I had the extreme pleasure of making the 2-1/2 hour trek up to the Sand Valley Golf Resort twice in the past week. On Sunday, May 22nd, I was invited to bring a couple friends and help train their new caddies. We didn’t know exactly what to expect as we followed the directions to enter the property. We were greeted with gravel roads, and tons of lumber that had been cleared away to allow access to the parcel of land that has gotten so much press lately. My first thought as we were driving up the road to the parking area was ,”Where in the world did they truck in all this sand from?” Obviously the answer is, “They didn’t”. And that’s what makes this place so special.
We were met by our caddies when we parked, and embarked to the top of “The Volcano”, which is what they called the highest point on the property where the first course begins and ends. We found a large putting green but not much else. No bathrooms, no starters shack, no nothin’. But then we got a look at the first hole of the Coore/Crenshaw course and we had to take a second to soak it all in. The contrast in colors is outstanding. From the top point, all you see turning 360 degrees is golf course construction. To see a course of this caliber at this stage is something you rarely get to witness. The plan was to play the front nine twice with lunch in between. So we took a couple putts, did a little stretching, and put our first ball in play.
My absolute first impressions of the course: It is just plain FUN! Yes, there are some long, long holes. Yes, there are some intimidating shots. Yes, there are some spots you absolutely do not want to find yourself. But (in general) when you miss a shot, you rarely are in a spot where you can’t a) find it or b) play it. I went long on one green that looked horrible to go long on. My ball was sitting in some grass, not a creek or some knee-high whispy rough. I wasn’t penalized severely for making a below average swing. I played a bump and run up the hill, got on, and had a chance for par. On one of the long par 5s, I pushed my ball dead right. When I got to it, it was perched on top of a sand dune just waiting for me. I lightly popped it down the fairway with a hybrid and still had a chance to make the green in 3. FUN, FUN, FUN golf!
In between our nines, we were fed some lunch by the staff and noticed something strange in the area. They had a grass tennis court laid out? When I inquired, I was told that they were testing a certain kind of grass to use for the tennis complex that is planned down the road. We were then offered to give it a try. As I have been known to wield a racket at times, my good friend, Matt Mattioli, and I exchanged some volleys and put together a couple good rallies. The only real problem arose when one ball went wide and trundled down a very large dune into a construction area.
We played our second nine from the back tee box. I didn’t feel like the course played that different, luckily I was hitting the ball pretty well. The scorecard for this nine doesn’t look intimidating…only 3399 from the back tees. But you have to factor in it is a par 35 with 3 par 3s. Both par 5s played over 620 yards, and the par 4 6th played 480! The par 4 ninth is a great driveable par 4. Only 295 from the back tees, and slightly downhill, it is certainly the poster child for risk/reward. The green has two distinct levels and is protected by two of the deepest, most beautiful bunkers I saw on the course.
On Friday, May 27th, I was back up to meet with some of the media and PR guys to talk business. After our meeting I was not only able to play the nine holes again, but they had 4 holes of the back nine open for play as well. I was absolutely BLOWN AWAY by 16, 17, and 18. Number 16 was a long par 4 with bunkers placed throughout the fairway, and an approach to an elevated green. The 17th hole was one of the most unique par 3s I have ever played. From the tee box, you could not see the green surface at all. Not because it was elevated so high, but because it was built into a depression over a rise in front of the green. Not knowing exactly what we were looking at, I hit an iron that came to rest on the top edge of what can best be described as a green in the shape of a sports stadium. There is basically a giant bowl built around the entire green. And then the finishing hole was a long, uphill par 5 that was 110 yards wide in the landing area. Definitely the largest fairway I have ever seen. Just awesome!!!
After the round, we found our new friends on the patio of the cottage that has been built on site. This is one of a number of different lodging options that are planned for Sand Valley guests, all with the golf traveler in mind. These four-bedroom cottages all come with two queen-sized beds in each room, and have a great room for eight golfers to eat, play some cards, or just relax and watch the big screen together. The grill set up, the patio, the view…..all of it screams “Wisconsin”. It will be a very popular place for golfers from around the world. Thank you to all of my friends at Sand Valley Golf Resort for making these trips possible!