REVIEW: Sand Valley Golf Resort
1. Location, Location, Location
The saying has never been more true than with Sand Valley. While many great golf resorts rely on ocean views, Sand Valley is relying on massive sand dunes in the middle of WI. It might not seem to be an equal draw, but the proximity to Chicago, Milwaukee, Green Bay and St. Paul/Minneapolis certainly makes this resort more accessible and affordable for more people. I was familiar with this land prior to it being bought for a golf resort and it is unlike anything else around. The size and scale of this sand dunes area is amazing. The minute you see it, you know that this location is a special golf property.
2. Sand Valley Course
My preview review can be found here. My second time around was just as fun. The new holes that I didn’t get to play last year were just as good as the others. What most impresses me about the Coore/Crenshaw Sand Valley course is that fact that every hole is memorable. I play a lot of golf and not every holes sticks in your mind during or after a round. I can still visualize every single hole at Sand Valley. Some are maybe more spectacular than others, but playing 18 memorable holes is an impressive feat. Holes 7,8 and 9 are an amazing combo of a par 5, short par 3 and short par4. Holes 10,12,17 and 18 will all be holes that you will remember long after writing down the score.
3. Mammoth Dunes Course
I had the privilege of playing 6 holes of this David McLay-Kidd design in 2017 and all 18 in 2019. The proximity to the main lodge and the scale of this course make this the most talked about design on the property. Everything is huge; massive fairways, gigantic dunes and bunkers and large greens make this another fun course yet not a push over. Just because you hit the fairway, doesn’t mean you’ll have a level lie or just because you reached the green, doesn’t mean an automatic two-putt. It plays around a ridge line and is cut into the trees and is less exposed than Sand Valley, but for the most part the trees just frame the holes rather than coming into play.
4. The Turf
Firm and Fast has been the mantra in golf now for maybe a decade, yet few are able to pull it off. Even a US Open course had trouble making that happen because of weather. Sand Valley is growing in and while not as firm and as fast as it will probably be in the future, it already has many of those qualities in play. The sandy soil, fescue grass and “know how” means that already you’ll see your tee shots bounce and bank and roll around the different contours of the land. The greens are receptive enough, but even now playing the exact yardage can often mean seeing your ball roll to the back edge or off.
5. Craig’s Porch
My biggest pet peeve of property management is expensive food and drinks; there is no reason to gouge us on food just because you can. Craig’s Porch is absolutely perfect for a food shack at the turn. Everything is fairly priced, dare I say cheap. The $1.50 sliders are amazing. The $2.00 Stopped Cows are even better. The Ice Cream, snacks, drinks, etc are plentiful and reasonable. Plus the adirondack chairs that are perched on this high point of the property are just begging to be sat in and relaxed in for hours watching golfer go out and come in.
6. “SandBox Short Course
When I first arrived on property in 2017 I only had a couple aerial shots of the yet to be named “short course”. But in 2019 I returned to this amazing setting. I am impress by this 17 hole course that doesn’t exceed 170 yards on any hole. The green complexes are spectacular and it is not only a “time fillers” or “hang out” spots on property, it is actually really good golf. More resorts need short courses, they really are enjoyable for all levels and ages of golfers. The added wrinkle to this short course is that it can also be played with putter only.
7. Resort Features
I didn’t stay on property, since I was able to stay with family while in WI, but it is pretty obvious how well designed and built the cabins and lodge is. You can arrive on site, park your car and not use it again until you leave. The shuttle takes you anywhere you want on property. There will be multiple dining options and everything else you’ll want is right there. It is a golf-centric resort so don’t expect a lazy river or spa for the ladies, but for a pure golf experience this has everything you need.
It’s bold, its early, but Sand Valley will be in the top-5 golf resorts in America. It’s already one of my favorites and it’s just a baby. Over time it will grow up, add more golf and improve each season. The location is ideal for so many golfers and the property is unlike anything around. It blends “links” golf, dune-scapes and north-woods feel. If you live in the Midwest, you must get to Rome, WI and check out Sand Valley. If you live in other parts of the country, put WI at the top of your list for golf destinations, with Sand Valley as your resort of choice.