A really nice golf shirt can be a great holiday present, especially when it’s a shirt that’s made to last.

That’s what I want in golf attire. I want tops that aren’t going to be out-of-fashion in two years. Tiger Woods mock necks? No way. Wild and wacky patterns? I’ve learned that lesson. Too bright colors? They stick out like a sore thumb. Color block? I’ve got 20 combinations in my basement closet that I haven’t been able to rock for several seasons.

That doesn’t mean I don’t like the way those shirts look, or even how they look on me, but I know that fashion’s not my world and I’m not interested anymore in spending good money on what’s cool this season.

I’m more about style. I want a well thought-out shirt constructed with top-of-the-line materials that I can buy today and find almost unchanged on the same rack or website ten years down the road. I don’t want it to scream 2014, or even 2020.

Holderness & Bourne blends classic style with modern, tailored fits and great-feeling performance fabrics to appease the golf enthusiast like me: A guy who wants to look great wearing clothes that fit well and don’t get in the way of my swing.

The Perkins shirt, by Holderness & Bourne, is a great performance golf polo

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In just five years, Alex Holderness and John Bourne have taken their anti-fashion brand and created something really special: A premium clothing line that’s highly sought after and doesn’t require constant reinvention.

From a business standpoint, it makes too much sense. Playing the fashion game means retiring clothes every season that’s gone out of style, selling it to the highest bidder to liquidate what’s left on sites like Rock Bottom Golf, Golfetail, Discount Golf and TGW.

This practice erodes both profit margins and brand value. Meanwhile, selling timeless styles that never go out of fashion means updating only when the opportunity arises, continually improving what works without scrapping what’s left.

It also means golf enthusiasts like me can put together a nice wardrobe over time, and even allows for a more versatile product that can be worn outside of golf.

Our family photo shoot this year, for example, featured my favorite piece from H&B: The navy blue Robbins pullover.

Charlie (3), me, Kelly and Quinn (1) – sporting my navy blue Robbins pullover, from Holderness & Bourne

The Robbins pullover, which sells for $125, utilizes a blend of cotton, polyester and elastane that promotes shape retention while providing a really nice, tailored fit. The fabric is comfortable, and after having worn it a dozen times looks as nice and new as the day I got it. Whether for golf or everyday wear, I cannot recommend this top enough.

The Robbins pullover, in navy (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

Holderness & Bourne does outerwear really well, but their bread and butter is golf polos.

Their polos feature a comfortably modern, tailored fit with structured cutaway collars, sewn-in stays and 2- or 3-button set-in plackets.

Their fabrics are top of the line for the industry, including DryLuxe Performance Pique, DryLuxe Performance Interlock, Supima Cotton and Peruvian Pima Cotton, and all their polos are adorned with trocas shell buttons, which have a classy look and sturdy feel.

All these premium materials don’t translate to cheap shirts, but they are well worth the $90-98.

My favorite style so far is The Maxwell short-sleeve, which I’ve gotten in both grey & white (shown below), and cobalt & white.

The Maxwell shirt, in grey and white (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

The sewn-in collar stays make for a well-designed and consistent appearance from the neck up, because nothing screams lazy more than a droopy collar!

The Maxwell shirt, in cobalt and white (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

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Looking for other gift ideas to add to your cart while on the H&B website? Check out their Fischer belts, dopp kits and shoe bags.

I haven’t owned a Fischer belt yet, but I really like the look and style: A premium, Italian stretch fabric with genuine leather and nickel-plated solid brass buckles. I’d go with the amparo and white ribbon design, personally.

The Fischer belt, in amparo & white ribbon (image courtesy of Holderness & Bourne)

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Fashion vs. style. A timeless look vs. dressing up like Tiger, DJ or Rory on a given week. To me, the sophisticated, classic looks, superior performance and dynamite materials will win out every time.

That’s what I love about Holderness & Bourne, and that’s why I recommend their polos and outerwear as another top-notch holiday gift idea for the golf enthusiast in your life.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Holderness & Bourne
Product: Golf polos and outerwear
Price range: $90-125

Holderness & Bourne website

It’s the golfer’s uniform: A collared shirt, hat and shorts or pants, along with a white, black or navy blue stand bag.

It gets worse for professionals, who have even less to choose from since they can’t wear shorts.

Maybe that’s why we golfers love to accessorize the way we do. It’s fun showcasing something that’s a little different in an environment that otherwise keeps us looking pretty similar… Especially when it’s with customized accessories that showcase our personality while providing much needed functionality.

To me, one of the coolest ways to accessorize golf gear is with custom club head covers.

It’s crazy to think Seamus basically started the head cover industry in earnest about ten years ago. Prior to that, the only options were the head covers that came with your clubs, which were fine, a couple generic options at Golf Galaxy or your dad’s old calf-length socks. Not as great.

When it comes to club head covers, there are two companies that stand above the rest: Seamus and Fore Ewe. Both sell super high-quality, durable woolen products, both are based out of Portland, Oregon, and both provide endless ways to customize.

Driver, fairway wood and hybrid cover samples (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)

Where the two companies differ the most revolves entirely around personal preference: Seamus’s head covers are sewn and more sleek in appearance, and Fore Ewe’s are knit and more “floppy” in appearance.

Club head covers are very personal, and they’re not cheap (nor usually returnable), so you’ll want to make sure you get this one right. A few ideas for ensuring that:

  • Keep it simple – colors and patterns you know they’ll love that work with their current bag setup (link: Fore Ewe standard collections, link: Seamus Golf all head covers)
  • Make it obvious – maybe a club head cover from their alma mater (link: Seamus Collegiate collection)? Or favorite NBA team (link: Seamus NBA collection)?
  • A gift card – expect ~ $75 per cover for drivers, and $55-65 for fairway woods and hybrids
  • Ask them to make their own selection(s)! It takes out the surprise, but gets them exactly what they want while working through the lead time en route to the Holidays

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Seamus Golf

Established in 2011 by Akbar and Megan Chisti and named for their Irish Terrier, Seamus O’Reily, Seamus Golf specializes in unique, one-off golf accessories that started with club head covers and has since expanded to on-course tools (divot repair, bag tags, flasks, alignment sticks, towels, scorecard holders, yardage books and so on), bags and pouches, extremely limited-run Sunday bags and equipment, major golf memorabilia (eg: US Open collectibles), clothing and cool hand-forged collectibles.

The newest of those hand-forged collectibles is the putting cup, for example:

One of Seamus Golf’s new hand-forged putting cups (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)
Seamus Co-Founder Akbar Chisti working the Seamus anvil at the 2017 US Open at Erin Hills

While their stable of accessories has expanded significantly over the past 9 years, their bread and butter has always been exquisitely designed and manufactured woolen club head covers.

Seamus Golf has collections that will match every golfer’s personality and interests, whether through classic design like with their tartan wools or through more direct associations like with their new collegiate and NBA collections.

The new Wisconsin Badgers driver head cover (photo courtesy Seamus Golf)

Looking for a good starting point? Below is a link to Seamus’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide:

Seamus Golf’s Holiday Gift Guide (click for link)

Beyond their amazing golf products, Seamus is a company worth supporting. When the COVID-19 pandemic originally started, for example, they shut down their normal operations for months to instead sew masks to donate to frontline workers. Akbar, Megan and their staff are wonderful people who always go above and beyond, whether that’s for customers or society, in general.

Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Seamus Golf
Product: Club head covers
Price range: $55-75 apiece

Seamus Golf Website

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Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags

Also exceptionally high in quality construction and customizability, Fore Ewe offers a very different head cover product than Seamus in that theirs’ are knit.

Knit head covers have a very old-school look and feel: They’re softer and flowy, with smooth yarn and pom poms.

Erin Hills hybrid head covers, by Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)

Knit head covers are typically skein dyed, which involves loose lengths of yarn being immersed in receptacles full of pigment. This is the most costly method of dyeing yarn, but leads to a superior product with color that’s fade-resistant.

As is the case with their hand-made MacKenzie Golf Bags, everything is handmade with incredible attention to detail.


An example of a MacKenzie Golf Bag, made for Mammoth Dunes (photo courtesy MacKenzie Golf Bags)

Included in that detail is a whole lot of potential customization. For “standard” options, the order placer only needs to make a couple of decisions, like what type of top feature to use (fat tassel, tassel, large pom), the club it’s for (driver, fairway wood, hybrid, putter), and standard vs. long length. Chances are it’ll always be standard-length, and if they don’t already have custom head covers then you’ll want to go with the driver option. It’ll be $10 more than the others, but it’s the most popular option by far.

For custom orders, there is a whole lot more personalization available, including:

  • Club type (driver, fairway wood, hybrid)
  • Head color (40 color options)
  • Head design (solid, small checks, larger checks, vertical stripes, horizontal stripe, diagonal dot and what color(s)?)
  • Head cap (yes or no)
  • Neck stripes (none, thick, thin and what color(s)?)
  • Top treatment (none, tassel, fat tassel, mini tassel, large pom, small pom, loop and what color(s)?)
  • Neck length (almost always standard)
  • Top stitch text (eg: Initials)

Double-waxed and spun, Fore Ewe’s wool is exceptionally durable and smooth. Elastic promotes a snug fit.

Numerous light blue options from Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)
Numerous standard knit options from Fore Ewe (photo courtesy Fore Ewe)

Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Fore Ewe, by MacKenzie Golf Bags
Product: Club head covers
Price range: $55-80 apiece

Fore Ewe Website

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Whether you go with sewn Seamus head covers or knit covers from Fore Ewe, the important thing is that they protect your club heads.

Both companies’ products will do that beautifully, protecting club faces from dings and scratches during your round or in storage, and worse from snaps while in transit or when that immature buddy of yours’ unstraps your bag on a cart path.

Which style best fits the golfer in your life?

Generally speaking, golf enthusiasts tend to be collectors. Myself included, we’re lovers of anything and everything that brings back memories of the best times on our favorite courses.

Options abound when those favorite courses are Pebble Beach, Bandon Dunes or Augusta National, but what about when it’s somewhere less known and more personal?

Options are few and far between, then, and are typically limited to the clothing and gear for sale in their pro shop.

So, rather than spending $95 on a golf polo with a logo on the sleeve, this year go the extra mile for something that’ll blow them away.

Course Maps Founder Severiano Saiz (“Sev,” as named after Seve Ballesteros whose family lineage traces back to the same village of Pedrena, Spain) launched Course Maps this past March, realized quickly he had a winner and left his real world job in August to work full-time on the golf start-up.

“Golf course layouts present a neat intersection of a couple of things I’ve always loved:,” said Sev, “golf/golf architecture, maps and graphic design. It’s all come together very naturally for me and I really enjoy putting together each map.”

Sev’s maps feature beautiful architectural hole layouts with the course’s scorecard and key information in white ink set against a solid-colored background of green, grey, navy blue or slate. Key features of each hole are called out in contrast and include fairways and greens, teeing areas and bunkers; ideal lines of play are shown as dotted lines.

Course Map of Pinehurst No. 2 in Pinehurst, NC (green with white frame) – their best seller

The printing process utilizes giclee ink on high-quality, museum-grade paper. The standard for art prints, giclee features a 12-color combination that results in vivid colors, especially when compared to the standard 4-color inkjet printer. The chemical makeup of giclee keeps prints from fading over time due to sun exposure and age, ensuring Course Maps should look beautiful for generations to come.

While framing is not required, it is available through Course Maps in black or white. Their frames are 3/4″ thick Alder semi-hardwood and include hanging hardware. Adding the frame (which ships complete) to an 18×24, for example, adds $49 to the cost.

Course Map of Chambers Bay in University Place, WA (navy blue with black frame)

I went with a green background and black frame for my Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia. The hunter green works beautifully with the rest of the golf art in my basement and bar area, and as Sev described it: The green over black “screams ‘classic golf clubhouse.'” I couldn’t agree more.

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Customer Service

When it arrived, I was so enamored with the aesthetics of my first Course Map that I didn’t realize the scorecard had mislabeled the par five 11th hole as a par four.

A coworker of mine noticed it in my Instagram post, though, and mentioned it as a comment. Within a week, Course Maps had sent me a new one with an updated scorecard.

I would have noticed the error at some point – it’s part of my favorite stretch of holes on the Links course where the 9th thru 15th holes go par 5, 3, 5, 3, 5, 3. It’s a really unique stretch of holes with lots of good birdie opportunities. I never even mentioned it to Course Maps, though, and so for them to see it and remedy the issue so quickly was really impressive. I like to support companies who understand the importance of customer service and doing the right thing, and I feel great about backing Course Maps.

My Course Map of the Links course at Lawsonia

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Custom orders

Fortunately for golf enthusiasts in Wisconsin, Course Maps has several in-state options already available without requiring a custom order. These standard options include the Links course at Lawsonia, Erin Hills and Sand Valley.

If you or the person you’re shopping for has a love affair with one of those or another already on their site, you’re in luck!

But, for the everyday golfer who hasn’t traveled to Cruden Bay, Pinehurst or the Ocean course at Kiawah Island, and hasn’t found their way [yet] on to Oakmont, Inverness or Pine Valley, then custom prints from Course Maps will allow golf enthusiasts to enjoy and relive the cadence of holes from their favorite property – whatever property that is.

“The majority of golf art, memorabilia, etc. is built around the famous courses that everyone knows — Augusta, Pebble, St. Andrews and so on. But the reality is most people will never get to play those courses.

The courses that people love and have created the most memories at are the local muni courses, the small country clubs, or the hidden gems that are off the beaten path. There’s not really much in the way of giftable items related to those courses and I think that’s what we really cater to with Course Maps.

We’ve seen a huge demand for our custom orders and I think it’s such an awesome thing. Our maps are really something that encapsulates all of the memories that have been created on that course. I’ll always remember watching my dad open that first map and it makes me really happy that I’m able to share that feeling with others through Course Maps.”

— Sev Saiz, Founder of Course Maps

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Course Maps with all 4 background colors shown

Custom ordering creates the opportunity for a truly unique gift, especially for private club players who love and have tremendous pride in their home course.

As you’d guess, it is more expensive to buy a custom Course Map than it is one of the ones that’s already available. The reason for this, of course, is that it requires the upfront artistic work to make it printable.

As a one-off product, Course Maps will sell custom prints for $120 (12×16) to $150 (24×36). As an order of five or more, though, the per unit cost comes all the way down to $45 (12×16) to $60 (24×36), without framing.

Especially at a private golf club, it’s really easy to find four friends to go in on a custom order. I sent an email to 19 friends from North Hills Country Club, for example, and in three days 12 have responded they’re in.

For golf courses and pro shops, orders of 25+ can be tremendously lucrative, bringing the price for 12×16’s all the way down to $36 apiece, or $48 apiece for 24×36 prints.

Like with standard, non-custom prints, framing is available on custom product and will add $55 (one-off price) to 12×16’s, $70 to 18×24’s or $140 to 24×36 prints. Those costs can be reduced by volume ordering, as well.

If this is an avenue you’re interested in pursuing for a Christmas / Holiday gift for a golf enthusiast in your life, make sure you get going on the order soon. Course Maps has a 2-3 week lead time (followed by time in transit), so we’ve got a 1-2 week time frame to place an order and expect delivery before December 25.

If you’re concerned whether he or she will like it, don’t be. Trust me, they’ll love it.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Course Maps
Product: Golf course architectural prints
Price (as shown): $94

Course Maps Website

My wife says presents should be gifts people would feel guilty buying for themselves – gifts that make them feel appreciated, and better yet spoiled.

The first item in my 2020 Holiday Gift Guide, the Bat-Caddy X4R electric golf caddy, fits that description to a T as a thoughtful and indulgent gift for a number of worthy golf enthusiasts:

  • The first to adopt new technology / the “gadget guy”
  • Older players wanting to extend their ability to walk the course
  • The player who has everything
  • The purist – it’s the closest thing you can get to having a human caddy on the course without one
  • Those concerned with social distancing right now

Prior to getting the X4R, I had seen two electric caddies in my life… In thousands of rounds of golf. One was a guy’s I played with at Chambers Bay back in 2012, and the other was one of my playing partners at Kenosha Country Club earlier this season.

It was his first round with it, and he had it imported from China as all manufacturers in the States were stocked out when golf enthusiasts bought up everything that could help them walk the course with less effort while COVID-19 wouldn’t allow the use of riding carts.

All that to say they have not caught on yet here in the Midwest.

I was enamored with the remote control one I saw at Kenosha, though, and had to experience it.

In just four rounds, the Bat-Caddy X4R has become my all-time favorite piece of golf equipment.

Bat-Caddy X4R waiting on the 7th tee at North Hills CC

A round of golf with an electric caddy is as care-free as it gets. Outside of errant shots and missed putts, there’s no pushing, pulling or lifting. It’s stress-free play where the only thing to carry is a remote control.

Walking the course, in general, changes the rhythm of the game, and not having to shoulder your clubs especially creates an easygoing experience so you can focus on the game in front of you.

Imagine just walking with your hands free (minus a small remote or your drink of choice, which it can also carry), no weight on your back and shoulders, a little extra bounce in your step…

It’s that great.

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Why the Bat-Caddy X4R?

Bat-Caddy leads the US market for electric golf caddies with over 60% market share. Chances are you’ve never seen their product here in the Midwest, though, and that’s because they’ve been busy growing their business on the East and West Coasts.

In the marketplace of brands, Bat-Caddy has the best product selection and fits in a space I typically like: Feature-rich at a value price point.

Bat-Caddy’s product line allows golf enthusiasts to get in to advanced technology without breaking the bank. While most brands’ fully electric, remote control option with a lithium ion battery will cost upwards of $2,000, for example, the X4R with lithium ion upgrade hits around $1,500-$1,600 but is available through the Holidays for around $1,100 (current promotional price).

Consumers get a lot for that $1,100, including a long-lasting lithium ion battery (up to 36 holes per charge), lightweight aluminum alloy construction (with stainless steel components) and many standard options that are paid upgrades for their competitors.

A scorecard holder, drink holder, umbrella holder, freestyle mode with timed distance advance and cruise control functions, power and battery charge indicator, USB port, rear anti-tippers, bilateral adjustable-height handlebars, automatic shutoff mode, and ultra-quiet dual direct drive motors all come standard on the X4R.

A leisurely walk in the park with the Bat-Caddy X4R on the 6th fairway at North Hills CC

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Performance and operations

If you can’t tell by now, I’m a huge fan of electric golf caddies and the X4R, specifically, but that’s not to say the experience has been 100% perfect.

There is a learning curve when it comes to operating an electric golf caddy, and some courses are more challenging to use them on than others.

I practiced a bit in my driveway after I got the X4R set up. Feeling pretty good about my ability to control it, I took her out on the 6th hole at North Hills Country Club to take a few photos, capture drone video and give it a trial run in a course setting.

I learned quickly that hills should be traversed straight up and down after I toppled it the first time I tried driving it down an elevated tee box.

While the X4R can handle 30-degree inclines/declines with relative ease, the tripod configuration (which is the industry standard) can get off-balance quickly when the left or right side is lower than the other.

The 30 degrees works up and down very well, though, especially with the standard rear anti-tipper that anchors the caddy going uphill on more extreme terrain.

My first round with the X4R was at Nakoma Country Club in Madison, and looking back was probably the easiest possible course to use it on. It’s a mature course with smooth terrain – plenty of ups and downs but without the “wild” areas and sandy expanses. The tee boxes, especially, are accessible from all angles.

The Bat-Caddy X4R ready for its first round at Nakoma CC in Madison, WI

To say it was a perfect golfing experience couldn’t have been more true. The caddy was a breeze to operate, I broke 80 with a great group of friends and when we finished 18 it was hard to believe we weren’t ending the front 9. It was the easiest, most enjoyable walk.

My electric golf caddy ready to go from the 1st tee at Nakoma

Conversely, my second round with the Bat-Caddy was during our annual Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at the newly renovated Club at Lac La Belle in Oconomowoc. The course’s new routing features some very wild/fescue-covered areas, and the cart paths are far from smooth. The edges of the cart paths are extremely canted, which if run up against can push over the Bat-Caddy pretty easily. In addition to that, the tee boxes are oftentimes separated by expanses of fescue and long grasses that can’t be rolled over using a cart.

I tipped the cart twice at Nakoma getting used to operating it, and at least a handful of times during our 27 holes at La Belle.

I’ve only tipped it once since then, though, in two rounds at North Hills. I was maneuvering it alongside the 16th green, saw my ball was in the trap behind me and to the right, quickly stopped it and hit reverse, then watched as it plummeted in to the bunker. A lady in the group on the nearby first green thought it was hilarious and laughed really loud, and I’ll admit I was a little embarrassed (not easy to do).

My point is that the more you use it, the more efficient you’ll get at operating the electric caddy and understanding the strategy behind where to and not to drive it, how much speed to add and when, how to get it on a straight line and which angles you should and shouldn’t take.

The X4R is best operated with its remote control. Hitting the up or down directional buttons once will add a slight amount of speed in that direction, while hitting it several times will speed it up significantly up to ~ 5.5 miles per hour.

The caddy can then be shut down by either hitting the middle “Stop” button or by hitting the arrow opposite its current direction to take off some of the speed it was previously given.

The X4R does not always stop completely. There have been several times when I thought it was stopped but it continued to roll, very slowly. In other words, and this seems obvious when it’s written down, there’s not a parking brake that keeps it 100% in place on steep hills after it’s been shut down.

My last time out I had it stopped on the hill that leads to the elevated green on 18 at North Hills, for example, and it never stopped rolling backward down the hill. It wasn’t a big deal in this case because it came to rest on level ground and I hit a really nice chip shot to one foot on a back pin while it was still rolling, but it obviously could have been bad if there was water or a cliff where it was rolling to (and if I didn’t have my eye on it).

The other thing to be cognizant of is that once the cart is set in motion, it’s set in motion [until the 45-second automatic shutoff kicks in]. There are several situations when this is important to keep in mind:

  1. If you’re multi-tasking
    In my first round with the X4R, I sent it heading slowly off the tee box on the par three 4th at Nakoma. I then put my drone up to get some aerial shots. It completely escaped my mind that the cart wasn’t totally turned off, which I realized when I heard a crash and subsequently saw my clubs in a yard sale right of the green.
  2. If it’s out of the 90- to 120-yard range
    If it gets out of the range of the remote control, you will not be able to stop or turn it. Hopefully the automatic shutoff will kick in first, or that the only thing in its way will be a tree branch or shallow sand trap, and not a river!

Don’t even mess with either of those situations. If there’s a question about it getting out of range, shut it down. If you want to post something to your Instagram, stop the cart. Trust me, there’s no point messing with potential disaster.

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Electric golf caddies can keep you playing, and walking the course, longer

“That could get me walking the course again!”

Those were the exact words of two different North Hills members [on separate occasions] who approached me after seeing the X4R on the course. Another dozen have asked me about it with interest as a cool toy.

Both sides are true… It’s a really cool toy, but more importantly using the X4R means expending energy only on swinging the club and walking the terrain – no pushing, no pulling and no lifting. Getting up hills can be a breeze again without the added weight of a golf bag, or having to push or pull a standard cart.

If you’re the guy who has to pay to ride his own cart while his buddies walk, maybe an electric caddy is for you. And if you want the exercise that comes with walking the course, but don’t want to carry your own clubs or pay for a pro jock to lug them, you’d for sure love it.

And if you love the caddy experience but are concerned about social distancing during this crazy time of COVID-19, there is no better way to find that than with a remote-controlled trolley like the Bat-Caddy X4R.

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Making a financial case for an electric golf caddy

With the average cost of using a golf cart between $20-24 per round, the high price tag of an electric trolley starts making sense. In fact, you can theoretically recover $100-$120 of the product’s cost every five rounds played.

Dollars rarely make sense when it comes to golf, though! In the same way you can’t expect to be happy with your price per round at an exclusive private country club, realize that the “investment” in a golf caddy is primarily one that will enhance your enjoyment of the game of golf (and not as a long-term cost saver).

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Setup

The Bat-Caddy X4R comes in a single large box with a number of parts, and it’s very easy to install. The frame is pre-assembled, so just the wheels, anti-tipper, battery and accessories need to be put together manually.

The install is simple and well-documented. The wheels snap in to place, the battery (after charging) straps down with Velcro, and installation of most accessories was easy to figure out even for a guy who hates following instructions to put things together.

The one accessory that was a little confusing for me was the phone / GPS device holder. With the accessory holder, drink holder, scorecard holder and umbrella holder all installed, it’s hard to find a place for the phone to go.

I got a little creative and used the three rubber strips that were included to attach it to the screw of the umbrella holder, which looks great but is I’m sure not its intended spot.

After four rounds with the caddy, though, I’ve had no performance issues and it holds my phone up just fine.

While it’s recommended using a cart bag (which does not have tripod legs and has a more stable base) with an electric golf caddy, I’ve been using it with my Vessel Player 2.0 stand bag and have had no issues with weight/stability nor the legs which I keep strapped together. I also remove the straps to streamline the setup.

My current electric golf caddy and bag setup

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Selecting the right electric golf caddy / trolley

It took a while for me to figure out all the specifications that are involved with electric golf caddies, so I thought I’d include some of my research on features in case it’s helpful for others, like yourself.

The following are some of the key components you’ll want to consider when researching electric golf caddies. The features of the X4R I’m reviewing are in green.

Control style: Manual vs. remote

A manual control style means you’ll be controlling the steering of the caddy from its handlebar(s). A button, lever or other power source will move the cart move forward, taking just the pushing or pulling off the user’s hands. A remote style, which is wireless, is much more advantageous as it allows you to get the cart away from your body and control its operations using a small remote control.

Battery type: sealed lead acid (SLA) vs. lithium ion (Li-ion)

This part’s big, so pay attention.

Sealed lead acid batteries are less expensive, but they’re heavy. They also get 25% to 50% of the life expectancy of its standard lithium ion counterpart, which for the Bat-Caddy X4R is the 14v-20Ah.

The heaviness factor can be a positive when it comes to electric caddies because the weight adds stability. It can also be a negative since it makes it tougher to pull out of the car trunk. For a relatively young and healthy guy like myself, that’s not a major nuisance, but it could be a deal breaker for others.

The 14v-20Ah lithium ion battery upgrade adds $200 to the cost of the sealed lead acid version. Bat-Caddy also sells a 12v-25Ah LiFePO battery, though, that will last two to four times as long as the standard lithium ion one but adds another $100 to the overall cost.

Here’s a handy chart showing battery options from Bat-Caddy’s website:

Bat-Caddy Battery Info & Comparison

Climbing capabilities: 20 to 30-degree hill climbing

Most caddies will climb hills up to 20- or 30-degree angles. The X4R climbs or goes down up to 30 degrees, which is supported by its rear anti-tippers that help keep it upright.

Battery operating range: 18 to 54 holes

The X4R with the 14v-20Ah standard lithium ion battery’s product page gives a range of up to 36 holes per charge, or 36-54 holes with the upgraded 12v-25Ah battery. This can be adversely affected, of course, by the weight of the golf bag it’s carrying, excessively steep hills/uneven terrain, and right-left-right “Army” golf.

Bat-Caddy recommends charging its lithium ion batteries between every use. There is no loss of battery life doing it this way, and it ensures you always have enough juice regardless of where you’re at in your round.

Carrying capacity: 50 to 77 pounds

The X4R’s durable aluminum alloy and stainless steel construction gives it a higher weight capacity than most electric golf caddies. While you probably will not need it to carry 77 pounds of gear, it will keep the cart from bottoming out around the wheels if you’re carrying more weight than usual.

Accessories – all of these are available on the Bat-Caddy X4R, but its standard accessories are shown in green. I’ve ranked the importance of each to me in parentheses:

  • Scorecard holder (#1)
  • Golf cart drink holder (#2)
  • Golf umbrella holder (#4) – do not use an electric golf caddy in the rain!
  • Golf trolley carry bag
  • Golf bag rain cover (#5)
  • Golf trolley seat – sounds nice to have!
  • GPS or cell phone holder (#3)
  • Sand and seed dispenser
  • Remote control clip hanger (#6)

A few other things you might want to consider when buying an electric golf caddy / trolley include (ones that come standard for the X4R are in green):

  • Tracking adjustments – if it does not drive perfectly straight, can you straighten it out manually?
  • Handle design – left- or right-handed? Is the handle height adjustable for taller people? The X4R has dual handles and is adjustable-height
  • Warranty and service – Bat-Caddy has 1-year parts & labor, and 2 years on lithium ion batteries
  • Dimensions and foldability – size when folded? The X4R is ~ 31iL x 20iW x 10iH
  • Free-wheeling mode – if the battery dies, can you use it as a standard push cart or will you be stuck on the course?
  • Wheels – the wider the wheels and the wider the wheel base, the more stable the cart will be (the X4R has a standard width wheel base)
  • Tire tread – tire tread helps keep the cart operating consistently on morning dew and loose turf
  • Advanced technology:
    • Descent control – keeps the speed consistent when going downhill
    • Automatic shut-off – prevents runaway carts (the X4R shuts off after 45 seconds if no commands have been given)
    • Battery charge indicator – know how much juice you’ve got left in the batteries
    • Programmable speed settings
    • Electronic (GPS) navigation – set the cart’s direction and allow it to automatically continue on a straight line
    • Robotic follow-me mode – on robot caddies; I’ve heard very mixed reviews of this operation style, including that it’ll run in to you a lot when you stop
    • Gyroscope – a full 360-degree directional range vs. forward/backward and left/right

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Summary

Having rarely seen and barely known electric golf caddies existed, I had no idea what I was missing. Now that I’ve got one, I can’t imagine golf without it and wholeheartedly recommend the Bat-Caddy X4R for any golfer, whether it’s the player in your life who’s got everything or maybe even yourself.

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Product Wrap-Up:
Brand: Bat-Caddy
Product: X4R Electric Golf Caddy
Price as shown: $1,594 MSRP (current promotional price through the Holidays: $1,099)
Optional accessories shown: Phone/GPS device holder

Bat-Caddy X4R Line Product Page

Green Bay Country Club might be the most underrated golf course in the state of Wisconsin. In fact, it might be the best private club in the state and to me is for sure the best modern private course.

I racked my head over and over, for days before starting this review, trying to reason with myself about how I felt:

“Is Green Bay the best private course in Wisconsin? Is it better than Pine Hills? How about Milwaukee, or Blue Mound?”

It needs to be in the mix, even if it’s not officially reviewed often enough for consideration by “the big publications.”

The land Green Bay Country Club was developed on is probably the most dramatic golf landscape. It’s every bit as rousing as the layouts at Blackwolf Run, Pine Hills, West Bend, the Irish course at Whistling Straits, Sand Valley or Mammoth Dunes, and the Dick Nugent design works with that terrain as masterfully as any.

From the very first tee at Green Bay CC, players’ heads are consumed with thoughts. There’s nary a shot where doubt doesn’t creep in to their mind, whether it’s “Don’t go left… or right” on the first hole – or “Don’t go too far… or short” – this is a tremendously challenging golf course that will test players’ mettle.

A view of the opening tee shot at Green Bay Country Club

Green Bay could host tournaments. Certainly state championships, but I’m talking bigger, too. It’s 7097 yards can stretch out even the best players, and it features plenty of target opportunities that require precision.

The course plays long, including from the blue tees – there was a lot of wind, but I found myself hitting a ton of hybrids and 5-irons in on par threes and fours. Even those usually came up short. This is not a driver-wedge course.

The Course

If you were to ask 25 members at GBCC what they think the signature hole is, I bet you’d get at least 8 different responses. I think you could make a case for all of these, and probably others:

  • The par 4 1st hole – name me a better opening hole in the state
  • The 634-yard par five 6th, one of the longest holes in Wisconsin
  • The dogleg right, ridiculously downhill par 4 7th
  • The island green par 3 8th
  • The beautiful and challenging, twice dissected by water par 4 9th
  • The insanely elevated tee shot on the par five 10th – WOW
  • The scenic and long downhill par 4 14th
  • The triple-fairway, semi-circular par 5 17th
  • The downhill , water-surrounded par 4 18th finishing hole set in front of their awesome clubhouse on the hill

For me, I love the 17th. There are two great opportunities to swing away, or a ton to play strategically and hit a spot. And the green surrounds, tucked in a corner with a wide and narrow green above the creek, is absolutely beautiful.

The first par three on the course, the fourth is a challenging, slightly downhill one-shotter with trouble everywhere.

The downhill par three 4th at GBCC, with trouble everywhere

The tee boxes on the right side of five require a shot through or over a chute of trees to a fairway that runs left-to-right.

A slightly elevated view from the back-right tees thru the chute on 5 at GBCC

Tipping out at 634 yards, the par five 6th is one of the longest holes in the state. If you’ve been dreaming of an opportunity to hit your 3-wood (at least once), this should be it!

Overhead view of the 634-yard behemoth of a par five, the 6th at Green Bay (middle)
(photo credit: Jeff Schaefer)

The seventh has one of the most severe changes in elevation on the course, playing left-to-right and significantly downhill.

This hole reminds me a bit of the 11th at West Bend Country Club.

A look back uphill from beyond the green on the par four 7th at GBCC

The eighth is a tricky downhill par three to an island green. Aptly nicknamed “Rock Island,” the green complex presents a massive target but, at least during our round, had wind swirling all around.

Downhill tee shot to the island green on 7 at Green Bay
(photo credit: Jeff Schaefer)
Great overhead view of the island green at GBCC
(photo credit: Jeff Schaefer)

Maybe the most challenging hole on the entire course, the par four 9th is a long par four with two forced carries. Regardless of the tee shot, the approach here is going to be really long, and will have to successfully navigate all kinds of trouble.

Tee shot on the challenging par four 9th at Green Bay
A look back from past the green on the long 9th at GBCC

Green Bay Country Club is chocked full of “Ah-ha” moments. After we finished the front nine, I turned to my buddy Jeff and said, “That was unbelievable. It can’t get any better than that.”

Nope.

Just look at the tee shot on the par five tenth hole.

Somehow, the back nine is even more dramatic and impressive than the front. We didn’t even think it was possible, but there it was.

The elevated tee shot on the par 5 10th at Green Bay CC – WOW!!

Summer in Wisconsin is second to none, and few in-state destinations can compare to Lake Geneva. Beautiful lakes, terrific dining, a fun bar scene and fantastic golf beckon travelers from across the Midwest to this small lake town that swells between the Memorial and Labor Day weekends.

Less than 30 minutes from the Wisconsin/Illinois border, Geneva National is a gated community with options galore: For golf, dining, drinks and lodging.

The newest of those lodging options is The Suites at Geneva National. Perched atop a knoll adjacent to the clubhouse parking lot, The Suites are comfortable and extremely well-appointed. Roomy bathroom en suites have double-sinks and vanities, detached water closets and 8-foot deep glass enclosed showers.

The brand new Suites at Geneva National

A dry bar with a wine fridge, coffee maker and pantry are near the mudroom entryway, and a raised workspace provides a comfortable and stylish spot to get work done, if needed.

Wisconsin’s is a short travel season, though, so hopefully you’re not looking to vacation to get work done.

Awesome accommodations in The Suites at Geneva National
I wish we had an en suite bathroom like this!

While many vacationers to Lake Geneva choose to venture out and explore its lakes and quaint downtown, Geneva National makes that just an option as visitors are able to have fun-filled days without ever leaving the property.

From three terrific golf courses, to fantastic dining, to the day spa on premises and the resort’s restaurants and nightspots, there is always plenty to do at Geneva National.

My wife and I, along with our friends KC and Tanya, spent a couple nights there last weekend, and I can’t say enough how much we enjoyed the experience. It was Kelly and my fourth wedding anniversary, and KC’s birthday, so we had plenty to celebrate. We did.

With the kids at their grandparents, it was time to celebrate our 4-year wedding anniversary!

Day one started with golf on the Palmer course, which is a fun, challenging track that has one of the most scenic finishes in the state: An infinity green par three 16th followed by one of the late Arnold Palmer’s very own all-time favorite hole designs: The beautiful par five 17th that meanders alongside Lake Como.

The par 3 16th and its infinity green along Lake Como on the Palmer course
The scenic par five 17th alongside Lake Como on the Palmer course at Geneva National

Golf was followed by happy hour on the patio, then one of the very best steaks I’ve had at The Hunt Club. The old fashioneds were well made, and the food was perfect. From the mussels, table bread and app starter plates, to the entrees and through to the truffle desserts, we were all enamored with The Hunt Club experience.

It wasn’t my first time there, and I knew exactly what kind of world-class dining experience we were in for. It’s not often I pump the tires of a restaurant as much as I did The Hunt Club, and it’s much less frequent that I’m so 100% right.

You can find much less expensive restaurants, but few better.

The Hunt Club as seen from beyond the 6th green of the Player course at Geneva National

Day two featured golf with KC and my friend, Tom, on the Player course, which is my favorite of the three at Geneva National. The Player course has consistently memorable holes, from the strategic little par three fourth, to the spectacular drivable par four fifth, the downhill par five tenth, and the long par five 16th, the hits come early and often.

The short par 3 4th hole is so sneakily good
The split-fairway, drivable par four 5th on the Player course at Geneva National
The par five 16th on the Player course at Geneva National

The clubhouse is nearing the end of a significant renovation, and plays home to several key areas of the resort including its best spot for a quick breakfast, Turf Kitchen + Tap. The bar and restaurant at Turf overlook the club’s putting green, the 18th on the Palmer course and first tee of Player, as well as the driving range and its million dollar view.

The clubhouse’s interiors have been fully revamped with new furnishings, fixtures and finishes since I was last there; the ballrooms have been remodeled, and a renovation of the pro shop will begin this off-season.

Turf is in the process of being converted to a BBQ smokehouse. In fact, the new smoker was being winched in to place as we finished day two on the Player course.

Sunset over the Geneva National clubhouse and Lake Como

We spent the majority of the second evening at Geneva National’s sister property, The Ridge. A newly renovated hotel with 146 rooms just five minutes off-property, The Ridge has a cool outdoor space with a pool and tiki bar (the pool is also available to guests of Geneva National), Crafted Pizza & Tap, and plenty of outdoor seating.

The four of us grabbed seats, drinks and appetizers, as well as pizzas from Crafted and enjoyed the ambience of live music by the ~ 20-foot-long fire table for hours.

It was another wonderful evening in Lake Geneva.

While the resort and its amenities are impressive, it’s the golf that stars at Geneva National. Both the Palmer and Player courses are consistently ranked in the top 10-20 public tracks in the state, and all three courses including the Trevino (which I haven’t played in a lot of years) are undergoing numerous enhancements. Chief among those is significant tree removal with the goal of restoring many of the original lake views from when the property was developed 30 years ago.

Overhead view with Lake Como, Lake Geneva and Player course holes 2, 16 and 17

This work is already evident on several holes, where tree growth stunted signature sightlines for years.

The 15th is a terrific example of this, with the lake now looming beyond the par three green.

The cleaned-up tree line beyond the par three 15th green on the Player course

This was the first time I’d ever been to Geneva National on a couple’s trip, and my wife and I [and our friends] really enjoyed the experience.

It was also the first time we’ve been OUT to dinner since February, and we were both very comfortable with the safety procedures and precautions in place to address COVID-19. Every employee wore a mask indoors and when customer-facing, tables at the restaurants were properly spaced and there was never a time when we felt unsafe or at risk.

It was great getting away from the stress of everyday life – not just from being at home 24 hours a day with the two of us and a 1- and 3-year-old, but also from a life that has become accustomed to being home and staying away from public places.

Everything we did onsite lent itself to leisure and enjoyment. That’s what a great vacation is for, and that’s exactly what we got at Geneva National.

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Bonus Fun Fact:
Curious why the speed limit is 26 mph on the private roads at Geneva National? This is an homage to Arnold Palmer’s 26 amateur wins (Link: Arnold Palmer).

While Course 3 gets all the pub, I think No. 1 is the best golf course at Medinah Country Club.

Course 1 features great design, terrific routing and the best of all worlds: A lot of wide, forgiving fairways with strategic playability, great par 3’s and 5’s and a little bit of tree-lined parkland style thrown in for good measure.

Redesigned by Tom Doak and his team in 2015, Course 1 has amazing Tom Bendelow green complexes and beautiful, signature Doak bunkering. Its par threes are varied and fun, standing in contrast to the penal one-shotters on its sister course No. 3.

While the par threes on Course 3 are plenty beautiful, they will beat players over the head for even slightly errant shots, especially if the wind is blowing.

Doak’s big on strategy, providing options for players of all skill levels, and lets them build a level of comfort off the tee.

One great example is at Streamsong Resort in Bowling Green, Florida. Coore and Crenshaw’s Red course, while maybe more visually appealing than Doak’s Blue course, rarely lets players feel comfortable.

The general feeling on tee shots – at least for me – is more angsty on Red, while on Blue I can swing away. Letting it rip is obviously more enjoyable, and while not every shot goes straight they’re almost always findable, and playable.

Rather than giving everyone the exact same challenge [from the tee] to hit a certain target, each player’s tee shot sets up their unique challenges that are found in the angles of approach and the putts they’ll face for being in or out of position.

Comparing Courses 1 and 3 at Medinah is similar in that respect to the Blue and Red courses at Streamsong. Medinah’s Course 3, like Streamsong’s Red, is big on target golf and penalizing errant shots, while Course 1 and Streamsong Blue allow for a higher degree of error and letting that error increase the degree of difficulty from its fairways, rough and green complexes. To me, it’s a more enjoyable brand of golf.

Medinah’s practice green prior to teeing off on Course 1

Course 1 is a top ten course in almost any state. Illinois is not “almost any state,” though. Like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California, Illinois is top-heavy with world-class private courses, and when you share a property with a track that’s hosted multiple US Opens and PGA Championships, a Ryder Cup, 3 Western Opens and a US Senior Open, you’ll face an uphill battle when it comes to rankings.

I would bet that if you polled the membership at Medinah, a majority would say Course 1 is their favorite on the property.

Medinah’s magnificent clubhouse

Tom Doak design characteristics at Medinah, Course 1

Cross-bunkers

A Doak design characteristic I’ve come to love is his bunkering, especially cross-bunkering. The par four 16th on Course 1 has a really nice example of this. I had to point it out to my playing partners.

A few examples from other Doak-designed courses I’ve played:

Par 3’s

Medinah’s Course 3 has a very famous cadre of par threes. Three of them require full carries over water, while the other – the 8th – is a nice little downhill shot to a well-protected green.

They’re all great holes, and perfect for the major competition Course 3 garners, but they present a maybe-too-major challenge for a more pedestrian (barely single-digit) player like myself.

Course 1’s par threes are much less intimidating off the tee, but present more challenge on the putting surfaces. That’s a strategic element I’ve come to expect and love on courses in Tom Doak’s portfolio, whether on par threes or any other hole.

My favorite of the par 3’s on Course 1 is the 15th.

A short one-shotter, the tee shot is just 148 yards but requires daft precision to find and hold the putting surface.

The short-right trap is interesting to me. From the tee, it looks like it would run up to the front edge of the green; on the other side, though, is run-off before a nasty false front. Very cool design element.

My favorite par 3 on Course 1: The short 15th

Tom Bendelow design characteristics on Course 1

The feature on Bendelow-designed courses that I’ve come to appreciate most is his greens. Bendelow designed some magnificent putting surfaces, and a lot of that is evident still on all three courses at Medinah.

The other feature I love about Bendelow-designed courses is their walkability. While we took carts, his courses always have short walks from green to tee, and the overall routing makes good sense.

The course

Course 1 starts similarly to Course 2, adjacent to the colossal Medinah clubhouse. The tee shot plays over the famous “Camel bunker” across the river, and between one of the course’s narrower tree lines.

The tee shot over water and the “Camel Bunker” on the 1st hole at Medinah’s Course 1
A more elevated view of the tee shot on the 1st hole at Medinah’s Course 1

The third hole is a great, short par four that’s reachable for long hitters. Tipping out at 311 yards, or 299 from the silver tees, the fairway bends softly to the right, with the river not coming in to play.

The approach area on the short par four 3rd on Course 1 at Medinah CC

The par three 7th has a beautiful little green complex with a ridge running from front to back. It plays long, over 200 yards from the two back tee boxes, and over water about 20 yards before the green.

The long par three 7th at Medinah, Course 1

Many of the finishing holes at Medinah close out by the clubhouse, like the 9th on Course 1. The 9th is a long par five – 616 yards from the tips or 603 from the silver tees, and has a challenging uphill approach over water.

The uphill approach over water on the 600+ yard par 5 9th at MCC

Last month I had a 9 am tee time with my cousin, Frank, at The Club at Lac La Belle. I’d been there earlier in the season, and several other times for preview play and had a good idea of the shots – especially drone shots – I most wanted to get.

As it happens to me pretty often the night before rounds of golf that I’m really excited about, I didn’t sleep well the night before. My daughter woke up screaming at 1:45 in the morning, and after I got up to give her a new bottle and change her never fell back asleep. The same thing happened a few nights later when I was trying to rest up before a day at Medinah Country Club.

The great thing about being up way too early before rounds of golf is that it gives me the opportunity to leave early and chase the sunrise.

The Club at Lac La Belle is an amazing place to do just that. Everything about the course pops on camera. I’ve shown a handful of these on my Instagram account already, but here are some of my favorites from that morning… Enjoy!

Tall, tree-lined fairways, great greens and private club conditions are a little of what’s to expect at Central Wisconsin’s Bullseye Golf Club.

Bullseye’s Wisconsin Rapids location makes it a terrific companion course option for visitors of Sand Valley Golf Resort, along with the Lakes and Pines courses at Lake Arrowhead, the Castle Course at Northern Bay, and – when it reopens again in 2021 – SentryWorld in Steven Point.

Paired with Sand Valley, Bullseye allows players from out of town to experience great golf in the state’s [otherwise unique in Wisconsin] sand barrens, and also in more of a natural [for Wisconsin] Northwoods setting.

Turned semi-private in 2020, Bullseye’s 98-year-old property was originally designed by Leonard Macomber and renovated by Larry Packard in 1968.

Bullseye is a quintessential example of a great classic golf course with incredible potential. With a little tree clearing, I feel like some widening of the playing corridors would make it more player-friendly to the public players they’re now trying to attract. The course has plenty of land – holes rarely abut one another, and dense forest creates a sense of alone-ness. The ups and downs of the topography are subtle, and the routing with its short walks between greens and tees would also make for a nice walk in nature.

Dramatic vistas of the Wisconsin River are exaggerated from the air. I’d love to see them opened up more along the fairways, especially near the dam. I can’t think of many courses with as dramatic of waterfront property.

As an aside: I’m told the club has been working with the FERC (federal agency) and the paper company they lease the land from to clear out that tree line and open up those stunning views long-term.

An example of the tree line along the Wisconsin River that Bullseye hopes to clear – imagine those views!

There aren’t many courses available to the public with as good of greens, either. Bullseye makes a point of cutting and rolling their putting surfaces to run between 11.5-12 Wednesday to Sunday.

While we didn’t have a chance to eat and drink there – we had the morning’s first tee time and I had to get home to my family after a couple days away – I’ve consistently heard their food and beverage service is top-notch, and that’s definitely what I remember from a 2015 Sand Valley media day hosted there.

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Brian Weis, Mike Keiser Jr, Bill Coore, Glen Turk, Craig Haltom, me, Gary D’Amato, Matt Saternus (2015)

What’s the connection between Bullseye and Sand Valley, you ask? Bullseye is managed by Oliphant Golf Management, led by Craig Haltom. Craig (red sweater, above) is the Craig of “Craig’s Porch” at Sand Valley – he found and introduced Mike Keiser to the land, and still owns all construction contracts at the nearby resort.

He’s also made headlines recently with high-profile course design work at The Club at Lac La Belle and Stevens Point Country Club.

But, I digress. Let’s talk about the golf at Bullseye!

Tee shots at Bullseye can be a little nerve-wrecking, in general.

Maybe the best example of that is on the club’s first hole: Adjacent to the clubhouse, the back tees on one are built in to the same higher ground, alongside the cart path. It’s a tight spot, especially for a first tee, and can see it garnering some spectators.

Fortunately for me, I always hit my first drive of the day well, so I got up there and ripped a soft draw down the left side of the fairway. We were off and running.

The first hole gives players a lot of what they’ll need to know about scoring at Bullseye: There’s a definite emphasis on driving accuracy, the greens are fairly average in size and they feature a good amount of break. They’re also fast and roll beautifully – a real treat for a course that allows public play.

The first few holes have solid green complexes and straightaway routings.

If you’re curious what a tree lined fairway looks like at Bullseye, the first hole is a terrific example. I’ve played tighter parkland courses, and I’ve definitely played wider ones, but not a lot that are (overall) consistently as good.

The fairway on 1, providing an example of the width to expect between tree lines at Bullseye
A look back toward the tees on the par five 2nd hole

The tee shot on five presents a risk/reward opportunity: Hit a high fade over the trees and enjoy a short uphill approach shot, or hit less than driver to the bend in the fairway and be left with a long iron in.

The tee shot on 5 – play a cut over the tree line, or less than driver to the fairway bend?
Uphill approach to the green on 5

One of the signature holes at Bullseye, the 8th is a beautiful mid-range par three over water. Teeing up from 192 yards from the tips, or 165 from the whites, the tee shot needs to carry the front-left trap and, of course, stay left and long of the pond. This is one of the larger greens I can recall on the property.

The par 3 8th at Bullseye Golf Club in Wisconsin Rapids

The ninth is one of the hardest par fours I’ve played in a long time. The tee shot needs to hit the elbow, more than likely with less than driver, and there’s still a long way in to a very elevated, very slippery putting surface that runs back-left to front-right.

Long approach shot from the middle of the fairway bend

The false front on nine runs hard down and right. Par here is a great number.

Approach shots on 9 need to catch the green or come up well short-right

The 13th is the first hole on the course that borders the Wisconsin River. A left-to-right par four, the hole has gorgeous views of the nearby dam:

13th hole tee shot with the Wisconsin River to the left at Bullseye
Approach area and green complex on the par four 13th

I’m told the 14th has caused mild consternation with the membership at Bullseye. A dogleg left around trees, a natural-looking ravine area was added several years ago that, while aesthetically pleasing, is unique to the rest of the course. I’ve heard some members complain about that fact, but I personally liked it.

In just five short years, the Sand Valley Golf Resort has transformed the landscape of Wisconsin golf.

It all started with the vision of Oliphant Companies’ President of Golf Management, Craig Haltom, finding an extraordinary piece of land in remote Central Wisconsin. Haltom, knowing developer Mike Keiser was keen on finding a property for a Bandon Dunes-like resort within driving distance of Chicago, brought the former greeting card magnate and world-renowned golf visionary to Rome, Wisconsin.

Nearly invisible to the eye, the field of dreams was there, lying dormant beneath an endless forest of jack and red pines traversable only on ATV trails, winding through land that was otherwise unhospitable.

Its deep sand barrens, remnants of the Kettle Moraine glacier that dredged the Midwest 15,000 to 18,000 years ago, reach 200 feet deep in spots, representing limitless potential for golf course development.

The ATV trails have since given way to roads, the forests of pines are giving way to a more natural, rehabilitated “Midwest Desert” environment, and the vast chasms of sand are yielding golf courses that are out of this world good.

While the setting feels out of this world, it’s still in Wisconsin, and a 2-1/2 hour drive from Milwaukee or 3-1/2 to 4 hours from Chicago.

Keiser has built an empire around remote golf landscapes like this, starting of course with Bandon Dunes.

Nestled along the cliffs of Bandon, Oregon, the resort is like Disney Land for guys – a Mecca of golf a 4-plus hour drive from Portland (or via private jet to Coos Bay) to get to, but would still be well worth the drive if it was 10.

An aerial view of the Sand Valley (center) and Mammoth Dunes/Sandbox (upper-right) clubhouses at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome / Nekoosa, Wisconsin

If you think Sand Valley is hard to find now, you should have seen it in 2015.

I’ve been fortunate to be a part of media days at the resort since the development started. From wilderness golf to pre-resort media days, our epic 2016 Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup, to opening days at Sand Valley and the Sandbox and so on, I’ve had an amazing front row seat and visibility in to the resort’s progress.

It’s come a long way. And it’s got a long way to go.

Since Sand Valley Golf Course opened in May 2017, the golfing world has taken notice. The original course was the obvious choice for everyone’s top new course in the world that year, the par three Sandbox was named Best New Short Course of the Year in 2018, and Mammoth Dunes was of course the top new course of 2018.

The par-68 Sedge Valley course, being designed by Tom Doak, is currently on hiatus during COVID-19, but will provide a third 18-hole championship track to the resort. And there’s room for more, both in the way of public and private layouts.

The Lido Golf Course is lauded as the greatest course you’ll never play. Viewers of Golf Channel during the 2019 PGA Championship will recall a 6-minute expose by Tim Rosaforte on the Lido, which was originally designed and built by CB Macdonald and Seth Raynor in 1914, then shut down by the Navy during World War II.

Experts at the time said it was every bit as good as Pine Valley, which – like now – was regarded as the world’s best course.

I have no idea how they’re planning on doing it, but word is Keiser plans on bringing the Lido to Wisconsin in the form of a private course near Sand Valley. Like the original, it will be highly manufactured. Unlike the original, the golf world now has all the technology and equipment in the world to move that land. There’s certainly plenty of sand to make just about anything possible.

Letters of interest have started going out to potential investors. I’ve heard it will not include reduced fees/membership at Sand Valley, and will not be reimbursed if/when the club becomes profitable the way the original $50K investment at Sand Valley was.

I’ve been keeping my ears peeled for any information that drops on that project and will I’m sure write more about it in the future.

David McLay Kidd has designed some of the most vast, fun-filled golf courses of the 21st Century. Beginning with the break-through of all break-throughs, Bandon Dunes in 1999, Kidd has led developments at Nanea Golf Club in Hawaii (2003), the Castle Course at St Andrews (2008), Tetherow in his now home town of Bend, Oregon (2008), Gamble Sands in Washington (2014), and a dozen or so others.

His philosophy on golf course design sits in perfect harmony with Keiser’s on resorts; David McLay Kidd was destined to play a part in Sand Valley.

Keiser works to appeal to the golf enthusiast, not the corporate client. Golf enthusiasts want to have a good time. They want to feel good about their golf game, enjoy a beautiful natural setting and feel away from everyday life.

Mammoth Dunes, as Kidd designed it, will give up pars and bogies all day. The course, much like Bandon Dunes, Gamble Sands and other high-profile projects of recent years, is designed to protect the course against low numbers by low-handicap players.

High-handicappers have a tendency to play their “best round ever” at Mammoth Dunes. They can bomb the ball just about anywhere on its massive fairways – some hundreds of yards wide, never lose a ball and if they putt reasonably well post a low number (for them).

Mammoth Dunes’ wide fairways and large, undulating greens evoke creativity, and Kidd’s philosophy on golf course design stands in stark contrast to the “Tiger-proofing” trend that dominated much of the early 21st Century.

Where other architects have made golf more challenging, Kidd’s focus has been on making them more fun.

The golf world is eating it up. Now ranked the #30 public course in the country by Golf Digest, and #27 modern course by GolfWeek, Mammoth Dunes’ enormous scale and player-friendly architectural elements have been a huge hit.

The par four 2nd hole at Mammoth Dunes

One of my favorite holes for its terrain is the par four 5th. Its wavy fairway yields no even lies, and anything to the left will leave a blind approach shot to one of Mammoth Dunes’ massive green surfaces.

Tee shot on the par four 5th hole at Mammoth Dunes Golf Course

There are a few layouts at Mammoth Dunes that are truly unique, or at least that I’ve never before seen. The sixth is one of those as a drivable par four with a U-shaped green complex that allows for a myriad of pin locations and shot strategies.

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