Sand Valley Resort
focus on Golf
Sand Valley Resort
Knocking on golf heaven’s door
It must have taken all of about a minute to come up with the name Sand Valley for this first-class golf resort about 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids in central Wisconsin. It’s easy to see why during the winding drive into the property. It’s sand and then more sand as far as the eye can see.
But don’t get the idea this is nothing but Wisconsin’s version of the Sahara. Stately pines and deciduous trees punctuate the scenery as well. The green of the trees and the golf course against the tan of the fine-grain sand make for some spectacular vistas from just about everywhere.
Currently, only the Sand Valley course, designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, is open. Six holes of the Mammoth course, by David McLay Kidd, are open and available for ‘preview’ play, with the full 18 ready sometime in 2018. Additional courses also are being talked about. Walking and push or pull carts only are allowed. Caddies, priced according to three skill/knowledge levels, are available.
The clubhouse and the several out buildings, all of which have sleeping rooms or suites, fit unobtrusively into the terrain. Their wood exteriors have been treated to slowly morph from an unfinished wood look to a light grey-tan.
The landscape is rolling with dramatic elevation changes…a result of glaciers moving through the area thousands of years ago. In fact, glaciers can be thanked for much of central and southern
Wisconsin’s beauty. The highest point on the Sand Valley course at 150 feet is the green of the 4th hole (593 yards from the tips and winding straight uphill) and the tee of the 5th hole (175 yards and straight downhill).
Approach shots are the key to playing well on the Sand Valley course. Fairways are wide and rolling, and because of the sand and red clay soil covered by fescue, they drain extremely well no matter how much precipitation falls. I played immediately before and immediately after about a 90-minute deluge and didn’t notice any difference in the fairways or greens, which also are fescue. In fact, just about everything here that isn’t sand is fescue.
You don’t have to be an extraordinary driver of the ball – although that always helps no matter where you play. If you’re able to keep it in the generous and firm fairways, the ball seems to run forever. Be aware, however, that the numerous bunkers with their sloped edges have a tendency to swallow any ball that gets too close to them. Nevertheless, it’s when you get closer to the greens, that things really get interesting.
Many of the putting surfaces are raised, have false fronts (the ball can run off 20-40 yards off those fronts on some holes), fall off along the edges, and undulate like a roller coaster. On several holes you can be on the green and still not see the bottom of the pin. And the greens aren’t only huge, they’re humongous. They make normally large greens (8-10,000 sq. ft.) look like postage stamps. I was told that the 18th green on the Mammoth course measures half an acre (over 20,000 sq. ft.)!
Club selection – whether it be a wedge, putter, or fairway metal – is consequently crucial on the approach and the ability to spin the ball off the tight fairway lies is a big plus. Putting on these fescue greens is a real joy. They are true and smooth and, despite what I just described, fair.