where you hit the other person’s second shot, and then the third shot in is true alternate shot. It was crazy and a lot of fun.

You were at the course while Mammoth was still in preview play, and the Sandbox was still not open. What did you make of the courses?

We were there when Mammoth was just opening, and we played six holes of the Sandbox. I loved the par-three course. We were one of the first groups to play Sandbox—the first non-employees to play it—and there are some interesting things going on there. There are little humps that keep you from seeing the flag on the green, and the greens are wild. But we weren’t relaxed—we treated it like it was a PGA Tour event because we were one of the first ones on it. It was a lot of fun. At Sand Valley you look at the scorecard and the hole and try to determine how to dissect the hole to make par or birdie. But you have to look at the strategy there too. We loved Mammoth, which only had eight or nine holes open when we played it.

We hear you enjoyed Craig’s Porch as well?

They have the most amazing ice cream sandwiches at Sand Valley. Whenever I think about Sand Valley I think about those ice cream sandwiches—I even wanted to get them shipped out to me. They are that good. Just amazing.

Do you play golf year-round?

I play during the year, but in the off-season I get in a groove and play every day. During the season I’ll get out two times a week or head to the range. In the season I have friends in spots who play with me, and we have a large group that plays. A couple of coaches play, front office people play, the video room guy is pretty good, and a couple of my teammates play. I’d say we’re the best playing golf team in the NBA. I’ve heard guys on other teams take their clubs on the team plane. It depends on the culture of the team. We have a relaxed environment and a lot of success—so you see a lot of clubs on the plane when we land.

Your teammate and friend Stephen Curry has come on some of your trips. What did you make of his play on the Web.com Tour?

He’s a gifted human being and a great person. He has the skills to play at some level and compete. He had one bad day this year, but he can definitely compete at that level. And he’s growing the game of golf and if you’re a golf fan you want to see him do that more often.

You’re clearly a fan of golf—do you have friends in the game?

When I go to the events, the guys show a lot of love. Tony Finau is a friend. Tiger likes to joke around when I see him and I’m a big Tiger fan. I text with Justin Thomas. I saw Dustin Johnson and told him I was a fan and he said, ‘No, I’m a big fan of you.’ The game of golf is becoming more athletic and guys like Brooks Koepka and DJ are working it in the weight room. Tiger made it cool for these guys.

Brendan McCarthy