Spring 2018

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32 SPRING 2018 | NCGA.ORG T he whole state of Wisconsin is considered off the beaten path for most Americans, including Hillary Clinton in a certain famous election. But Whistling Straits , a Pete Dye design near Lake Michigan that has hosted PGA Championships and will hold a Ryder Cup in 2024, and Erin Hills , last summer's U.S. Open site located outside of Milwaukee, have turned the Badger State into a must- play golf destination against all odds. If the saying is true that one is an acci- dent and two is a coincidence then Sand Valley Resort officially makes a trend. Located in north central Wisconsin, Sand Valley , the first of what could be as many as five courses on a sprawling 1,700-acre resort, is near nothing you've heard of. Nekoosa? Didn't think so. Well, Rome is nearby--the other Rome, one hidden among the quiet pines and sandy soil with a population of 2,720 as of 2010. Sand Valley was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and opened in May 2017. It turned out so well that Chicago busi- nessman Mike Keiser couldn't resist adding a second and turning the Wisconsin heartland into his latest bucket-list destina- tion. David McLay Kidd was commissioned to create Mammoth Dunes , which lives up to its name, and is scheduled to open this May along with a 17-hole par-3 course, the Sand Box, which features a tee box for teeing off with your putter on every hole. The genius of Sand Valley is that the course features spectacular hazards such as deep, cavernous pine barrens that even Indiana Jones would have trouble escaping, yet ample room is provided to play around them. Sand Valley looks intimidating but is actually scoring-friendly. Likewise, Mammoth Dunes, which I played during preview play, is built for fun with mam- moth fairways and only one forced carry on a tee shot. An example is the sixth hole, a potentially drivable par 4 with a horse- shoe-shaped green whose center is banked sharply to allow for horseshoe- shaped putts for those unfortunate souls on the wrong half of the green. The only issue at Sand Valley isn't the location, about a three-hour drive from the Milwaukee airport; or the price, $150- $225 range in season. It's getting a tee time. These tracks are off the beaten path, yes, but they aren't undiscovered. And Another Thing: In a previous life as a Milwaukee sportswriter, I often referred to Naga-Waukee War Memo- rial Park as the best and most fun layout in the state. Nobody ever seriously argued. Yes, it is a municipal course run by Wauke- sha County, so you won't have country- club maintenance and greens as speedy as Augusta National. You also won't find a course with more memorably distinctive holes, which is why I was once a semi- regular at the course we called simply, The Nag. The 10th is a zany par 4 whose fair- way zigs right in the blind landing area, improving your chances of making a double. The 11th is zanier, a par 5 up a hill that takes a hairpin turn right and goes down a steep slope. My favorite tee box in the state was the 14th, an elevated tee looking down at a reachable par 5 with a scenic view of nearby Pewaukee Lake. The 15th is a medium par 4 that goes straight up a substantial hill and while it's the single-best reason for tak- ing a cart, don't. Walk it and then struggle up to the next tee, a par 3, for an authen- tic Naga-Walkee experience. Then play here a second time, now that you know where not to hit it, and see if you don't suffer a serious case of Naga-Likee. Trust me. n Gary Van Sickle has covered golf since 1980 for Sports Illustrated and, Golf World and The Milwaukee Journal. It hasn't stopped him from maintaining a low single-digit handicap. WISCONSIN By Gary Van Sickle Sand Valley Cheese, Dairy & World-Class Golf in Whistling Straits JEFFREY R. BERTCH

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