America’s newest golf hot spot isn’t Florida, it isn’t California, and it isn’t Arizona. It’s Wisconsin. With a major championship venue at Kohler, next year’s US Open host Erin Hills, and now Sand Valley, you can’t tip a cow without finding great golf in America’s Dairyland.
Last year I had the opportunity to preview Sand Valley’s first course with Bill Coore himself. Now that the course is open for preview play, PIG took a trip north to check it out.
Sand Valley’s practice facilities are exactly what they need to be. There’s a huge putting green at the top of “The Volcano” next to the first and tenth tees. The driving range wasn’t open for preview play, but it will be located a stone’s throw from the putting green.
Amenities & Customer Service
Craig’s Porch is the best turn house in the country. Named for the man who found this marvelous property, it has a small menu of fresh, delicious sandwiches that are priced like it’s 1975. I bought three rounds of sandwiches, drinks, and ice cream sandwiches for my group and our caddie for a total of $90. You read that right. We ate carved turkey sandwiches, Italian beefs, and the best breakfast sandwiches I’ve ever had for under a hundred dollars.
The staff were universally friendly and helpful, none more so than our caddie Michael Falk. Despite the course being only a month old, he had excellent knowledge and saved our group a lot of shots.
Beauty & Scenery
You may not think of tumbleweeds and cactus when you think of Wisconsin; you may not even think of sand. Sand Valley will change that. This resort is thoroughly isolated, and it really emphasizes the rustic, spartan aesthetic. Don’t go to Sand Valley looking for every inch of grass to be manicured, go there to appreciate the wide open natural beauty of a lost landscape.
If it’s not obvious, my run of bad weather during course reviews continued at Sand Valley. Please click HERE to see much better, more representative pictures of Sand Valley.
Despite being so young, Sand Valley is in great shape. The day that we played there was a lot of rain, and the greens were still very quick and consistent. The fairways aren’t fast and firm yet, but I expect they will be by the spring when the course has its grand opening.
Course Design & Difficulty
At Sand Valley, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have succeeded in creating a course that balances fun, creativity, and challenge.
From the tips, it measures “only” 6,909 yards (there are five sets of tees, going all the way to 4,586 yards), but that doesn’t take into account the elevation you’ll need to navigate. While it’s easy to look at the pictures and see the changes from tee to green, what you won’t appreciate until you’re there are the mounds in the fairways and around the greens. Not only will these affect your lie and the way the ball rolls, but they can often block your view of the green. Being in the A position is important on every hole.
To that point, I strongly recommend taking a caddie. They are hugely valuable on the tee. Most of the fairways look wide open, but one side is always much better than the other. Additionally, some holes have hidden hazards that you can find with a “good” drive.
Sand Valley’s primary defense is, of course, sand. The fairways are lined with bunkers, and many of them come with substantial lips. If you take your medicine, you can salvage a good score. If you let your ego make the decisions, you can be stuck in the bunkers for numerous shots.
If you’re playing from the right spots in the fairway, the large, sloping greens provide a great canvas for creative shotmaking. Especially as the course gets faster, mastering the ground game will be essential to shooting low scores at Sand Valley.
If you’re a golfer, Wisconsin is a must-visit state. The pull of Wisconsin’s amazing golf scene gets stronger every year. The Coore & Crenshaw course at Sand Valley is an absolute blast to play, and the resort is going to become a top destination as more courses are built there.