There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot. These essays are the delights and dilemmas of one who cannot
— Aldo Leopold

Sand Valley in a lot of ways is out of touch with the rest of golf resorts in America -in the best ways possible. They’ve placed their thumbs on the pulse of golf’s undercurrent slowly bubbling up. A laid back, yet attentive, approach to the experience makes SV the kind of place everyone can come and enjoy. When I walked off the 18th at Coore & Crenshaw’s Sand Valley course a father and his two daughters had driven up to Craig’s Porch for lunch and ice cream. A group of bikers had just left and an old couple driving through Wisconsin on their retirement stopped to look at the views. Caddies and players buzzed through on their way to the tee or off the 18th green. Golf and community melding perfectly even at the scale of a place this large.

The openness of the resort extends to little things like $15 rounds on the Sand Box, their 17 hole Par 3 course, for locals. Or taking the afternoon to play an alternate shot eightsome with your whole crew on Mammoth. $1.50 tacos? Beer in canoes on the first tee? Ice Cream Sandwiches at the turn? Yes.

It’s the little things done right that, over time, build into bigger impacts. In the scale of golf courses 20 acres is less than nothing yet at Sand Valley it’s one of the most rememberable aspects of the journey. Nearly two years ago I remember walking out of my room on the 17th hole and playing a few of the holes freshly opened for play. It was maybe 6 am and no one was awake but by the time I made the way back I saw my friends charging out with coffee in hand and full of stoke. We played with a wedge a person Fast forward and here I sit playing with two beagles watching as a group of six businessmen motor past with beers in hand. Across the way on the mini Biarritz is a group of ladies literally hollering about a near ace. This small portion of land yields so many enjoyable shots and moments for those that play it. It’s the kind of movement golf communities need to embrace and promote to open the doors to non-golfers and inspire golfers.

The Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes courses provide a fresh approach to architecture. While you’ll be able to draw similarities and even influences the two courses are so varied from one another. Mammoth lives up to the name with massive, sweeping fairways littered with options that you may never hit the same shot twice. While Sand Valley presents a bit more of a challenge the art in this course is learning the subtleties that allow for scoring. A speed slot here or flat lie there unlock the greens. While at Mammoth the ground game is your best friend but the skill comes from judging the bounce.

Mammoth Dunes Pano

The Vibe

If you know me, and you probably do, you know I am more interested in experiences than scoring well or clicking off Top 100 courses. I travel to golf to come across people and places that will inspire me or put a smile on my face. I want my adventures to be on a golf course with sticks and a ball but I want adventure all the same. I want to visit places and stay at ones with a vibe all their own that inspires me. This is part of the reason why Sand Valley struck me so greatly as a must do trip. So below is a little playlist I put together to help with maximum vibes.

Somehow in the middle of Wisconsin I was as close to the feeling of surfing as ever. Golf is a creative outlet for me. I thrive when I am allowed, encouraged, to try new and different shots. The clinical approach to the modern game does nothing for me. So being able to hop out on the Sand Box with some people and two dogs and just try out some shots I’d never think about otherwise was freeing. Talking to David Mclay Kidd, designer of Mammoth Dunes, he suggested taking a club or two more into every green and using the mounding to my advantage.

What I found was that I felt more like I was in Scotland than Wisconsin. I sank a massive chip on Sand Valley’s 16th by using the massive bank on the left side of the green. I nuked an iron over the backside of the green and 99/100 times would have chipped strait at that cup. For obvious reasons I decided to use the use slope to ride all the way to the cup. For nothing other than it was the shot that presented more enjoyment. It was harder, it required more visualization and it make me not bored. I find myself bored while golfing often and I loathe any course that cant conjure up creativity.

No fear at any of the courses here. From scooting putters around the Sand Box only to playing three holes with just a six iron and putter on Mammoth to see how low I could keep the ball on Sand Valley I tried shots I never have before. Saw the ball work in mysterious ways and played my way to many, many bogeys and and a few birdies. I surfed my way around those golf courses with as much flow as I could possibly muster. I loved every single second.


Getting There

Sand Valley is actually pretty easy to get to with its location surrounded by airports. Chicago is 3 1/2 hours south and Milwaukee is 2 1/2 East while Minneapolis is 3 1/2 West. Madison, Appleton and Green Bay are all under two hours away and Wausau, the smallest, is only an hour north. While the town of Rome is not overly abundant in options you really don’t need anything outside of the resort. Once on property everything you need is available allowing for the focus to be on enjoying your golf. Shuttles run you to Sand Valley, the practice facility, tennis courts while Mammoth Dunes is right off the back door.

Where & What To Eat

A large garden and chicken coop are on premises and provides a nice offering of healthier dishes to combat the must have Buffalo Cheese Curds. No stop at SV is complete without a stop at Craig’s Porch for some tacos and an Ice Cream Sandwich. But I have to suggest the Italian Beef sandwich being slung on the back 9 of Mammoth Dunes.

As for sit down options you’ve got Aldo’s and the Mammoth Bar with a pretty stout menu and portions that are hearty to say the least. The menu has a few stars like the Mammoth Burger, Homemade Mac & Cheese, Roasted Turkey Cobb Wrap. Or go big with the Bone In Ribeye and finish it off with a Chocolate Brownie Skillet. You will not leave Sand Valley lighter than you came even hoofing 36 a day and getting in that beer run loop at sunset around the Sandbox. I promise.

Whatever You Do…

Make it a point to get out here. This place has all the vibes you could want in golf and some of the most enjoyable courses built in the last 40 years. And yes there is alot more coming to this place which makes my heart happy. This place is seriously a destination I will visit as much as I can over the years.

For more information or to inquire about a trip visit Sand Valley

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