Coore and Ben Crenshaw’s Sand Valley course at the Sand Valley Golf
Resort hardly had time to bed in before a second 18-hole layout
appeared on the property in 2018. Owner Mike Keiser, who twenty years
earlier appointed David McLay Kidd to design the first course at Bandon Dunes, hired the same architect to set out the Mammoth Dunes
course within this enormous 1,700-acre site.
It’s a big course (playing to a par of 73 with five long par five holes) that’s built on a massive scale with an overall design philosophy of bringing fun back to playing the game. Fairways are unfeasibly wide, some measuring as much as 120 yards across, offering multiple paths from tee to green on many of the holes. Of massive importance, protecting par – something the architect had been criticized for on other projects – isn’t an issue here.
Building on the success of a recent development at Gamble Sands in Washington, where playability was an overriding consideration, McLay Kidd has constructed a course that allows golfers to play into greens from a multitude of angles, without paying a heavy penalty for having gone too far right or left off the tee. Essentially, looking back towards the future, the best aspects of the original design at Bandon Dunes have been brought into play at Mammoth Dunes.
Highlight holes include the short par four 6th (played to a boomerang-shaped green that was inspired by the half-moon putting surface on the 7th hole at Crystal Downs), the par three 13th, (where the green sits at an offset angle between a large sandy waste area and tree-covered ridge), and the short par four 14th, which was actually built to the design of the winning contestant in an “Armchair Architect Challenge” organized by a golf magazine.
Adam Lawrence, editor of Golf Course Architecture had this to say about the course: “Mammoth Dunes is huge. It occupies 500 acres of land and has 107 acres of maintained grass. The dune ridge which forms the dominant feature of the property is close on 100 feet high (this explains why the course’s footprint is so large). And, visually, it is simply off the charts. I do not believe I have ever seen a larger-looking golf course. Even standing on the first tee, one is simply blown away by the scale.”
The last word belongs to David McLay Kidd: “There was a lot of effort to bring this commercial timber forest back to this pine-oaks savannah that you're seeing now. And it's the latest groundwork in Mike Keiser's master plan for a bigger project to create a pine barrens resort that spreads out in every direction. I'm just thrilled that my team had a chance to be a part of this, and it's fun to see how Sand Valley has evolved in the past two years.”
Mammoth is a fine course and David McLay Kidd and his team deserve a great deal of praise for designing such a fun but challenging layout. The course plays around larger ridges and mounds than the neighboring Sand Valley course and the whole scale of the course seems wider and larger. The course was not quite as firm as Sand Valley and I don't know if this was by design or not.
The course, however, is not some wide open blast away layout since most of the holes have excellent movement and hazards that still require strategic thought and solid play. The par 5 third is a great example. The hole dog legs left around a large waste bunker so the drive requires commitment to the chosen line. If you can work the ball safely left the longer hitter has the opportunity to go for the green, but right side is guarded by a large mound, and left of the green is a steep drop off. The green itself has outstanding contours. In short a birdie awaits the bold play, par is there for more conservative play, and a misplayed shot could lead to bogey. I like that sort of design.
I think the course really takes off after about hole 7 as the dunes and mounds area little less imposing and the holes, while still interesting, were more straightforward. Even though the course was softer than Sand Valley it still played fairly firm.
Opinions on Mammoth Dunes vs Sand Valley will probably sort out according to the players skill level. Better players will appreciate the more intricate strategic options of Sand Valley while other golfers will gravitate to the open expanded look and style of Mammoth Dunes. Personally I felt like I played much better at Sand Valley versus Mammoth Dunes but I scored about the same on both layouts. The openness and big scale reminds me of Tobacco Road in the Sandhills of North Carolina but I thought Mammoth Dunes was a better and even more fun layout than Tobacco Road. Sand Valley has two outstanding courses and a fun par 3 course, The Sandbox. A third course to be designed by Tom Doak is in the planning stages and I think soon enough Sand Valley will be another bucket list destination for golfers across the world.
Like all of Keiser’s resorts, there’s at least one championship layout and one fun course to give you a breather. Mammoth Dunes is the fun option at the Sand Valley resort.
I enjoyed the golf course, but I must admit that the sheer scale was a little much for me as the fairways and greens are simply gigantic and unmissable. The golf course often feels like a wide driving range with target platforms – but again, that’s essentially the purpose of the course so it lives up to its design to accommodate all skills of players.
The golf on the back nine is the strongest with no shortage of eye-opening shaping. The tumbling terrain was awesome and the routing unquestionably provides an entertaining walk as your imagination runs wild.
I Played Mammoth Dunes Yesterday for the first time, having heard so much about the brand new David McLay Kidd design. The rumors are true, this place is special. The course itself is far vaster than I could’ve imagined, and it’s hard to take it all in having played just one round. Mammoth presents you with the option to play a hole the holes so many different ways, which is a breath of fresh air in the U.S. where you get used to hitting the same high shots to every green. The course requires much thought on your target lines from the tee, and into then again the huge, undulated putting surfaces. However, if you don’t hit the shot you wanted from the tee you still have ample opportunity to make a play for the green from wherever it is you end up. In my group we hit some shots that would’ve been lost balls on most courses, but found the fairway at mammoth. I would recommend a caddy to help with the blind shots that you face out there.
The most outstanding holes are the drivable Par 4 6th with the boomerang green, the great par 5 11th, the short par 3 13th, and the finishing par 5 18th. This is one of those courses that presents the golfer with many chances to make birdies, while still being challenging, and keeps everyone entertained due to it being hard to lose a ball. It is a wonderful course for match play, as there are some many chances to make birdie with the short par 4’s and reachable par 5’s. I have played Kidd’s St. Andrews - Castle course, and I can definitely see the similarities between the two courses, albeit a friendlier, less "crazy" version. The only drawbacks of the course were that the greens were a little slow, bear in mind it has been a dry summer, and the course has only been open 6 weeks so they are a little long still. The pace of play was not great, but, reasonable for a resort course on a weekend.
Mammoth Dunes is a shot maker’s paradise, and I would definitely look to come back and play again. Highly recommend that you make the trip to Wisconsin for this gem. The food and beer after the round isn’t bad either!