Golf Course Review: Sand Valley Golf Course

This year’s Illinois vs. Wisconsin Writer’s Cup was a long-anticipated match-up for many reasons: To start, Illinois has had our number for a few years, but most importantly it was to be held at the world’s most exciting new golf resort project, Sand Valley Golf Resort in Rome, Wisconsin.

I put up a preview of the front nine at Sand Valley after last year’s Media Day event here, and was unbelievably excited to see how things have grown in and especially to check out the back nine and lodging.

The back nine was everything I’d hoped it would be: More fantastic par threes and one great golf hole after another. Strategically placed sand traps, tricky greens and conditions that far exceeded what can be expected of a course that was seeded this Spring blew away everyone at the event.

Sand Valley has been blessed with one of the best two growing seasons in recent history. Weather in the Midwest has been mild, the winters [relatively] short and all the ingredients to be well ahead of its time just sort of fell in to place.

The initial plans for the course, in fact, were to have 13-15 holes open for preview play by the end of 2016, and already all 18 are and will undoubtedly become even more spectacular for its public unveiling in June, 2017.

The David McLay Kidd course is coming along nicely, too, with a number of holes already seeded and growing in beautifully. I unfortunately did not have time to tour it during this trip, so I can’t wait for my first thorough look at it next season.

I reviewed the front nine at Sand Valley in my original article from last year’s media day, linked here, so I will just include updated photos this time around with minimal commentary.

New photos from the front nine of the Sand Valley Golf Course at Sand Valley Golf Resort:

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Panoramic view from “The Volcano” above the first, tenth and eighteenth holes at Sand Valley Golf Course

The par 4 first hole, bending right to left and downhill from “The Volcano”:

The par 4 second hole, bending left to right and uphill:

The par 3 third hole, a long par three best played running on from the right side:

The par 5 fourth hole, played steeply uphill:

The par 3 fifth hole, played downhill to a crowned green:

The par 4 sixth hole, with its “Speed slot” down the right side:

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JSOnline: Coore and Crenshaw Selected for Sand Valley Project

According to today’s article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel online edition by Gary D’Amato, the Sand Valley golf resort’s course architect team for the initial course has been selected, and will be Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.

Coore and Crenshaw have worked with Mike Keiser (developer of Sand Valley, and previously at Bandon Dunes and several other world-renowned sites) before, and have a wealth of relevant experience to draw from, including some of the world’s very best sand-based golf courses.

My personal favorite golf-related website is GolfClubAtlas, which is uniquely qualified for providing insight in to the golf course architecture of Coore and Crenshaw. The writers of GCA have the uncanny ability to dissect and review courses based on their design and architecture, yielding interesting reading and learning, as well as photography that goes beyond the traditional post card material.

I have not played any Coore/Crenshaw designs yet, so all the photos below were borrowed from the Internet.

With no further adieu, here are some of the Coore/Crenshaw duo’s courses, complete with links to their respective articles as provided by GolfClubAtlas:

Sand Hills (Mullen, NE): The #9-rated overall course in the country:

Sand Hills Golf Club

Riviera Country Club (Pacific Palisades, CA; restoration project): The #23-rated overall course in the country:

Riviera Country Club


Friar’s Head (Baiting Hollow, NY): The #28-rated overall course in the country:

Friar’s Head Golf Club


Pinehurst No. 2 (Pinehurst, NC; restoration project): The #40-rated overall course in the country:

Pinehurst No. 2

Old Sandwich Golf Club (Plymouth, MA): The #68-rated overall course in the country:

Old Sandwich Golf Club

GolfClubAtlas has not yet reviewed Old Sandwich Golf Club

Bandon Trails (Bandon, OR): The #70-rated overall course in the country:

Bandon Trails

The Plantation course at Kapalua (Kapalua, Maui, HI): The #97-rated overall course in the country:

The Plantation course at Kapalua

Streamsong Blue and Red (Fort Meade, FL): The top two rated courses in the state of Florida, and two highest rated new courses in the country for 2013:

Streamsong Blue

GolfClubAtlas has not yet reviewed the Streamsong courses
Some other well-known projects that Coore and Crenshaw have teamed up on have included Saguaro course at We-Ko-Pa (AZ), Talking Stick (AZ), the Dormie Club (NC), and dozens of others.

I can only hope to see some of their early design plans, etc. for the Sand Valley project, which is slated to begin construction this coming September, is scheduled to open to members in 2016, and to the public in 2017. The opening will be for one course, but the 1,500 acres being purchased has the potential to hold as many as four of five championship calibre courses. This was the same formula used at Bandon Dunes, Keiser’s first [and extraordinarily successful!] golf resort project.

Sand Valley will be located about 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids, adding to the area’s already stellar collection of golf courses like SentryWorld, Lake Arrowhead and Castle at the Bay.

Certainly, great times are ahead for Wisconsin golf fanatics, and Sand Valley – added to Wisconsin’s great lineup of Sheboygan area courses (Whistling Straits, Blackwolf Run, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms), Erin Hills, and others – is sure to make our great state second to none as a Summer golf destination.