Geeked on Golf

A Celebration of the People & Places that Make Golf the Greatest Game


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2016 Geeked on Golf Tour

A pattern seems to be developing.  As I watch the snow fall out my window, I reflect back and think, “It can’t get any better than this year’s golf tour.”  And then the next year comes around, and it does.  That was the story of 2016.  Just when I thought golf adventuring couldn’t get any better, it did.

I got around quite a bit this year.  First the stats: Played 51 courses (30 for the first time), including 6 U.S. Open Venues, in 15 states.  Gloriously exhausting, and tremendously rewarding.

Before getting into detail on the courses played, a few takeaways from the year:

This was the year I realized that I don’t like playing alone all that much anymore.  I would rather be in the company of a fellow geek or two.  Being able to share these adventures with kindred spirits makes the experiences richer, including geeking out about golf on long car rides or over a well-earned meal and drink.  This year, I had the good fortune of deepening existing friendships, and creating new ones around the country.  Golf is magical that way.

Golf has always been a walking sport for me.  This year, I came to realize that riding in a cart takes too much away from the experience for me to do it.  Even if it means that my game suffers a bit from fatigue, I prefer to walk.  Hiking around Sand Hollow, 81 holes in a day and half at Prairie Dunes, 45 holes at Sand Hills – sure, these walks were taxing.  But I like the exercise and the experience of the courses is significantly more vivid.  There might come a day when I am no longer able to walk and play.  On that day, I will take a cart.  Until then, it’s walking for me.

Although I did play in quite a few fun matches with friends, I did not keep score once this year.  In 2016, it didn’t seem to matter, so I didn’t bother.  It was quite liberating.  I was still plenty happy to make pars and birdies, but there was no pressure to do so.  Instead, I was freed up to attempt creative shots that, when pulled off, are the golfing memories I cherish the most.

Finally, I fell in love with the replay this year, or as my buddy Peter says, “Going around and around.”  My weekend at Prairie Dunes, and replays of great courses like Shoreacres, Crystal Downs, Sand Hills, and Boston Golf Club brought this into focus for me.  Playing new courses is great, but I find myself yearning more and more for the depth of experience that comes from the replay.

Enough philosophizing, on to the course highlights of 2016.

One course cracked my Top 5 favorites this year – Sand Hills.  Those who have been know how magnificent it is.  It is perfect.  Beautiful land, with 18 wonderful holes laid upon it.  For a photo tour, check out my September to Remember post here.

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Two additional courses cracked my Top 10 – Myopia Hunt Club and Prairie Dunes.

Playing Myopia is like stepping back in time to an era that pre-dates formal architectural styles.  It is a special place.  For much more on Myopia, check out Jon Cavalier’s course tour and my June Buddies Trip Recap.

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My weekend at Prairie Dunes was an all-timer.  After 81 holes in a day and a half, I got to know the course well, and I am grateful for the chance.  Strategy and variety abound, and those greens…oh my.  For a complete tour of Prairie Dunes, check out my visit recap here.

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Four additional courses cracked my Top 20 – Philadelphia Cricket Club, Oakmont, Kittansett Club, and Ballyneal.

Keith Foster’s work restoring Tillinghast’s Philly Cricket is off the charts.  It is breathtaking and all the right kinds of challenging.

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Oakmont is of course, Oakmont.  It was a neat treat to get to play this incredible course in a U.S. Open year.  Many hours of sleep were sacrificed for the experience, and it was worth every minute.

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Kittansett Club, with the benefit of a Gil Hanse restoration, blew me away.  This William Flynn design might be the best flat-site golf course in America.

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Like so many do, I fell in love with the Ballyneal experience.  Great golf-geeky membership, and my favorite Tom Doak course to date (yes, I have played Pacific Dunes).

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My quest to play all of the U.S. Open venues continued this year, and I knocked six more off the list – Glen View Club, Myopia Hunt Club, Philadelphia Cricket Club, Oakmont, Erin Hills, and Inverness Club.  A wide variety, all wonderful courses.

(Click images to enlarge)

I had high expectations for most of the courses I played this year, but there were a handful that exceeded my expectations.  My biggest surprises of the year were Orchard Lake, Sand Hollow, Whitinsville, Highland Links, George Wright, and Sweetens Cove.

After coming across a photo tour of the newly renovated Orchard Lake Country Club on GolfClubAtlas, I was dying to see it.  What Keith Foster and Superintendent Aaron McMaster have done there is jaw-dropping.  For even more on Orchard Lake, check out my C.H. Alison appreciation post here.

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Sand Hollow is one of the most unique golf courses I have ever played.  The terrain is amazing, it has great holes – it is just plain cool.  I already have a return visit planned for February, 2017.  For more photos, check out my Las Vegas trip recap here.

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My golf buddies were a little skeptical when I added a 9-holer they had never heard of to our Boston itinerary.  After the first time around Whitinsville, they asked if we could stay the whole day.  They simply do not make courses like this anymore.

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The early morning trek out to the end of Cape Cod was worth the effort.  The Highland Links waits there, nearly untouched by time, and perhaps America’s only true links course outside of Bandon, OR.

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Boston has an embarrassment of riches in private golf, but it was a public track that pleasantly surprised me the most this season – George Wright.  The story of its creation as a WPA project, with Donald Ross as architect blasting holes out of the rock with dynamite is terrific.  In recent years, this gem has been getting the polish it deserves.

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Every golf geek I know who has made the pilgrimage to Sweetens Cove has come back a convert.  Count me among them – Sweetens Cove is everything that is great about golf, and golf course architecture, all packed into 9 holes.  For more about Sweetens Cove, check out my interview with Rob Collins, including his course tour.

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Toward the end of the season, it became evident that I have developed a fascination with 9-holers.  Winter Park CC, The Dunes Club, Whitinsville, Marion GC, Highland Links, Sweetens Cove, and Eagle Springs were all highlights for me in 2016.  I intend to include as many 9-holers as I can in my adventures going forward.

After another year of unbelievable golf experiences with great people, I am tremendously grateful.  Many thanks to those who have pitched in to make these adventures possible.  Time to start lining up 2017…

Happy New Year!

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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LinksGems 2016 Year in Review

2016 was another busy year for our friend Jon Cavalier of LinksGems (@LinksGems on Twitter and Instagram).  He travelled coast-to-coast playing beautiful golf courses and sharing his terrific photos.  He also took his drone work to a whole new level, literally. And, finally, this year we learned more about the man behind the lens in 2 interviews:

  • Read the Buffalo Golfer interview with Jon here.
  • Listen to the Fried Egg interview with Jon here.

It is clear at this point that Jon is a very talented guy.  He is also extremely generous to put this amount of work into sharing his photos with us, with no concern for remuneration.  Those of us who have had the pleasure of teeing it with him will tell you this about Jon as well – he’s as a good a golf buddy as you’ll ever find.

Enjoy this recap of Jon’s stellar 2016.  Looking forward to watching him try to top it in 2017.


PLEASANT SURPRISES

These are the courses that I played this year that most exceeded my expectations.  Counting down my Top 10…

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No. 10 – Highland Links

This full-fescue true links 9-holer on Cape Cod is as pure and scenic as it gets.

No. 9 – Keney Park Golf Course

This quirky Hartford muni has improved immensely.  Church pews, and excellent Redan, an Eden, a punchbowl – they’re all here.  A wildly fun and supremely enjoyable golf course.

No. 8 – Sands Point Golf Club

A.W. Tillinghast + Keith Foster + Beautiful Setting = Incredible Golf.  I knew this place would be good, I didn’t realize that it would be this great.

No. 7 – Country Club of Troy

CC of Troy sits on lovely terrain and features exceptional Walter Travis greens.

No. 6 – Shelter Harbor

Old stone walls are everywhere on this, my favorite of Hurzdan-Fry’s designs.  A beauty.

No. 5 – Pikewood National Golf Club

It’s not often that two guys I’ve never heard of build one of the best modern courses I’ve ever played.

No. 4 – Salem Country Club

I didn’t know how good Donald Ross could be until this year.

No. 3 – Black Sheep Golf Club

Played Black Sheep on the spur of the moment and it blew me away.  Stupendously fun David Esler design.

No. 2 – Orchard Lake Country Club

Went to Detroit to see Oakland Hills and fell in love with this beauty.  Keith Foster continues to add to his growing list of brilliant renovations.

No. 1 – Glens Falls Country Club

Glens Falls absolutely blew me away; gorgeous setting, amazing terrain and a wonderful set of holes.  One of the most pleasant golf surprises I’ve had in recent years.


FAVORITE DRONE SHOTS

2016 was the year when I fell in love with drone photography.  In the spirit of the 12 Days of Christmas, here are my favorite drone shots of the year.  Counting down from 12…

No. 12 – National Golf Links of America (with cameos by Shinnecock, Sebonack and Ballyshear)

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No. 11 – Ridgewood Country Club

Sunset, with the New York City skyline.

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No. 10 – Sleepy Hollow Country Club

New Knoll and Road Hole greens by Gil Hanse at the 8th and 9th holes.

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No. 9 – Old Sandwich Golf Club

The fall colors here must be seen to be believed.

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No. 8 – Pine Valley Golf Club

Full fall colors, with the Philadelphia skyline over the 18th green.

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No. 7 – Sleepy Hollow Country Club

Punchbowl, Panorama, High Tor, Haunted Bridge, Outlook, and Hendrick Hudson

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No. 6 – Shinnecock Hills 

Shinny always looks great, but it’s impossibly beautiful at dawn.

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No. 5 – Maidstone Club

Three of my favorite holes – Maidstone’s 8th, 9th and 10th.

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No. 4 – National Golf Links of America

Dusk over the greatest golf neighborhood in the world.

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No. 3 – Seminole Golf Club

A color dawn breaks on Donald Ross’s seaside masterpiece.

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No. 2 – Eastward Ho! 

Paradise in Chatham on Cape Cod by Herbert Fowler

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No. 1 – National Golf Links of America

Sunset over Peconic Bay, the iconic windmill and punchbowl.

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TOP NEW PLAYS

And finally, the main event – my favorite courses that I played for the first time in 2016.  15 Honourable Mentions, followed by a countdown of the Top 10…

(click on photos to enlarge)

HM – Baltusrol Golf Club

Site of the 2016 PGA Championship and countless other major events.

HM – Calusa Pines

This terrific Hurdzan/Fry design is one of the best courses in Florida.

HM – Olympic Club (Lake)

The championship course at the oldest athletic club in the U.S.A.

HM – Salem Country Club

This Ross gem will shine in 2017 as the host of the U.S. Senior Open.

HM – Medinah No. 3

There’s golf history behind every tree and shrub at this venerable course.

HM – Oak Hill CC

The only club to host the PGA, Ryder Cup, US Open, US Am, Senior Open & PGA.

HM – Pikewood National

What John Raese & Bob Gwynne created here is nothing short of amazing.

HM – Sebonack Golf Club

An unlikely marriage, Tom Doak & Jack Nicklaus created a true gem.

HM – Oakland Hills CC

Quite beautiful, brutally difficult and a long championship pedigree.

HM – Olympia Fields

One of Chicagoland’s finest championship venues.

HM – Southern Hills

This Tulsa gem by Perry Maxwell is the crown jewel of Oklahoma.

HM – Cherry Hills

Arnold Palmer’s history here made playing CHCC in 2016 very special.

HM – St. Louis Country Club

This CB Mac gem is every bit as good as it’s NY brethren.

HM – Wade Hampton Club

Far and away the best Fazio-designed course I’ve ever played.

HM – Kittansett Club

Gil Hanse polished this seaside William Flynn gem to a sparkle.

No. 10 – Pasatiempo

Mackenzie’s favorite course; a charming and beautiful place for a round.

No. 9 – Riviera

A strategic and enjoyable masterpiece by George Thomas, with many iconic holes.

No. 8 – Essex County Club

There is something magical about this old Donald Ross design.

No. 7 – Valley Club of Montecito

One of the prettiest and most enjoyable golf courses in the world.

No. 6 – California Golf Club

A restoration by Kyle Phillips lifts Cal Club to must play status.

No. 5 – Prairie Dunes

Father and son duo Perry & Press Maxwell teamed up on this heartland gem.

No. 4 – San Francisco Golf Club

Few architects built masterpieces on both coasts; Tillinghast did.

No. 3 – Seminole

Donald Ross’s finest work, and a masterclass in routing a golf course; amazing.

No. 2 – Los Angeles Country Club

Perhaps the finest parkland golf course in the country; lovely.

No. 1 – Pebble Beach

This grande old dame, iconic and revered, somehow lives up to expectations.


Again, many thanks to Jon for sharing his adventures and photos with us.  If you are not already following him on Twitter and Instagram at @LinksGems, get on it.  You don’t want to miss a single shot in 2017.

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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The Evolving Artist – An Interview with David McLay Kidd

Several years ago, I played Bandon Dunes and enjoyed it greatly.  Unfortunately, I have not made the trek back to the Oregon Coast, nor have I had the chance to play any of David McLay Kidd’s other courses (although I would very much like to).

Like many GCA geeks, I have followed the stories about the evolution of David’s career with interest, particularly those that have been written since the opening of Gamble Sands and his triumph in the Sand Valley bake-off.  Word out of Nekoosa, WI is that the DMK crew is creating something truly special and my recent visit to Sand Valley provided confirmation.

Wanting to learn more about the man and his work, I reached out to David when I returned from Sand Valley and he was gracious enough to make time in his busy schedule for an interview.

Preview play on DMK Design’s SVII begins next summer.  Until then, enjoy the interview.

 

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THE INTERVIEW

How did you get introduced to golf?

Son of a Scottish Greenkeeper, raised almost literally on a golf course.  My father was in charge at Gleneagles for over 25 years and was instrumental in securing the Ryder Cup for Scotland in 2014 (the last time we won).

When did you know that the game had a hold on you?

When I would look forward to going out in the wet and cold to work on the courses my father was in charge of.  I got and still do get such a kick out of the visual appeal of a golf course – playing is pretty cool too.

How did you get into the business?

Son of a Greenkeeper, it’s in the DNA!

Who is your favorite Golden Age architect, and why?

What’s this Golden Age you speak of?  As a Brit our Golden Age was a little different.  It was the time of the Great Triumvirate following on from Old Tom.  If that’s the question then I will say Harry Shapland Colt.  He introduced strategy to golf design, he liked quirky.

Who has had the most influence on you, both inside and outside of golf?

My father.  He has lived and breathed golf his entire life.  He loves the game and the courses we play it on.  He has done a lot for his profession, mostly unheralded.  He promoted sustainability and organics when it was laughed at.  He promoted further education when many in the UK at least saw his profession as semi-skilled at best.

What should every owner/Green Committee member learn before breaking ground on a golf construction project?

The question that is rarely asked is “what will these design ideas cost to maintain?”  That’s a question a club needs to understand before they build a course with 100 manicured edged bunkers and bent grass wall to wall.

What is your favorite part of a golf course to design?DavidMcLayKidd-MapWalk.png

In the dirt waving my arms dreaming up an idea and developing that idea in the field step by step, developing each detail as you go.  I have more fun doing that than any golf shot I have ever hit.

What do you love about practicing your craft?

I still giggle on the inside that I get paid to do something I would do for free.

How has your design philosophy changed over time?

I started out knowing that golf in the UK is played for fun, as a past-time by most.  Few play competitive golf and keep stroke play score, most don’t.  When I created Bandon Dunes I knew that, but as my career developed I was convinced that golf courses needed to be tough challenges and my job was to defend the honor of the course.  Golfers would have to show respect, or else be punished.

I have returned to what I know golf needs to be – fun, playable, entertaining, engaging, relaxing, enduring.  It should not be punishing.  Who wants to decide to do something that’s punishing?  I can make a course that’s challenging and alluring, while simultaneously making it playable.  It’s all down to width and making sure the rough offers the ability to find a ball.

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What do you want to accomplish in this next phase of your career?

I want to take the principles I have returned to and build the most celebrated and fun courses that have ever existed.  Gamble Sands and Sand Valley II will be my role models going forward.

Why are you excited to be involved in the Sand Valley project?

It allows me a grand stage to show how challenge and playability can co-exist.  We can create a visually stunning course that the most occasional of golfers can enjoy just like I did with Bandon Dunes the better part of 20 years ago.

What is it like to be designed a course alongside accomplished architects like Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw?

I am hoping that after 25 years of effort I might be able to suggest that I am ‘accomplished’ even if not so well known?  My profession is living through exciting times.  There are a number of very talented golf designers out there doing incredible work.  I would love history to include me in that group of relevant architects in the early part of this century.

What legacy do you hope to leave for the game, and golf course architecture?DavidMcLayKidd-WalkingGolf.png

The game needs to be fun.  I had my time on the dark side and I see the error of my ways.  I have spent many years considering how to make courses playable, challenging and fun as well as natural and sustainable.  These are all words I hear from my peers, but often do not see them played out in reality on the ground.

What courses are at the top of your hit list to see or play next?

There are so many places I have yet to play.  There are a number of East Coast gems I haven’t played yet (many I have).  I still haven’t played Augusta – it’s on my bucket list.

When you are not working or playing golf, what are you doing?

I am an avid pilot. I fly my own Cirrus Sr22T all over the US.  Last year I did 80,000 miles in my own plane.  I coach soccer and have coached my daughter from Kindergarten to Middle School.  I live in Bend, Oregon – the outdoors capital of the world, or at least Oregon – so we do everything from rafting to skiing to hiking to boating to fishing.  We are never short of something to do.


GAMBLE SANDS

Gamble Sands opened to rave reviews and continues to get glowing praise from all who have been fortunate enough to make the pilgrimmage to northern Washington.  The course was also of particular selfish interest to me as it was the cause of David’s inclusion in the Sand Valley bake-off, which he won.  I might never make it to Gamble Sands, but soon I will be able to go around and around on a DMK design closer to home.

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To get a glimpse of the style of design – challenging, fun, and beautiful – that we will likely see in Wisconsin, we need look no further than Gamble Sands.

#1 – Par 4 – 392 yards

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#2 – Par 4 – 262 yards

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#4 – Par 3 – 160 yards

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#5 – Par 5 – 497 yards

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#6 – Par 3 – 231 yards

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#7 – Par 5 – 473 yards

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#9 – Par 4 – 382 yards

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#10 – Par 3 – 140 yards

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#11 – Par 4 – 412 yards

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#12 – Par 4 – 300 yards

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#14 – Par 4 – 408 yards

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#16 – Par 3 – 195 yards

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#17 – Par 4 – 418 yards

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MORE DMK COURSES

David was kind enough to compile quite a few photos from the courses that he has designed around the world.  I was taken by how far flung his work has been, and also by how varied the look and feel of his courses are.  A player could be more than satisfied jetting around the world playing David’s courses for the rest of their golfing life (especially since his work is far from finished…).

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BANDON DUNES

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Bandon Dunes Resort – Bandon, Oregon

 

THE CASTLE COURSE

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St. Andrews Links – St. Andrews, Scotland

 

MONTAGU COURSE AT FANCOURT

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Fancourt Resort – Blanco George, South Africa

 

HUNTSMAN SPRINGS

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Driggs, Idaho

 

LUACALA ISLAND GOLF COURSE

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Luacala Island Resort – Fiji

 

MACHRIHANISH DUNES

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Kintyre, Scotland

 

NANEA GOLF CLUB

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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii

 

QUEENWOOD GOLF CLUB

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Ottershaw, United Kingdom

 

TETHEROW GOLF CLUB

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Bend, Oregon

 

TPC STONEBRAE

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Hayward, California

 


Additional Geeked On Golf Interviews:

 

 

2016 Copyright – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf


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The Sand Valley Story Continues…

After last year’s visit to Sand Valley to see and play the first course in the grow-in phase, I was bullish about its direction.  This year, my golf season in the Midwest was bookended by two more visits, and you can officially count me among those who are over the moon about the place.  Under Michael Keiser’s leadership, Sand Valley is already a must-visit (repeatedly).  If future plans comes to fruition, it is a legit contender for the title of best golf destination in North America.

Allow me to share evidence to support that assertion.


SPRING VISIT

My buddy Peter Korbakes (on Instagram @pgkorbs and @sugarloafsocialclub), his brother Telly, and I had plans to play Lawsonia Links.  At the last minute, we added Sand Valley to our itinerary.  (side note: If you ask them, they will happily tell you about how I overslept.)  At first, Peter was a bit bummed that we wouldn’t have time to play 36+ at Lawsonia.

Any potential disappointment evaporated the moment we pulled into the sandy main drive.  As we drove past the future site of the clubhouse, and the beginnings of David McLay Kidd’s course #2, I thought Peter might jump out of the window with joy.

We played the front nine twice, and then the staff was kind enough to let us sneak out to play holes 10, 16-18.  I already know that I will never get tired of playing this course.  There is so much to discover, and holes 7 and 17 are among my all-time Coore & Crenshaw favorites.

(click to enlarge photos)

#1 – Par 4 – 325 yards

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View from the tee

#2 – Par 4 – 416 yards

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View from the tee

#3 – Par 3 – 192 yards

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Short left of the green

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#4 – Par 5 – 557 yards

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View from behind the green back

#5 – Par 3 – 160 yards

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View from the right tee box

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#6 – Par 4 – 421 yards

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View from the fairway

#7 – Par 5 – 536 yards

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From back left of the green

#8 – Par 3 – 115 yards

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View from the forward tee

#9 – Par 4 – 273 yards

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View from the tee

#16 – Par 4 – 385 yards

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The approach from the fairway

#17 – Par 3 – 215 yards

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From behind the green back

#18 – Par 5 – 523 yards

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Short of the green

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As we were getting ready to head home, we were chatting with the Super Rob.  He shared that his favorite holes were the ones that we had not seen – #11-15.  Talk about a tease to prompt a return trip…


LATE FALL VISIT

My golf schedule was gloriously packed this season, which did not allow me a chance to get back to Sand Valley to play again.  However, I did go back in late November.

I was fortunate to be invited by Michael Keiser, along with my buddy Charlie James, to participate in a group walk led by Mike DeVries of a piece of the property at Sand Valley that has potential for development.  As a Kingsley guy, this opportunity was a real treat for me.  Mike was kind enough to do a GeekedOnGolf interview, but I had never met him.

Further, the routing of a golf course has always been the most mysterious and fascinating part of the process to me.  How can someone look at a piece of tree-covered land, and with a topographical map, determine where the best golf holes will be?  That aspect of creative vision is beyond me, and I couldn’t wait to see real pros in action.

We arrived after dark, and couldn’t see much of our surroundings.  I was immediately impressed, however, with how much progress had been made on the lodging around Lake Leopold.  The next morning, I got up early to catch the view off our back deck of sunrise over the lake.

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Not a bad way to start a day.  This particular day immediately got better after I captured this photo.

SandValley-BenCrenshaw1.jpegI turned around and saw a man standing at the coffee machine in the common area.  Who was that fellow early riser?  None other than Ben Crenshaw.  He could not have been more gracious in chatting with Charlie and me, as well as taking photos. Sharing a cup of coffee and talking GCA with Mr. Crenshaw was certainly a bucket list item for me. (Another side note: If you see me around, ask me to tell you the story about how Ben Crenshaw and Dan Lucas ate my party-sized Snickers).

If you make the trip to Sand Valley, will you get to hang with luminaries like Ben Crenshaw?  You never know.  That is part of what is so special about what is happening in Nekoosa.  It is abuzz with the creative energy that results from kindred golf spirits rubbing elbows, and there is no end in sight.

After geeking out with Gentle Ben for a bit, Charlie and I headed out to the Coore & Crenshaw course to see the holes that were not finished in the spring – #11-15.  Although the fairways were still growing in and the greens had a heavy topdressing of sand in prep for winter, it was still clear that these holes are going to be a challenging blast to play.

#11 – Par 4 – 405 yards

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The view from behind the green back

#12 – Par 5 – 487 yards

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Approaching the green from the left

#13 – Par 4 – 401 yards

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The waste area that cuts across the fairway

#14 – Par 3 – 175 yards

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The wrap-around bunker behind the green

#15 – Par 4 – 387 yards

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The fronting mounds short of the green

This stretch is stout.  It goes without saying that I can’t wait to come back in 2017 to play the entire course.

After this quick jaunt, we joined up with the group for the walk with Mike and Michael.  I did not take pictures, as they would not have made much sense.  However, I did snap two shots of particularly colorful lichens that stood out to me.

The photos I have posted, and others I have seen, do not do justice to just how rich and varied Sand Valley is in terms of color and texture.  As the remnants of the pine farm are cleared, and the restoration work of Jens Jensen and his team begins to take shape, a truly breathtaking ecology is emerging.  Players are in for a visual feast that will evolve through the seasons, and the years.  At some point soon, I will do a separate post specifically on the commitment to ecological restoration that the Keisers have made in Nekoosa – it is an incredible story in and of itself.

The walk with Mike DeVries was a GCA geek’s dream.  I played fly-on-the-wall as Mike, Michael, and their colleagues walked and talked.  Charlie asked Mike about designing holes and received a typically thoughtful DeVries answer in response.  Mike doesn’t think about holes, and he has a disdain for the idea of signature holes.  Instead, he thinks about and focuses on creating the course as a whole.  He would much rather make a great course with no standout holes, than a course with a few standouts that doesn’t function as a harmonious whole.

I am biased of course, but it is this kind of perspective that shines through in Mike’s work to date.  I know from previous conversations with Michael that the Keisers have great respect for Mike and his abilities, and it is great to see that he is now being considered among the craft’s elite practitioners.  Regardless of what ultimately happens with future courses at Sand Valley, I am grateful for the afternoon I got to spend walking and talking in the wind and rain.

After a quick lunch, Michael took Charlie and me over the check out the 20-hole short course that is being created near the main clubhouse.

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The heathland

The course is a hybrid of a pitch-and-putt and a par-3.  It winds through several zones (heathland, parkland, duneland) and features templates such as the biarritz and short.

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The duneland

Coming off the “big” courses, joyfully spending the remaining hours acting like a kid on this course and the putting course will be a perfect complement and conclusion to any day.

Michael had to run off for more walking with Mike et al, and so Charlie and I decided to take a quick spin around the 6 preview holes of the David McLay Kidd’s #2 course as the sun set.

Immediately, one is taken with the scale of what DMK’s crew is creating.  However, it is not only big and bold.  From what I saw, there has been an impressive attention to the details that give this course a character all its own.  As all great courses do, SVII infused me with a great desire to grab my clubs and play.

HOLE 1

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Zoomed from the tee

HOLE 2

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Centerline bunker in the fairway

HOLE 14 (Golf Digest Design Contest hole)

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The view from the green back

HOLE 15

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Approach from the fairway

HOLE 16 

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Zoomed view from the forward tee

HOLE 17 

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The approach from the fairway

HOLE 18

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Short left of the green

The word we heard was that the farther away one gets from the clubhouse, the bolder and cooler the holes get.  That is tough to imagine, but it sure is fun to try.

I’m greatly looking forward to preview play and more sneak-peek walks in 2017.


I have been effusive in my praise of what is being created at Sand Valley.  It is hard not to be enthusiastic when Michael, Craig, Glen, Rob and the team keep hitting every high note.  From the golf to the accommodations to the ecology to the ice cream sandwiches, they are doing it right.

An argument can be made that it is too early to make such an assessment.  Fair enough.  For the doubters, I say this – go and experience Sand Valley for yourself.  Regardless of its newness, if your golf geeky spirit is not stirred by the place, I’ll eat sand.

For even more on what is happening at Sand Valley, check out the recent interview with Michael Keiser by Mitch and Darin on Talking Golf Getaways.