TOM DOAK AND THE KEISERS UNVEIL THE LIDO, THEIR LATEST AT EVER-GROWING SAND VALLEY
Michael Keiser and Chris Keiser, the brothers who own and operate the Sand Valley Resort in central Wisconsin, have always maintained that demand would dictate expansion. Judging by the rapid rate of construction on courses, lodging, restaurants and other amenities at the resort, demand continues to outstrip supply.
“We’ve always looked at one course at a time,” Michael Keiser said. “We’ve tried not to think too far ahead and just respond to what’s immediately in front of us. What’s immediately in front of us is an opportunity to give guests everything they’ve been asking for.”
In 2023, Sand Valley will fully open The Lido, perhaps the most anticipated new course construction in the United States. Architect Tom Doak has faithfully replicated a famed “lost” course on Long Island in the sand barrens of Adams County, right down to precise green contours, bunker depths and fairway ripples.
Preview play by members in 2022 — The Lido is private, though Sand Valley guests will have access to tee times — resulted in unanimous praise for the unprecedented project.
Though The Lido technically is not a resort course, it will join the original Sand Valley course and Mammoth Dunes, bring- ing to 54 the number of holes on “big courses” at Sand Valley. In addition, the 17-hole, par-3 Sandbox has been a hit since its 2018 opening.
And while Doak was working on The Lido, he simultaneously was overseeing construction of Sedge Valley, scheduled to open in 2024. The site, a restored sedge savanna, orig- inally was going to be a short course, but Doak convinced the Keisers that he could build 18 great holes on the relatively small footprint. Sedge Valley will have five par-3 holes, three drivable par 4s and only one par 5.
“There’s this land we absolutely loved,” Michael Keiser said. “I had talked to Tom about another par-3 (course) with some drivable par 4s. I didn’t want that land to go unused. The conversation evolved and he came back and said you can fit 18 holes in there, but it’s going to be 6,000 yards and par 68.
“Most people hear 6,000 yards and think it’s going to be tame. That won’t be the case at Sedge Valley. The best example of that is Swinley Forest (in England). Nobody walks off Swinley Forest and even knows it was 6,000 yards. It’s a fun course, and it’s challenging. We don’t want people to say, ‘That was short.’ We want them to say, ‘That was spectacular.’”
Additional golf calls for more lodging, restaurants, infrastructure and amenities.
To that end, construction began in May 2022 on a multi-facility expansion that will include a barbecue restaurant, pool complex, tennis center, practice facility and what is being billed as the “world’s largest putting course.”
The putting course is being designed by Craig Haltom of Oliphant Golf.
“It’s going to be eight acres, so almost 400,000 square feet,” Keiser said. “The Himalayas at St Andrews is three acres. The Punchbowl at Bandon Dunes is 2.5 acres. It’s hard to fact-check, but I don’t think anything is close to this.”
The restaurant will feature an arcade, golf simulators and indoor-outdoor hitting bays with cutting-edge tracing and simulator technology.
On hot summer days, guests will be able to cool off in an infinity pool overlooking Mammoth Dunes and enjoy sauna, steam and cold plunges. The Pool House also will offer a variety of massage techniques in eight treatment rooms, along with a grab-and-go food and drink shop.
Those amenities show that the Keiser brothers are willing to go where their father, Mike Keiser, probably would not. For the elder Keiser, who developed the acclaimed Bandon Dunes Golf Resort and bought the land that would become Sand Valley before turning over the operation to his sons, it’s all about golf.
“I think we take some of those non-golf things and push it a little farther,” Chris Keiser said. “Why is that? Maybe part of it is the stage of life that we’re at (Chris is 34, Michael 41). We both have young families and so we want Sand Valley to be accessible and fun not only for golfers but for non-golfers.
“Wouldn’t a family love to come up, eat good food, go fat-tire biking, go fishing, play in the sand dunes, have a putting competition? And we also think it can be additive to the golf experience, which is always the focus. If we do it right, it won’t feel like it’s competing with the core destination golf experience.”
The Keisers own about 13,500 acres and have plenty of room to build more golf. Michael envisions the day when Sand Valley boasts seven or eight courses and encompasses 100,000 acres, the vast majority of which would be “an industrial scale conservation.”
“Golf is the cornerstone upon which the foundation is built,” he said. “And then what comes out of the ground — which Bandon doesn’t have and we want — is community. We want to build communities.”
One course at a time.
Visit sandvalley.com for more information.