My buddy Chuck was kind enough to include me in a visit to Sand Valley to tour the first course, which is under construction and set to open in 2017. I expected to be in golf geek heaven, and yet what I experienced so vastly exceeded my expectations that I fear that trying to put it into words won’t do it justice. I’ll do my best to share my impressions, along with photos. If there is one thing that I hope you take away from this recap though, it is this – make your reservations now to visit this special place and play this outstanding golf course.
Before diving into the recap, a quick word about Team Keiser. Everyone knows that Mike Keiser is doing visionary, transformative work in our game. He also has a knack for surrounding himself with talented people and letting them fully use their talents. It would be understandable if Mike, and his sons Michael and Chris, were taken with themselves and their success. They are not at all. Michael and Chris could not have been more gracious and accommodating to a random golf geek like me. In spite of their obviously large workloads, they took a considerable amount of time to walk and talk about Sand Valley, business, nature, and the spirit of the game. They are good dudes busting their humps, and it was my pleasure to meet them.
And now, Sand Valley…
The resort property is located in central WI – for more details, and to stay up to date on developments, follow them on Facebook here and Twitter here. It is most definitely remote. Remote enough that by the time I reached the entrance, the workaday world felt like a distant memory. By my standards of golf adventure though, Sand Valley is not far. It is a reasonable enough drive from Chicago that I intend to make regular 1-2 day trips up when it opens in 2017.
The golf that is planned for Sand Valley will be world class. Beyond the golf though, I also love the work being done to restore native habitat. Visitors will experience a wide array of interesting and beautiful plant life, including my favorite – the winged pigweed. The beauty of the savannah has been uncovered, and the land very gently sculpted and painted with contrasting colors of green fescue turf, native vegetation, and sand. It is breathtaking.
If you read my recent post Coore & Crenshaw’s Great 18, you know that I am a C&C fan. Sand Valley #1 is the 9th of their courses that I have seen, and this is how I would describe it by comparison: It has the beauty and architectural brilliance of Friar’s Head (my favorite of their courses thus far), coupled with the challenging fun and grand scale of Colorado Golf Club (my second favorite of their courses). Does that say enough for you?
A few more specific thoughts:
- Each nine plays in a loop (a la Donald Ross routings) which will allow the player to experience great variety in wind direction.
- Elevation changes provide dramatic views and thrilling shots, without being awkward or gratuitous.
- A plethora of ground features around the greens will add variety and options for approaches and short game shots. There are plenty of shots that will be fun to try and pull off.
- The five par-3s, which range from 110-260 yards, might be the best set I have ever seen. I will reserve judgment until I play the finished holes to decide if they top Camargo and Crystal Downs on my list, but my initial impression was yes.
- There are plenty of half-par holes, which will make for fun match play and plenty of risk-reward golf for the compulsive score-keeper.
- The closing stretches of holes on both nines are quite strong. No let-downs here.
- There are holes, such as #7 and #17, that are truly unique. I have never seen anything like them.
Obviously, I am enthusiastic about Sand Valley. Enough of my ramblings – enjoy the photos…
THE FRONT NINE
The front nine is largely complete, seeded, and growing in. By the time we finished walking the 9th hole, I was already on sensory overload. It was hard to imagine that the back nine could measure up. (click on any photo to open slide show)
THE BACK NINE
The holes on the back nine are in various stages of completion. I have fewer photos because I lost myself in enjoying the scenery, the company, the architecture, the native vegetation. The walk was so enjoyable that I forgot to take pictures. As I walked off the 18th, any fears that the inward nine would be the lesser had been erased. (click on any photo to open slide show)
The only thing that was boring about the Coore & Crenshaw course at Sand Valley was saying the word “wow” every time I stepped on to the next tee. It is that good. Even without playing the course, the walk was so peaceful, fun, and beautiful that by the time we were walking up the 18th, I was overcome with joy and gratitude.
We were allowed to grab our clubs and head back to the front nine to play a few holes. The holes play as good as they look. Our 6 hole loop concluded with me driving the green on the par-4 9th, and tapping in for my first Sand Valley birdie.
The perfect end to the perfect day that leaves me counting the moments until I can go back and add to that birdie total.
Copyright 2015 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf