‘Pure’ golf: Tee off at a breath­tak­ing new re­sort just a few hours from Mil­wau­kee.

An ac­claimed new re­sort brings ‘pure’ golf to cen­tral Wis­con­sin.

Milwaukee Health - - DEPARTMENTS - - DOUG MOE

Mike Keiser, the vi­sion­ary who ig­nored con­ven­tion and built a suc­cess­ful golf re­sort – Ban­don Dunes – in Mid­dle of Nowhere, Ore­gon, has now fo­cused the golf world’s at­ten­tion on a glo­ri­ous splash of dunes and vis­tas in cen­tral Wis­con­sin.

The cour­ses of Sand Val­ley – cas­cad­ing sand ridges up to 50 feet high, split by emer­ald fes­cue grass fair­ways – were de­signed by the game’s top ar­chi­tects and have gar­nered the re­sort rave re­views. In De­cem­ber, Golf Digest mag­a­zine named Sand Val­ley its best new course of 2017. A sec­ond course, sched­uled to open this sum­mer and called Mam­moth Dunes, is gen­er­at­ing per­haps even greater buzz.

“I think it’s [the] next lay­out … that will re­ally get peo­ple talk­ing,” noted vet­eran golf jour­nal­ist Jim Frank last year in Links mag­a­zine, adding of Mam­moth, “the dunes are higher, the blowouts broader.”

The sand at Sand Val­ley – lo­cated south of Wis­con­sin Rapids, two hours and 40 min­utes by car from Mil­wau­kee – is the sprawl­ing rem­nant of a pre­his­toric glacial lake. The re­sort ad­heres to the Keiser model of “pure” golf: walk­ing only, with com­fort­able din­ing and lodg­ing but no fire­works or water slides.

Dur­ing peak sum­mer sea­son, greens fees are $225 for the full cour­ses, with re­duced rates for re­sort guests, early-sea­son play and pre­view play be­fore Mam­moth Dunes of­fi­cially opens July 1. A new 17-hole, par-3 course called The Sand­box was ex­pected to open in April or May.

I played Sand Val­ley and a six-hole pre­view of Mam­moth Dunes on a windswept day late last sum­mer. There are tees for all skill lev­els, and what’s re­mark­able about the cour­ses – aside from the stun­ning land­scape – is their playa­bil­ity. They re­quire few forced car­ries over haz­ards. False fronts on the un­du­lat­ing greens will chal­lenge good play­ers, but high hand­i­cap­pers won’t lose a bunch of balls. The sev­enth fair­way on Mam­moth Dunes is 160 yards wide.

Hit away, and have fun.

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