We played Sand Valley three times, and, truthfully, I played the course pretty much the same way every time. However, for the more wayward-hitting player, they can take on a variety of strategies over the course of a stay to figure out their best way to get around the course. Sand Valley being a walking-only facility helps that, too, as you get to really see the subtleties and touches Coore and Crenshaw put into the course. No decision was left to chance, and every feature has a purpose. The great caddies are able to help you decipher what to do, and they only enhance the experience.
It would be unfair to give a complete review of David McLay Kidd's Mammoth Dunes since only nine holes were available for preview play, but I feel confident in saying this course could actually be the better of the two in the minds of a lot of future guests. DMK asked for double the grassed area as the Coore-Crenshaw, and that's saying something. Pretty much any drive will be playable at Mammoth, which has the coolest logo.
We played the first three holes through a lifting fog, but because of its width there are probably few better courses for those kinds of dense conditions. The second hole is fascinating, particularly coming in blind. Through the mist, it looked like a dogleg right with an aiming bunker. In reality, it was a dogleg left with an aiming bunker. Take it on to find the best angle to the green or stay short to play your approach over a blowout portion of a huge bunker to a green sloping away from the mounding. It's a simple concept executed brilliantly.
The par-4 fifth could be the course's iconic hole. Hitting a blind drive over a saddle in the fairway opens up to a massive landing area which could lead to all kinds of second shots, ranging from a semi-blind shot from the left to a flat longer shot to a downhill shot from the right side of the fairway to a flat wedge with a booming tee shot. The putting surface funnels down and right, just over a difficult bunker short of the green. It's a special hole.
So, too, is what will become the par-3 16th. The downhill tee shot plays to a funky green with plenty of room on the right side of the green. Finding a birdie with hole locations on the left half of the green will require a daring tee shot.
I can't wait to see and play the finished product when it opens in 2018.
Knowing what Bandon offers, there's a constant murmuring that a third full-length course just has to be coming to Sand Valley. However, there's nothing definitive, and the staff all swears they've heard nothing in the affirmative. The general sense is consistent with the wait-and-see development of the resort, looking to see how two courses at a boutique golf resort in central Wisconsin will do before entertaining the idea of bringing a Hanse, Doak or DeVries in for a third course, which the property can easily support.
Sand Valley is fantastic. It's going to get better. It will probably steal some customers from Bandon who can get the links-style experience without a long flight and drive. Sand Valley also, typically, has nicer weather, though it lacks the seaside shock-and-awe of Bandon.
For folks who go to the resort in the next couple of years, they're likely going to be hooked, like I was, into coming back because they feel like they're getting in on the ground floor of a special place. As they, and I, come back over the years, they'll see the place evolve and grow and become what it's meant to be. That attachment will only make visits more meaningful and seeing its expansion a bigger delight.
So, if you can, go visit now, while it's still a bit of a secret.