By Nick Zellmer, WiscoGolfAddict Contributing Writer

A number of friends have asked me about my recent fitting experience at Club Champion, so I wrote up a little review for them and thought I’d also share it here.

What they want to know most is if it’s worth the price and if I learned anything I didn’t already know. The short answer is yes, I thought it was worth it and I did learn some things along the way.

I think the highlight for me was the availability of all types of exotic shafts. Eric was my fitter and he obviously has more knowledge of the clubs/shafts than I do so that was extremely helpful.

Club Champion emails a questionnaire prior to the fitting to find out a few things. They ask if you are loyal to any brands so they can ensure you hit those brands during the fitting. They also gauge the kind of player you are based on index and your answers to several quick questions.

I did a full bag fitting simply because it was 50% off (new store discount) and I thought it would be a fun way to spend 3.5 hours in the heart of a winter snow storm. The full bag fitting includes irons, driver, wedges, fairway wood, hybrid and putter.


Irons

I started by warming up with a 7-iron, then moved on to the 6-iron that’s currently in my bag (gamer). These swings provided a baseline for the TrackMan data. I have the TaylorMade PSI’s in my bag, so Eric grabbed the TM 790’s first since they’re most like the PSI. They only have 6-iron heads at the store and will have you try several head/shaft combos. You’re only hitting 6-irons to allow for accurate comparisons of data between different manufacturers.

Eric analyzes every swing and pays attention to what the ball is doing relative to the baseline data from the club you’re gaming. He’s looking at ball speed, club head speed, smash factor and spin. Eric can tell quickly if a club isn’t working out, so you can eliminate it from the hunt. All the while you’re trying to find that perfect shaft/iron combination. I had a giant blister on my hand by the end of the fitting, but we eventually found the combination that best suited me. Eric added it to the quote and we moved on to the driver and repeated the process.

Gamer iron/shaft combo: TaylorMade PSI irons (4-PW) / KBS C-Taper 105 stiff
Club Champion iron/shaft combo: TaylorMade M5 irons / Aerotech Steelfiber i95 Parallel stiff

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TaylorMade M5 irons

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AeroTech SteelFiber i95 Parallel Stiff Shafts (irons)


Driver

I tried several drivers but hit the Srixon head the best with the PADERSON KINETIXX LOADED. I am currently gaming the Srixon Z-785 so I was pleased that I had good results with that head and only needed to change the shaft. I had never heard of Paderson before stepping in to the store that day. The drivers I hit were from TaylorMade, PXG, Ping, Cobra, Srixon and Callaway.

Gamer driver/shaft combo: Srixon Z-785 with Project X HZRDUS Black Handcrafter 65 Graphite (stock)
Club Champion driver/shaft combo: Srixon Z-785 with Paderson KB Driver KG65-D30

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Paderson KB driver shaft (KG65-D30)

Wedges

Eric put tape on the bottom of my wedges and asked me to hit a few 60-75 yard shots. He looked at the bottom of the tape and saw the impressions were right in the center. According to Eric, this was desirable, so we didn’t spend much time on wedges other than discussing the Vokeys’ grinds. I looked in to the grinds when I got them at the end of last season and am happy with my current wedge setup. He didn’t disagree based on the swings I took so we moved on after seeing a few other wedge options

Gamer wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 Jet Black – 50.08 F-Grind, 56.08 M-Grind, 60.10 S-Grind
Club Champion wedges: No changes


Fairway wood

It’s been some time since I’ve posted anything, and for good reason: I’m a new dad again! On January 29, my wife Kelly and our son, Charlie, and I welcomed our daughter Quinn Caroline to this world.

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Life’s been very busy in the Seifert household, but I’m looking forward to getting back to writing golf-related articles for you all soon. I’m also looking forward to featuring interesting contributing writers… More to come on that soon.

We can all be happy Punxsutawney Phil predicted an early spring this year, but I’m not sure I’m buying it after witnessing a mild holiday season that led to massive snow storms and unbearably cold weather. Actual air temperatures hit -30 degrees while we were in the hospital with Quinn, and the wind chill dipped to 60-below! It was bad.

I’m excited for the golf season to get here, though, and look forward to playing more new courses this year. I’m especially hoping to check out and review new (for me) private clubs like the Legend courses, Oconomowoc, Blue Mound and others. With two kids under two I know I’ll have to be selective and strategic about my rounds… Challenge accepted.

I hope you’re all doing well, enjoying the off-season and maybe even getting in some non-Wisconsin bonus golf. There’s a lot to look forward to, that’s for sure. Happy 2019!

Always,
Paul

Combining two of my favorite things, golf and data, Arccos has quickly become my favorite piece of golf equipment… And if you’re still looking for the perfect gift for a golfer in your life, ensure your spot as their favorite person by letting them open up Arccos Caddie (fka Arccos 360) or Arccos Caddie Smart Grips this holiday season. It’s what my favorite person got me for Christmas last year 🙂

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In its simplest form, Arccos is an unobtrusive game improvement system that helps golfers improve their skills and enjoyment of the game through artificial intelligence and next-gen data analysis. It puts all the information – historical data, predictive analysis, weather and geographical factors, … – all at players’ fingertips so they’re well-informed before, during and after rounds.

At $199.99 for the system (including 13 club grips and one for the putter), I can’t imagine a better golf investment.

So how’s it work? With Arccos Caddie, quarter-sized sensors screw in to the end of each  grip (there is a special one for the putter). They’re easily paired using the system’s intuitive smartphone app, and with it opened during play, collect and analyze an endless number of data points.

Through a strategic partnership with Microsoft Azure, Arccos Caddie leverages artificial intelligence using the world’s largest database of golf shots, course knowledge and weather conditions. Sensors are activated when upright (not in a golf bag) to preserve battery power, and they track shots via Bluetooth (GPS location, club used, etc.) using your cell phone’s microphone.

The Caddie system makes recommendations based on past behavior and course conditions, using inner (60%) distances that disregard values in the 0-20th and 80-100th percentiles. Distances are given to the front, middle and back of each green, along with wind speed and changes in elevation.

Even though a lot of people think I’m a long hitter, I know I don’t hit the ball like Dustin Johnson does. You probably don’t, either. Rather than dwell on what you think you should hit the ball, wouldn’t you rather know the distance you actually do hit it?

For example…

How far do you hit your 7-iron? Most younger, lowish-handicap players will default to saying between 165-180, which is what I figured for myself. With one season of using Arccos under my belt, I can tell you that I hit mine between 145 and 164, and average 154. The max (an outlier) this year was 188. If I’m on a par three over water that needs at least 165 to carry, I am armed with information most players are not.

Arccos Caddie also provides “plays like” shot yardage, factoring in actual yardage along with various weather, wind and elevation elements. If I’m on the par three seventh at North Hills Country Club, and it’s 174 yards to the pin and obviously well uphill, all I knew before was I’d need to hit my tee shot more than 174 yards.

Using Arccos Caddie, I’m provided all the data and even a club selection that takes every factor in to consideration. Some of that specific functionality needs to be turned off during competitive play, of course, but it’s invaluable during practice rounds and competitive preparation.

I also know the holes I need to rethink my strategy on. For example, below is my statistical history at North Hills since getting Arccos:

NHCC 2018 course summary
My 2018 golf course performance summary at North Hills Country Club

The third, fifth, tenth, 14th and 17th are really tough holes, but why am I having issues on the first? Especially when I hit the green in regulation 61.1% of the time?

Another cool feature is that Arccos allows players to relive their favorite rounds and golf holes. For example, I had this beauty at Streamsong Blue in February:

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My best hole at Streamsong Blue this past February (par four 18th)

331 down the pipe on a 474-yard par four finishing hole was a great way to end my trip. I can actually go through all the rounds I played last year and relive all my shots. I love that.

Even if you’re not a data junkie like me, you can probably appreciate this next fact: Players who purchased Arccos Caddie in 2017 improved by an average of 3.55 strokes per 18 holes.

My game was inconsistent at best this year, getting to play just over 20 total rounds, but the handicap Arccos kept for me (8.7) was consistent with my official USGA one.

The only negatives I’ve come up with so far are that A) I had a sensor fall off and get lost, B) The Bluetooth app can drain my cell phone’s battery life, C) It can be a little uncomfortable having my cell phone in my pants pocket while golfing, and D) While the putting sensor is more accurate than I expected it to be, it still needs some checking to make sure the right number of putts are calculated.

Great products have great solutions, and Arccos can remedy three of these issues. Regarding the lost sensor, Arccos’ customer service was easy to work with and quickly sent me a replacement sensor (they’re available on their website for $19.99 each).

For the phone issues, Arccos’ 2018 updates included smart watch functionality, taking the phone out-of-pocket and working instead with the Bluetooth in your watch. I haven’t gotten a smart watch yet, but it’s on my list of potential purchases in 2019.

I always confirm the number of putts following my rounds, and it’s really not a big deal.

If you have a golfer on your Christmas list, Arccos Caddie or Arccos Smart Grips (sensors are built in to the grips) are a can’t-miss gift idea. Or, if you’re looking for a sure-fire way to help improve your own golf game this year, get it for yourself. Either way, I cannot say enough how much I enjoy using Arccos Caddie, and how highly I recommend implementing it in to your own golf routine. The more I use it, the more valuable data I get… And the more interesting it is to dig in to all the nuances of golf that make the off-course part of the game so much fun.

Arccos Caddie Website

Let’s be honest: This has not been the best Wisconsin golf season.

We didn’t get started until mid-May, September was spent largely underwater and it has all the looks and feels of a season ending way too early in October.

While an early Winter is depressing to think about, Fall golf in the Midwest is stunningly beautiful and I was able to get out last weekend for a round that started out cold and dim, but ended up with bright blue skies and gorgeous Fall colors.

I had to snap a few pics on my cart ride home:

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A look back from the green on the par four 3rd hole at North Hills CC in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin

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View from the tee on the par five 4th hole at North Hills

Comparatively, here was the same view last month toward the height of a weeks-long deluge:

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The par five 4th hole at North Hills flooded by the Menomonee River during September, 2018

Speaking of underwater, here was the unintentional island green on the par four 6th. Not only was half of the course unplayable, the rotting smell and subsequent weeks–long mosquito infestation was almost unbearable.

What can I say about the Brute at Grand Geneva that isn’t already covered by its name? The Brute is long and tight, and everything about it is “Brute-ish.”

Have you ever seen that beer commercial where the guys are at the tee box and one friend is about to tee off when his buddy says, “Hold on,” and uses his fingers to tighten the fairways and enlarge the sand traps? That is how every hole seems to be on this course. The sand traps are massive, the water features are prominent, and it has a very mature, demanding feel that can be quite intimidating.

I first played and reviewed the Brute 12-15 years ago with a friend of mine, Dane, who used to work there. He was telling me that Jim McMahon and Rollie Fingers always played it barefooted, so we did, too. I remembered it being very nice, but was nowhere near the golf enthusiast I am today, and it was like a whole new experience for me with virtually no recollections of that round and how to play it.

As a side note, it’s hilarious how many times I’ve had people mention Rollie or Jim McMahon as barefooted golfers during rounds with new golf partners.

While WiscoGolfAddict contributing writer John Ziemer and I did not play the course barefooted, we did experience it in a new way: GolfBoarding.

Grand Geneva is currently the only golf destination in the state offering GolfBoards for players to use during their rounds. While the surcharge to use them is minimal – $20 over the standard cost that includes cart – the experience is fun, unique and well worth the added charge (my previous post about GolfBoarding can be found here).

The Brute is one course that I cannot say enough is worth playing from the recommended tee boxes. Similarly to another of my Wisconsin favorites, Wild Rock, everything about the Brute seems massive and accentuated. The course has an awesome look and feel.

Also similarly to Wild Rock, the greens can be really quick and challenging. Many of the greens are crowned, making for really tough downhill putts and a lot of challenging two-putt situations.

The Brute starts with a beautifully elevated par four that, like most holes on this course, features water, sand and a long approach.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (424/395)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 1: Par 4 (424/395)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The Brute uses elevation wonderfully, and especially generously on their par fives. The second hole, for example, features an approach area at least 100 yards long that goes uphill and to the left without any fairway to lay up to. Compounding the challenge of this approach is that the green on two is probably the smallest on the course.

The majority of their par fives are similar, and [at least from the back tees] I would not consider any of them to be easily reachable in two. The sixth hole has a very similar approach area, and both feature greens that are several stories above [and well over 100 yards past] their playable fairways.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (544/509/409)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 2: Par 5 (544/509/409)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The third is a gorgeous downhill par four that narrows to about 15 yards wide between two ponds before going back uphill between greenside bunkers. The water is actually farther away than it at first appears, but driver is likely longer than the landing area will allow.

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Hole 3: Par 4 (374/351/327)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

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Hole 3: Par 4 (374/351/327)  Photo credit: John Ziemer

The fourth is one of those par threes that seems to play much longer than the distance. The elevation is relatively flat overall, but goes downhill from the tee boxes over water, then back well uphill to a very wide green complex.

Last month, WiscoGolfAddict Contributing Writer John Ziemer and I had the opportunity to try something new: GolfBoarding.

Grand Geneva is the first golf destination in Wisconsin to offer this alternative mode of transportation, which got its start in Oregon at the world-renowned Tetherow Golf Resort.

In response to my social media posts, the main question asked was: “What do GolfBoards have to do with golf?” A GolfBoard does not need to be used on a golf course – they would be fun to ride on any terrain – but there are a few benefits realized by utilizing GolfBoards on the course:

  • GolfBoards allow players to go straight to their balls, reducing time spent with both players in one cart looking for the same ball
  • The higher vantage point standing on the GolfBoard helps find balls in the rough
  • GolfBoards allow players to ride right up to the green and teeing complexes
  • GolfBoards reduce the stress put on turf (substantially wider tires that distribute weight more evenly) versus golf carts
  • GolfBoards are fun!

While GolfBoards cost around $5,000 apiece to buy, using one for a round of golf at Grand Geneva costs $20 over the standard round rate for playing with a cart.

First-time users are required to watch a short safety/instructional video and sign an electronic waiver prior to using GolfBoards (which I found helpful), and are then able to practice riding them around before heading to the first tee.

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GolfBoards at the bag drop at Grand Geneva Golf Resort

As a snowboarder, John caught on to GolfBoarding immediately. As a skier, it took me longer to learn how to distribute pressure with my feet. Even so, I was comfortable and on to the faster mode by the time we reached the first green.

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GolfBoarding to my tee shot

I loved the GolfBoarding experience and can’t wait to do it again. The other great thing that came out of our trip to Lake Geneva is that I was able to utilize John’s photography skills to re-shoot the Brute course. Every other time I’ve been there was with terribly inclement and nasty weather; John took full advantage of a perfect Summer afternoon and got some beautiful shots.

I will be following up this post with one updating my 2012 early-Spring review of the Brute course.

Have you had a chance to try out GolfBoards yet? What are your thoughts on the experience and its benefits to golf, in general?

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Setting up for an approach shot in to 18

Each year golf writers from Wisconsin and Illinois emerge at the course of the hosts’ choosing for an epic 27-hole battle: The Writers’ Cup.

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Team Wisconsin (red) and Team Illinois (blue) before teeing off at The Preserve at Oak Meadows for the 2017 Writer’s Cup

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2017 Team Wisconsin

After sending our neighbors to the south home beaten from Sand Valley in 2016, Illinois welcomed us to their newly renovated gem in Addison, The Preserve at Oak Meadows.

Closed down for the 2016 season, The new Preserve course has been beautifully redesigned by Greg Martin as a single 18-hole championship course (pared down from 27 holes) that is now not only a more functional golf facility but also better serves its expanded role of providing water retention/flood control for the Wood Dale/Addison area.

As a golf course architect, Greg Martin is not yet a household name but I believe he will be. Martin, based out of Illinois, recently ended his two-year term as President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA). He’s highly revered within the industry for his work ethic and talent; you’ll never talk to a golf course architect with anything bad to say about him and his work.

Martin’s most notable project to date is one that few will ever experience: Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The story goes that billionaire Jerry Rich wanted to be a member at Augusta National Golf Club – who wouldn’t? When he was turned down, he decided to build an Augusta-class course on his own property, leading to the development of Rich Harvest Farms.

This passion project at Rich Harvest Farms has done well enough to host the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships in 2017, the 2015 Western Amateur, the 2009 Solheim Cup and countless regional events.

Combined, that is probably as many players as the course sees on a seasonal basis. From what I’ve heard from media friends who’ve played it, the course sees a few foursomes a day while employing a massive staff to ensure perfect course conditions and customer service. It is the type of place where nothing is overlooked and the golf experience is second to none. I’ve heard they have 30 members (including Michael Jordan) and over one hundred employees.

It’s this attention to detail and professionalism that I’m sure won over DuPage Golf for the $17 million remodel project at The Preserve at Oak Meadows. Martin’s work impresses with well thought out teeing locations, terrific greens and strategic shot value.

I’ll claim it’s an effort to avoid spoiling all the surprises, but reality is that the downpour during much of our round was so torrential I didn’t even take my camera out. I hope to get back sometime to add in the first through third holes, though, to complete my course review.

We’ll start out with the short par four fourth, a terrific risk/reward layout: The 302 yards the scorecard shows from the blue tees is indicative of playing down the fairway, so it’s shorter and very reachable.

Anything aimed at the green will need to fly a whole lot of fescue, so while the reward is high, the risk can be substantial.

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Hole 4: Par 4 (352/337/302/273/255)

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Hole 4: Par 4 (352/337/302/273/255)

The fifth is a right-to-left par five playing uphill and to the right through a chute of trees. Just left of the right-side fairway bunkering is the perfect line off the tee.

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Hole 5: Par 5 (529/514/497/483/384)

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Hole 5: Par 5 (529/514/497/483/384)

The narrowest hole on the course, the sixth is perfectly straight, slightly downhill and well bunkered short-right of the putting surface.

My wife and I fell in love with Charleston and Kiawah Island, South Carolina during our October 2016 honeymoon, and since then we’ve been in a hurry to get back.

Renting a huge, fabulous home on the marsh side of the island with our friends Tom and Lindley from Atlanta, our days were filled with beaches and swimming, golf, shopping, good food and cocktails. Other than only playing one round of golf, it was perfect!

After playing the Ocean Course and Osprey Point the last time we were in Kiawah Island, I’d been hearing great things about Gary Player’s renovation of his original design, Cougar Point.

The second through fourth and eighteenth hole are all visible from Kiawah Island Parkway – the main drive when entering Kiawah – and I always thought they were part of the River Course which is one of the island’s two private tracks that I was originally supposed to play while there.

My round at the River Course unfortunately fell through, but fortunately for me those amazing golf holes and conditions I thought were of the River Course were actually of Cougar Point. The holes seen from the parkway look so good, too, with big orbital sand traps surrounding the green on two, a continuous teeing area that looks like it runs about a hundred yards long, and the fifth hole past the fourth playing adjacent to the picturesque Kiawah River.

Tom and I were in for a treat at Cougar Point.

The clubhouse at Cougar Point is currently under construction, so operations are being run out of a makeshift building until Spring 2019. The new clubhouse will be very southern in style, and the renderings look beautiful.

The course begins with a handshake: A short, straightaway par four with very little trouble. I put one out there about 265 yards off the first tee, leaving just 70 in and my first three-putt/bogey of the day. We’ll blame that one on rust.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (372/342/330/282/243)

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Hole 1: Par 4 (372/342/330/282/243)

The second hole has a bit more bite: A mid-length par three with a tough green and intimidatingly large sand and water features. This is a hole I’d salivated over playing often while driving along Kiawah Island Parkway. It is a beaut.

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Hole 2: Par 3 (171/158/142/126/100)

The path from two to the third hole is a little confusing – just a heads up – but it’s worth it when you get there.

A sharp dogleg left par five, the third has a wonderful risk/reward finish over water to a tight green that begs players to try for that perfect shot.

I have been very fortunate to take part in a handful of Sand Valley media events, and the recent May 1 media day for the opening of the Sandbox was a great one.

Along with playing Bill Coore and Ben Creshaw’s par three course on the day it debuted, we were also treated to a golfing experience that blew my mind: David McLay Kidd’s Mammoth Dunes.

A 6-hole loop was available for preview the last time I was on site, so having the opportunity to see the rest of the project was highly anticipated to say the least. 16 holes were made available to a few of us media guys, which was better than I expected considering the most recent snowfall (a blizzard) was just a week before.

The Wisconsin weather warmed up quickly, though, leaving playable albeit soft and slightly off-colored turf at Mammoth Dunes. I can tell you from experience that this course will green up nicely and will play fast. Really fast.

Growing up in Scotland, David McLay Kidd is the son of long-time Gleneagles course Superintendent, Jimmy Kidd, who taught him all about golf course architecture and conditioning. His fascination with great golf led him to the pursuit of a career in golf design, and things really took off when he partnered with Sand Valley developer Mike Keiser for the flagship course at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort in 1999.

Bandon was the development that changed everything for Keiser, for Kidd, and for the golf industry, and a resort like Sand Valley would never have been possible if it was not for the tremendous success they had there.

Mammoth Dunes is the third course at Sand Valley Golf Resort, and has now been open to the public since May 31. The first course, Sand Valley, debuted last year to great acclaim, paving the way for more championship golf in the prehistoric sand dunes of central Wisconsin.

The land at Mammoth Dunes is more rugged than at its sister course, Sand Valley. There are fewer clean lines and the scale of its features – the fairways, greens, sand blowouts and changes in elevation – are nothing short of mammoth. The scale of this course is staggering; every hole is memorable, every shot makes you think and typically provides at least a couple of options.

I caught myself constantly saying, “Oh wow,” and “Jeez, this is beautiful,” and other equally cheesy and obvious comments that I couldn’t hold back. Mammoth Dunes is an exhilarating, wonderfully pure golfing experience that will quickly take the world of golf by storm.

The opening tee shot is to one of the widest fairways I’ve ever seen – easily 100 yards in width. The green area is mostly without bunkering, but like the majority of the course features mounding that helps or hinders shots played along the ground.

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Hole 1: Par 4 (417/394/358/324/221/198)

A central blowout bunker dictates some of the ground game in the approach area:

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Hole 1: Par 4 (417/394/358/324/221/198)

Hole two is a spectacular par four. A sea of sand lies between the teeing grounds and fairway, lengthening the carry the further right you aim.

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Hole 2: Par 4 (405/402/360/330/286/236)

Keep in mind the fescue turf at Sand Valley plays very, very fast, so expect a lot of run-out when the ball hits the fairway. This should affect your aim as you won’t want to land your drive anywhere near traps like these ones:

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Hole 2: Par 4 (405/402/360/330/286/236)

Kidd’s green on two is all-world – massive in size with spines, valleys and a left-side mound that hides much of its contouring:

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The first par five on the course is a good one. Like on two, make sure to choose the right line over the sand – anything short will leave a tough recovery and a challenge to get to this green in regulation.

In Wisconsin, we’re lucky to be in a golf environment that is not just surviving, but thriving. Even though our seasons seem shorter every year, we live in one of the best golf states in the entire country.

2016 saw a record low ten new courses open across the United States. 2017 had several more, but not significantly. Highlighting 2017’s portfolio of new tracks were the flagship design at Sand Valley, Gil Hanse’s Black course at Streamsong Resort, the new AT&T Byron Nelson host Trinity Forest, and the reversible Silvies Valley Ranch in Seneca, Oregon (have you seen the CNN video about their Seamus Goat Division caddie program?).

2018 will see two new courses open in Wisconsin, both at Sand Valley. The first, which opened May 1 and I will be discussing now, is the 17-hole Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw designed Sandbox. The other new project, of course, will be David McLay Kidd’s massive masterpiece Mammoth Dunes (post upcoming), set to open tomorrow!

A fun and unique golfing experience, the Sandbox serves as an homage to the golden age of golf course design. Green styles that otherwise exist only at North Berwick, the National Golf Links of America, The Old Course at St. Andrews, Shoreacres, Fishers Island, Chicago Golf Club, Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort (link shows their similar project, Bandon Preserve at BDGR), Lawsonia Links and other [mostly] pre-Depression Era gems can be found on this wonderful short course that measures under 1,700 total yards.

Biarritz, redan, double-plateau, short, Eden, lion’s mouth and other classic greens are not just old in age, but are generally very challenging for the everyday player to get access to. Golfers get to experience those classic designs in the Sandbox, though, neatly packaged in a fun, time-extensive journey that tests golfers’ metal on all manors of awkwardly-distanced tee shots.

Each hole has three sets of tees, sensibly marked by colored sand shovels. The back shovels stand perpendicular to the sandy turf with red handles (the Crenshaw tees – Ben has been long regarded as one of the greatest putters in the history of golf), followed by yellow- (Coore tees) and then blue-handled shovels. The blue tees are meant for putting and/or short chip-and-run opportunities.

Creativity abounds in the Sandbox. While distances max out around 165 yards – most are considerably shorter – many half- and three-quarter-club yardages mean you better have a lot of confidence in distance control… Or be ready to read every single piece of turf leading to the pin.

I will mercifully avoid giving my thoughts on strategy (remember: Those who can’t golf, write about it!). Because I think it’s such a unique golf experience, though, I do want to provide a little about the short course and some of its wonderful nuances.

The 17-hole Sandbox course starts with a fun little downhill par three, measuring 105 yards from the red shovels, 88 from the yellows and 57 from the blues. I was apparently too busy chatting with our hosts and friends to take a picture of it – sorry!

From 145 yards, the second hole is one heck of a test. The entrance to the green is narrow, and large traps pock the front-left and right sides.

As an entirely fescue facility, Sand Valley is built to play fast and furious, so if you ever don’t think you can fly sand traps on any of their courses… Get creative!

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Hole 2: 145/104/51

The third features a green design that is probably one of the most rare in all of golf: The double plateau.

The double plateau requires absolute precision off the tee to hold shots on the correct mound. Hit the opposite side and it’ll be like putting across a deep biarritz.

I love how the double plateau allows a single golf hole to play as many. This green can be set up an endless number of ways to create different par three experiences – from these tees, for example, a high-left pin requires flying the central sand trap while a high-right pin can be played in the air or on the ground.

There are always options at Sand Valley.

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Hole 3: 89/78/46

Walking off the third green, we crisscrossed between the 12th and 13th holes and noticed local legend and two-time US Open Champion, Andy North, playing the Sandbox with a couple of friends including Aaron Rodgers. No big deal.

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