A [Small] Sneak Preview of Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley

This past May (therefore, a small sneak peak), I spent the weekend on Petenwell Lake in Adams County, Wisconsin, for my friend Scott’s bachelor party. Our buddy Kyle and I headed up to Sand Valley Golf Resort a few hours before our group’s scheduled tee times for a sneak preview of the second championship course on site, Mammoth Dunes.

I love Sand Valley. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed the original course there expertly: It’s fun, challenging, unique, FAST, rugged and tremendously beautiful. It also makes visitors feel as if they’re hundreds if not thousands of miles from what they know to be Wisconsin.

I’ve written quite a bit about Sand Valley, but have yet to post anything about David McLay Kidd’s upcoming Mammoth Dunes. We were able to walk six holes [with a guide and without clubs – it was still an active construction site], and they looked spectacular:

IMG_6923

Hole 1: Par 4 (413/394/358/324/221/198)

IMG_6928.JPG

1st hole green complex at Mammoth Dunes

IMG_6932

Hole 2: Par 4 (410/406/360/330/286/236)

IMG_6934

Target area off the tee on 2

IMG_6937

From the central fairway bunker on 2

IMG_6941

A look back toward the tees on 2

If you visited Golf Digest’s website any time during 2016, chances are you noticed an interesting reader competition: “The Armchair Architect.” 532 entries were received and reviewed by David McLay Kidd, Mike Keiser and Ron Whitten, and the winning entry was by computer gamer Brian Silvernail of Rockledge, Florida.

Silvernail’s proposed hole is a split-fairway downhill par four where flying three traps on the right side will propel tee shots downhill and left, making it a potentially drive-able par four.

14th Hole - Brian Silvernail

Brian Silvernail’s winning “Armchair Architect” entry (linked to Golf Digest article)

I never submitted my entry for the competition, but after working on it with the topographic map that was provided I can see in person that my hole design probably wouldn’t have worked. My concept was to have distinct risk/reward areas where the smartest shot is a shorter one to a plateaued fairway on the left.

The right side would lead to longer drives and shorter approach shots, but those approaches would be made more challenging by uneven and tight lies, a blowout trap that obstructs the player’s view on that right side, tricky green contours that would make holding those shots difficult, and a more rugged path, in general. Meanwhile, a downhill shot from the plateau to the left would allow the smart player to hit a wide open green from an even lie, unobstructed view and receptive putting surface.

In person, I don’t think the area allotted has enough space to make something like that happen, and plus there’s a distinct possibility that the concept would look gimmicky, contrived and probably not be considered anyway.

IMG_6943

The par four 14th – subject of Golf Digest’s Armchair Architect contest – being roughed in

 

IMG_6944

Hole 15: Par 5 (522/509/448/398/365/325)

IMG_6945

Hole 15: Par 5 (522/509/448/398/365/325)

IMG_6947

A beautiful, natural location for the 15th green complex

I had been drooling over pictures of the par three 16th for quite some time – it looks as good in person as it does online:

IMG_6951

Hole 16: Par 3 (180/164/134/134/113/113)

IMG_6954

The massive green complex for the par three 16th

The tee shot on seventeen brings players back out in to the wide open area used for the course’s first two holes:

IMG_6955

Hole 17: Par 4 (432/427/363/352/260/237)

The fairway on 18 is shared in parts by the first, 17th and 18th holes. Miss this fairway and you’ve got some real accuracy issues.

IMG_6957

Hole 18: Par 5 (536/511/488/473/438/360)

IMG_6959

The approach on 18 heading back to the Mammoth Dunes clubhouse

IMG_6961

A look back from the 18th hole green

IMG_6967

View from the patio of one of the suites in the Mammoth Lodge

The new clubhouse and lodge at Mammoth Dunes was done beautifully, featuring common spaces and private lodging in the rustic farmhouse design style that’s swept the nation stemming from HGTV’s “Fixer Upper.”

The Mammoth Bar and clubhouse are now finished and fully operational, but earlier this summer they looked like this:

IMG_6926

View of The Clubhouse from the first hole tee boxes – it has since been completed

One of my favorite things great golf resorts do is to add non-championship golf, golf-related facilities. Keiser created “The Punchbowl,” as well as the 13-hole Bandon Preserve par three course at Bandon Dunes; Paul Schock added the Gil Hanse designed “Horse Course” at The Prairie Club; World Woods has a wild, 2-acre putting green and practice holes; to a lesser degree, Streamsong has a fun par three bye hole.

IMG_1319

If Coore/Crenshaw’s design work on The Sand Box is comparable to their work on Bandon Preserve, visitors to Sand Valley will be in for a real treat

What do these things all have in common? They’re great places to spend extra time and especially initiate camaraderie through one-off competitions (aka gambling).

Sand Valley is finishing their first add-on golf facility: A 17-hole par three track designed by Coore/Crenshaw. The initial plan was to name it “Quick Sand,” but in conversation with Craig Haltom of Oliphant yesterday at Lawsonia it sounds like they’re now leaning toward “The Sand Box.” The short course is one of the things I’m most looking forward to checking out next season, and I don’t think they can go wrong with either name even though I love Quick Sand.

IMG_9153

The sandy area to the far left in this image is the site used for the Sand Box

IMG_6965.JPG

Sand Valley GM Glen Murray in the Mammoth Dunes pro shop, then still under construction

Preliminary plans are in the works for a weekend buddies trip to Sand Valley next Spring, and to say I’m looking forward to that trip is an understatement. Now we’ve just gotta make it through another long and cold Wisconsin winter…

Have you made your first pilgrimage to Sand Valley yet? If so, what were your impressions, where do you think the courses will stack up against the country’s best destinations, and what are you most excited for?

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Rome, WI

Sand Valley Golf Resort Website

A.W. Tillinghast’s Letters to the PGA

In my fifth year as a member of North Hills Country Club in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, I am always on the lookout for additional information on the club’s history and heritage.

Everyone knows there’s a lot of it, but very little has been kept around and what’s left of old newspapers is waiting patiently in microfiche for history enthusiasts to convert it to a form that’s findable.

A friend of mine, Andy Staples of Staples Golf Design, recently turned me on to the letters written by legendary golf course architect A.W. Tillinghast to the then president of the PGA, George Jacobus.

Tillinghast designed some of the greatest golf courses in the history of golf – 265 total –  including:

  • Winged Foot, West (Golf Digest’s #10 course in the US, #14 in the world)
  • San Francisco (#37 US, #81 world)
  • Bethpage State Park, Black Course (#38 US)
  • Baltusrol, Lower (#39 US)
  • Baltusrol, Upper (#61 US)
  • Winged Foot, East (#62 US)
  • Somerset Hills (#64 US)
  • Quaker Ridge (#76 US)

In 1935, Tilly was called to my home course of North Hills by PGA member John Bird to take a look at the then-“troublesome” par three then-sixteenth (shown in the header photo).

TillinghastNorthHills1935

Tillinghast’s letter to the President of the PGA concerning North Hills Country Club from November 16, 1935

Tilly’s difficult-to-read follow-up letter from 1936

The sixteenth, now the seventh since the front and back nine were flipped, was at that time a 127-yard uphill shot to a putting surface 20 yards short of where it is now above the Menomonee River. Redesigning this par three to have a ribbon green on top of the hill both stretched out the yardage and made the green more susceptible to holding tee shots.

Many competitive matches swing on the seventh hole at North Hills, which is my favorite par three on my home course.

I have my only ever hole-out from the tee on the seventh, and it’s literally a couple thousand feet from our backyard.

Other great “new” material about North Hills Country Club

As luck would have it, when I tried searching Google for the same Tillinghast letters on my laptop I found some great material that always evaded me: Proof that Ben Hogan and Sam Snead competed at North Hills.

The 1940 Milwaukee Open

I’ve heard this story before, and have told it to several guests. If I had to guess, this article points at the same occasion: On the 16th hole of the final round of a PGA tournament, Ben Hogan was tied for the lead on the uphill [now seventh, since the nines have since been reversed] par three. Hogan was on in two and three-putted. At the clubhouse following the event, Ben guaranteed everyone that the first putt he hit would never break that way again. They all walked in the dark (a walk I am awfully familiar with) from the clubhouse with their drinks and lanterns to the now seventh green; Hogan hit putt after putt, and the crowd watched them all fall the same way they did that led to his double-bogey that took him out of contention.

The seventh is my favorite par three on my home course, and is the site of my only ever sort-of-hole-in-one a few months ago. It’s a fantastic par three that, as Hogan proved, can make or break a match with ease.

ChiTribune 08051940

Chicago Tribune – August 5, 1940

Ralph Guldahl of Chicago won the 1940 Milwaukee Open at -16, followed by Ed Oliver (-14) and the great Sam Snead just three strokes back at -13. Hogan would finish fourth with a final score of 272 (-12).

References of the 1940 Milwaukee Open, as found on revolvy.com:

  1. Bartlett, Charles (August 4, 1940). “Bulla cards 131 to take lead in Milwaukee Open”. Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 6, sec. 2.
  2. “Ralph Guldahl wins Milwaukee Open golf”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). United Press. August 5, 1940. p. 2.
  3. Bartlett, Charles (August 5, 1940). “Guldahl wins in Milwaukee Open with 268”. Chicago Daily Tribune. p. 19.
  4. “Guldahl makes blazing finish”. Spokesman-Review. (Spokane, Washington). Associated Press. August 5, 1940. p. 9.
  5. “Johnny Bulla leads Milwaukee Open”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. August 4, 1940. p. 10.

The 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open

Joe Kirkwood, Jr., more commonly known as Hollywood movie star Joe Palooka in those days, won the 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open at North Hills. Joe “beat out Sam Snead by two strokes in a fighting duel for the third biggest prize of the year” ($2,750 for first place).

EugeneRegGuard 07231951

Eugene Register Guard – July 23, 1951

Probably my favorite part of this article is Kirkwood’s celebratory remarks: “‘I’m glad to win for all my friends,’ and left for northern Wisconsin to go fishing.”

There is a photo taken on the 3rd hole (now 12th) at this event situated on the desk in Captain Frederick Pabst’s office at what is now “The Best Place” – a top spot for downtown weddings in Milwaukee.

References to the 1951 Pabst Blue Ribbon Open, as found on revolvy.com:

  1. “Joe Kirkwood cards final round 64 to win Blue Ribbon golf tourney”. St. Petersburg Times. (Florida). Associated Press. July 23, 1951. p. 11.
  2. “Ferrier leads in Milwaukee Open”. Chicago Sunday Tribune. Associated Press. July 22, 1951. p. 6, sec. 2.
  3. “Kirkwood’s 271 wins golf meet at Milwaukee”. Chicago Daily Tribune. Associated Press. July 23, 1951. p. 2, sec. 3.
  4. “Kirkwood edges Snead for first”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). United Press. July 23, 1961. p. 10.

The 1961 Milwaukee Open

Australian Bruce Crampton won the 1961 Milwaukee Open, winning his $4,300 share of the $30,000 purse.

Gary Player and Jack Nicklaus tied for sixth place, which was great for Player but forfeited by Nicklaus as this would prove to be his final golf event as an amateur before turning pro the following week in the Quad Cities.

1961MilwaukeeOpen

Daytona Beach Morning Journal – July 24, 1961

References to the 1961 Milwaukee Open, as found on revolvy.com:

  1. “Massengale, Hawkins knotted”. Eugene Register-Guard. (Oregon). Associated Press. July 21, 1961. p. 2B.
  2. “Aussie wins Milwaukee with 272”. Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (Florida). Associated Press. July 24, 1961. p. 9.
  3. “Palmer bypasses Milwaukee event”. Daytona Beach Morning Journal. (Florida). Associated Press. July 19, 1961. p. 7.

 

Prior research on North Hills Country Club

North Hills Country Club, Feherty Interview with Golf Legend Ken Venturi (2015)

Hole-by-Hole Review of North Hills Country Club (2013)

The 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow: My Preview

It seems like just yesterday I was watching Jason Day annihilate the field while marshaling at the 2015 PGA Championship at Wisconsin’s own Whistling Straits.

image3

Marshaling the 14th hole at Whistling Straits for the 2015 PGA Championship

A lot has happened over the past two years, though! Since that great tournament my wife and I have bought a new house, I started a new role at work, got married and we now have our first child, our son Charlie.

Time sure flies, and in the blink of an eye both the PGA Tour and Wisconsin golf season have sped along at breakneck speed. It’s August, and we’re suddenly one week from the fourth and last major of the Tour’s championship schedule: The PGA Championship.

While Jason Day’s record-setting performance at Whistling Straits is not likely to repeat this year at Quail Hollow, expert odds-makers are still showing him love with 19/1 odds to win.

Fresh off a remarkable finish at The Open, Jordan Spieth opens as the PGA Championship favorite at 8/1, just ahead of Rory McIlroy at 9/1. Spieth enters this week’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational with a slight edge over Dustin Johnson for first place on the Tour’s money list with almost $6.8-million in earnings.

It’s hard to argue with Spieth as the favorite, and honestly I think he’s really good for the game when he wins.

Spieth, McIlroy, Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Day, the US Open champ Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm round out the favorites.

My picks for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow:

  • Favorite# 1: Jordan Spieth
  • Favorite# 2: Justin Thomas
  • Long-shot# 1: Jason Dufner
  • Long-shot# 2: Patrick Cantlay

For the most part, I like the younger guys in this tourney and don’t see McIlroy or Day running away with it. More than anything, like with any major championship, I’m hoping for a great finish.

The entire field for the 2017 PGA Championship at Quail Hollow

 

* Quail Hollow header image credit to http://www.quailhollowclub.com

Introducing the Next WiscoGolfAddict, Charlie!

The past week and a half has been very busy for my wife, Kelly and me – on Friday, July 7 at 1:05 in the afternoon we welcomed our first child, Charlie James.

Charlie was born 7 lbs 5 oz and 20 inches tall, and we couldn’t be happier to announce that he and Kelly are both healthy and so far he’s a wonderful baby boy.

A couple pictures of our little guy:

IMG_9499

Just-born picture – welcome to the world, Charlie!

1st Family Pic

First family picture of Charlie, Kelly and me in the recovery room

IMG_9595

7/7/2017: The birth of our first child and the next WiscoGolfAddict, Charlie!

Charlie watching golf

Charlie watching Mark Mulder win the American Century Championship with Dad

Golf Equipment Review: Snell My Tour Ball

During last year’s Wisconsin vs. Illinois Writer’s Cup at Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome, Wisconsin, I was introduced to a new golf ball that I’d heard of in passing: Snell Golf’s My Tour Ball.

The brainchild of Dean Snell, the MTB is a top of the line Tour ball at direct to consumer pricing. As the company says on their website:

“The team at Snell Golf has one solitary mission: To bring tour caliber equipment to the amateur golfer at an affordable price.”

Snell owns 40 patents in golf ball technology and is revered as one of the premier minds in the industry. During his seven years with Titleist and FootJoy Worldwide, he co-designed the original ProV1, Titleist Professional, Tour Prestige, HP2 Tour and HP2 Distance before moving on to Vice President of Research and Development for TaylorMade. While at TaylorMade, he designed the TP Red, TP Black and Penta (golf’s first five-layer ball), as well as the Noodle, Burner, RocketBallz and Project (a) lines.

All this to say Dean Snell knows golf balls better than probably anyone else in the world.

I cannot claim to know a half percent of what Dean does about golf balls, but I do know the results of playing the Snell My Tour Ball. I have shot all my best rounds over the past two years with them and the control, distance and feel have all been as good or better than anything else I’ve been playing. Their performance has been most commonly compared by those more in the know to the Titleist ProV1 (comparable specs) and the Callaway Chrome Soft.

ProV1’s list for $47.99/dozen, though, and Chrome Softs for $39.99/dozen. The My Tour Ball, on the other hand, ships free for $31.99/dozen.

Affordable top-of-the-line golf balls are not a new concept these days – Snell, Vice Golf and Kirkland have all made recent headlines – but Snell has made solid progress in the market and looks to continue growing.

I wholeheartedly recommend trying out the My Tour Ball. For additional information and to purchase your own (including their new limited edition run with American Flag logos), visit Snell Golf’s website here.