My competitive playing career was not one of any real distinction. My career as a geeky golf adventurer, however, now includes a distinction to which only one other man (my buddy Peter Korbakes) can lay claim. We were at Sand Valley on Opening Day, and we were the only guests to also be there on the first season’s Closing Day.
We made our second trek of 2017 to Nekoosa specifically to play The Sandbox (name not yet confirmed), the 17 hole par-3 course created by the Coore & Crenshaw crew. Michael Keiser graciously took the time to play a loop with us, and then gave us the run of the place.
The word that best describes The Sandbox is “joy”. The first time around, we played a winner-calls-the-shot game. On the second loop, we played with only a 7 iron. The architecture is outstanding, with the course weaving in a figure eight through wooded, heathland, and duneland zones. The teeing options are endless, and it begs for all manner of creative games to be played. This is not a course for slavish adherence to the convention of stroke play. This is a field custom made to unleash the pure joy of the game.
The weather was rugged, and the light no good, but I did get photos of all 17 holes (click on image mosaics to enlarge). I have not bothered to include yardages, because the holes can be played from almost any distance the player chooses (especially when nobody else is on the course).
HOLE #1 – The opener plays downhill over this center sand mound to a wavy green. A gentle handshake with hints of what’s to come.
HOLE #2 – The 2nd plays slightly uphill to a narrow and deep green set below a dune and flanked by bunkers. Gentle handshake time is over. The green curves back and left close to the bunker. Testy pin positions are available to the Super.
HOLE #3 – The 3rd is where two of the sweetest words in all of golf bring joy to the geeky heart – Double Plateau. Macdonald and Raynor felt that the green should present its own strategic challenge within the broader challenge of the hole. They would be proud of this beauty.
HOLE #4 – On the terrific 4th, the front right and back left sections of the green are divided by a ridge. Shots can be played to both sections on the ground or through the air. Upon reaching the back portion of the green, players get a first glance at the Road Hole beyond.
HOLE #5 – The green will accept running shots, but the contours gather balls to the bunker much more than it appears from the tee. Get greedy going for the back pins and you risk a world of hurt.
HOLE #6 – There is more going on on the 6th green that it appears from the tee, and the bunkers that surround it demand a precise approach. The devilish little bunker front center of the green is a reminder that nobody does little flourishes better than the C&C crew.
HOLE #7 – Tucked tightly against the pines, the narrow 7th green is flanked by bunkers and is meant to inspire thoughts of Pine Valley.
HOLE #8 – There are two things that I can never get enough of – biarritz and cowbell.
HOLE #9 – The 9th features one of the largest and wildest greens I have ever seen. The central bowl was originally a bunker dividing a shared green for two holes in a prior version of the course. One of the many benefits of short courses is that the architects can turn the creativity up to 11. On the 9th, it might have hit 12.
HOLE #10 – The artful contours on the 10th make what is already a small green play even smaller. Especially to the back left pin we encountered.
HOLE #11 – The tiny, elevated 11th green is fronted by one small bunker, and flanked short right and back left by two others. A test of precision, with nowhere good to miss.
HOLE #12 – The 12th has a neat little green with front flairs left and right, which narrows toward the back, creating numerous pin positions that tempt and beguile. Playing a one club challenge with Peter, I got up and down with a 7-iron from the greenside bunker. That is one of the many reasons why short courses are so special. They are tailor made for memory making.
HOLE #13 – The Lion’s Mouth green on the 13th is set beautifully down among the sand barrens and pines. So much going on here. Bunkers front, left, right and behind, and a horseshoe green that packs plenty of challenging slope and contour. This hole is simply outstanding.
HOLE #14 – On the Alps 14th, a large bunkered mound intimidates and obscures most of the green. Nothing is quite so thrilling as the anticipatory walk to discover the fate of a blind tee ball.
HOLE #15 – The 15th plays downhill to an angled green fronted by a chain of bunkers. A shallow trough through the middle of the putting surface makes the green play much smaller, especially to this back right pin position.
HOLE #16 – The Redan 16th has plenty of pitch from high front right to low back left which makes aerial or ground approaches workable. The green sits up on a plateau above the bunker, so whichever approach is taken must be confident. If it ain’t up, it is in…trouble.
HOLE #17 – Playing to an elevated green, fronted by a devil’s asshole bunker, the short closer provides one last opportunity for birdie, or disaster.
We intended to grab lunch and head back out for two more loops. Instead, we received an offer to play all 18 holes of Mammoth Dunes, and we simply couldn’t refuse. Walking the routing in the spring, it was clear that Mammoth Dunes had scale, and an adventurous feel to it. The open question was, would the details be as strong as the broad strokes. I can now confidently say that the answer is, absolutely. Cannot wait to get back and play both The Sandbox and Mammoth when they have matured.
For even more on Mammoth Dunes, check out Morgan Clausen’s detailed thread on GolfClubAtlas.
MORE GEEKEDONGOLF ADVENTURES
- Crystal Downs
- Boston Golf Club & Essex County Club
- Friar’s Head, Maidstone, Quogue Field Club & Deepdale
- Lawsonia & Sand Valley
- Kingsley Club, Boston GC, Ballyneal & Calusa Pines
- Sand Valley & Mammoth Dunes
- Community Golf
- Oakmont, Ballyneal & Sand Hills
- Milwaukee CC & Orchard Lake CC
- Prairie Dunes
- Myopia Hunt Club, Essex County Club, Whitinsville, Kittansett & Wannamoisett
- Lost Dunes & The Dunes Club
- Sand Hollow, Paiute Wolf & Wolf Creek
- Sand Valley
- The Fort, Hyde Park G&CC, Camargo, French Lick (Ross) & Harrison Hills
- The Country Club, Boston GC, Old Sandwich, Essex County Club
- Kingsley Club
Copyright 2017 – Jason Way, GeekedOnGolf