Gary D'Amato filed an excellent write-up
detailing Mike Keiser's next great project 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids, around 167 miles northwest of Milwaukee. The Bandon Dunes developer is creating an 18-hole course in conjunction with 120 founders who paid a refundable $50,000 a piece for lifetime access, though it's clear based on his comments that Keiser has not acceded creative control, announcing his decision in a rare press release.
"I have purchased the land and The Founders and I have decided to build the first of four golf courses at Sand Valley," Keiser said in the release. "The first course will be designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (Bandon Trails, Cabot Cliffs). Design work will begin as soon as the snow melts and we plan to be open for play in Spring 2016."
Keiser revealed that he tried to "resist this project, but within 30 minutes of being on site, I was hooked," while calling it "a thrilling dunescape -- a cross between Pine Valley and Sand Hills."
Coore and Crenshaw have vaulted to the top of Keiser's favorite-architect's list, even though for months it seemed this would be a Tom Doak project. With his Renaissance Golf Design offices not too far away in Michigan, Doak hinted in his Christmas newsletter that an announcement was coming, and talked openly about the project on GolfClubAtlas.com's
discussion group. The architect of Pacific Dunes -- and co-architect of new World No. 11 Barnbougle Dunes -- took to GCA to lament losing the job.
"Naturally, we're bummed we didn't get the nod for course #1 -- it's tough to keep losing out on jobs to the same guys, even if they are friends whom we totally respect." Doak wrote in a post.
"I've only interviewed for three jobs in the past year and a half. Bill and Ben interviewed for two of them and were hired for both. That's a bummer when you've got a crew full of talented people who require opportunities to show what they can do. Further, opportunities to build courses for Mr. Keiser are rare, and meaningful."
How meaningful can Sand Valley be in a state with two other distinct destination golf properties in Blackwolf Run/Whistling Straits and 2017 U.S. Open host Erin Hills?
Considering that this has Keiser's blessing, a novel business structure, modest goals and most of all, Keiser's impeccable standards, it's tough to argue with any project he undertakes. Even one as remote as this. Also in Keiser's favor is the likelihood of building something with more "fun" golf than the aforementioned Wisconsin properties, which tend to be one-time, thrill-seeking bucket list destinations.