By James A. Frank
Everything you’ve heard is true: It is possible to build Bandon Dunes in the Midwest. And the fun has just begun.
Mike Keiser has done it again. The man who gave us Bandon Dunes—and got us flying off to play great courses in out-of-the-way places—has brought his magic formula to the heartland three hours northwest of Milwaukee.
Behind the dairy farms, Keiser’s crews felled millions of pines to uncover acres of deep sand and rolling dunes reminiscent of coastal Ireland. Then he had old friends Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw do their thing, sculpting the natural features into sand blowouts, fairways angling between dunes, and shapely greens and surrounds stuck in just the right places. Each hole has six tees and the temptations of both safe strategies and risk/reward routes.
Most of the par fives are big, but some of the best holes are the small ones, including a handful of short par fours and brilliant one-shotters: The 8th is 136 yards all uphill to an almost invisible crowned green; the 236-yard 17th boasts a hidden punchbowl green.
Good as Sand Valley is now, it will improve exponentially with next year’s opening of Mammoth Dunes, from David McLay Kidd (who did the original course at Bandon), which may be the biggest course you’ll ever see. The dunes are higher, the blowouts broader, the scale almost too big to comprehend, yet planned with more than enough room to keep it great fun and scenically stunning. And count on more courses after that.
There’s already lodging, a restaurant, pro shop, good caddies, and that feeling as soon as you step on property that this is what it’s all about.