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.”
Great golf course alongside Sand Valley. I tend to give the nod to Mammoth Dunes as far as which course is better. To me Mammoth has more memorable holes including a drivable downhill par 4. This course does play easier as evidenced by the scorecard however that should not take away from the overall experience of the course. With majestic dunes and gigantic fairways you truly will find this a course to remember
David McLay Kidd’s big break in course design came courtesy of Mike Keiser, who boldly awarded the commission to build Bandon Dunes to this practically unknown 27 year old.
Fast forward twenty years and Bandon Dunes is now one of six courses at the eponymous resort on Oregon’s pacific coast and Keiser has now expanded his empire into the American Midwest, opening the Sand Valley Golf Resort in 2017.
Keiser elected to go back to the architects that made the courses at Bandon Dunes a household name, with Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designing Sand Valley and McLay Kidd hired to build Mammoth Dunes, which would open a year later in 2018.
I had the good fortune of visiting the resort in late July 2018, only weeks after Mammoth Dunes opened to the public.
The course sits on an impossibly expansive canvas and McLay Kidd uses that to his advantage, with massive fairways, incredible ground contours and large putting surfaces, all surrounded by rugged dunes and natural blowouts.
The aesthetics are astounding and with the massive width and scale, the course is a blast to play for even the most novice of players. Conditions were close to ideal for a brand new course – the turf was firm and bouncy and most of the greens allowed running approaches.
The course has come under criticism in some quarters for being too wide and I’ll admit, as a somewhat decent player, I had trouble understanding some of the design choices, which in certain cases rewarded players for the “safe play” as opposed to taking on a tougher line.
That all said, I liked the golf course a lot and I hope to venture back someday soon to see it again, once it has the chance to mature a little bit.
It’s a wonderful course to walk and caddies are certainly suggested for the first-timer, as there are a number of blind shots throughout the day.
Combine this with the enchanting short Sandbox, the resort’s original Sand Valley course and a soon-to-be built fourth course on the site, designed by Tom Doak, and you have the makings of yet another spectacularly successful golf resort from the Keiser family. Read more here: https://nowontheteegolf.com/2020/05/18/mammoth-dunes-course-profile/
Mammoth Dunes might be the most fun I’ve ever had on a golf course. This course is better than adjoining Sand Valley. Mammoth fairways and greens (see what I did there) make for an enjoyable round but you do have to pick your spots. Some of the mounting and slopes in both the fairways and greens are rather severe. Again-you need a caddy to tell you where to hit it. But I guarantee a great time. Mammoth Dunes is the poster child for what should be a trend in golf course design- a course doesn’t have to be overly difficult to be great (I’m looking at you Erin Hills).
Fantastic course. Perhaps, David McLay Kidds best work since Bandon Dunes. It has been described as vast, grand, but I do not think those words do it justice. Infinite, perhaps, expansive, boundless or perhaps good old new fashioned ginormous. Airplane landing size fairways.
The first hole slightly downhill looks like a par 5, but it is barely over 400 yards from the tips. Favor the right off the tee. The 2nd tilts a little left, favor the right off the tee. This is a very tricky green, make sure you pay attention to the pin location and land your approach right of the target line. The first par 5 is S shaped and definitely reachable. Waste bunkers are on both sides of the fairway. Favor the right off the tee as this will give you the best shot at getting home in two. There is a pot bunker front left and this raised green lists left. There is a steep fall off on the left side to a nasty collection area. The first par 3 is slightly uphill and is protected by a front left bunker. The 5th is the longest par 4. Downhill, favor the left off the tee. If the pin is front, don’t be a hero. We both hit what we thought were good approaches that ultimately rolled into the deep front right bunker. The 6th has gotten much deserved acclaim. A short driveable par 4 with what has been described as boomerang green. Probably because that is what it is shaped like. The back right third also drops off significantly. We were both about 50 yards from the flag on our drives. We both hit excellent blind approaches just left of the ridge line and both shots fed down to inside 6 feet. It was rewarding to see the caddy on the 7th tee give us golf claps. The par 5 7th is the number one handicap hole, but I do not know why. It is 560 yards, uphill, fairly straight with the only real trouble the left side cross bunker starting at about 150 yards out. The mid-length 8th has gotten a lot of accolades as well. It is heralded as an island green without water. Technically, this is not true as the back left has grass. From the tee box the hole can be intimidating. This did not phase my associate as he chipped in for birdie. The front closes with a slight dogleg right. The contour greenside is hard left so aim well right of the flag.
The back starts off with another fun and my favorite hole. An uphill dogleg left that is driveable. I was not capable of that, but I did make a nice approach and got lucky with the putt. The 11th is a dogleg left par 5 with a BAB on the inside left elbow. Play right of this. I am sure someone can fly it, but…. Play this one as a 3 shotter. The 12th is all about the BAB in the middle of the fairway. Pay careful attention to this yardage and do not tempt fate. The 13th is a really cool, visually stimulating par 3 and is supposedly the easiest hole on the course. The redan green sits behand a massive and deep waste bunker. Most shots will go left and there is an indention that acts as a collection area. If the pin is there hole in one greenlight. The 14th is another highlight hole a driveable par 4 from an elevated tee. Heck, if I can do it, so can you. Aim right of the fairway bunker, this will allow you to catch the downslope and trundle onto the green. Hopefully, you will do better than a 3 putt par. The 15th is a reachable par 5. Aim right of the center fairway bunker. What appears to be a greenside bunker front right is actually 75 yards or so in front of the green. Aim right over the middle of this and the ball will squirt left onto the green. The 16th is a gimme par 3, but the green is deep, over 50 yards. The 17th is a long straight par 4. Favor the left off the tee. The 18th is a ? mark shaped par 5 that is reachable. Albeit, well -protected. To give yourself a chance you must be left of the right fairway bunker. If you go for it is all carry over a nasty waste area. High risk, Iwould advise playing it as a 3 shotter. My associate, Moyo, went for and ended up in the back bunker. Eventually, hacked his way out and secured a bogey to go red for the day.
This is a real fun course. If you are in WI, make sure you include it in your itinerary.
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!