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TST Takes on Sand Valley, WI (July 18-23, 2021)


cipher

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Just got home from Wisconsin.  

Again, thank you @cipher and @iacas for setting this up and running this trip. I had a fantastic time and it was great to see most of you again and to meet some of you for the first time. The courses were amazing, and we could not have ask for better weather. The most rain we got was a few sprinkles today for like 3 minutes. 

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Two favors of participants:

  • Save your images for a special album I’ll create later tonight.
  • Save your course reviews for later as well… I’d like to do a “thing” with those.

Thanks!

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6 hours ago, cipher said:

It was an amazing trip with lifelong memories made. Thank you to all who came out to this and made it happen.

Absolutely. I’m glad I made it out for this trip. Thanks to everyone who organized this and everyone for coming together for it.

6 hours ago, cipher said:

We played the black and blue combo tees on the final day which was fitting as we were pretty beat up by that point.

I played the blue tees at Lac La Belle poorly, but I was kind of running on fumes at that point. The extra 18 our group played at Lawsonia pretty much did me in, but the breakfast we had at Fresh Baked Cafe in Oconomowoc was excellent.

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Okay, for reviews… here's the format:

  • Rank the courses in order. Go from your least favorite to your most favorite.
  • Give each course a score from 0-10 on the scale where 5 represents an "average" course in your opinion.^ You can award 0.5 level increments, but that's as fine as you can go.
  • Provide some detail.

^ This isn't a scale where you review something and pan it the whole time, then call it a 7.9. A 5.0 is a 50th percentile course. A 7.5 is a 75th percentile course. 9.5 is 95th percentile. See how that goes? 🙂

Reviews may include whatever you feel is relevant to rank the "experience" of playing the course. If you care about whether the restrooms had a pleasing texture to the wall tiles, go for it. 🙂

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3 hours ago, iacas said:

I'll create an album and share the "review rules" later tonight. For now, there you go: a video on Sand Valley.

In the video, one of them had #7 as their favorite hole 🙂 Then sadly he liked #9

Here are my course reviews...

Lac La Belle - 6.0/10
Visually this course is good. The mix of fescue, bunkers, and marshy areas outline the holes nicely. There is a lot of target golf going on here. Some of the holes were a bit wonky, like hole #2. Also, the 600 yard par 5 was kind of bad. I am just glad that the fescue was not thick and tall, it was very playable from. If not, this course would be unbearable. The massive putting green with basically a putt putt course was really fun. In the end, it's a good course, but I would not enjoy playing this course a lot. Just too much target golf. 
Course Layout - 5/10, Course Condition - 8/10, Visual - 8/10, Clubhouse - N/A

Lawsonia - 7.0/10
I really enjoyed this course. It has a unique style that isn’t around my area. Holes 1 thru 8 were good. For me, a bit too many blind tee shots. Holes 9-18 were more open from the tee. Luckily, there wasn’t much in the terms areas the ball would end up unplayable on the holes with blind tee shots. If you aimed over the mounds, and hit a decent shot you would have a shot at the green. There was a good variety of holes. This course was really fun to play. 
Course Layout - 7/10, Course Condition - 8/10, Visual - 6/10, Clubhouse - N/A

Mammoth Dunes - 8.0/10
A visually stunning course. It is much more of a friendly course than Sand Valley due to the green complexes having more areas to feed the ball into the green on errant shots. Each hole was like a problem to solve off the tee even though there was wide landing areas. I really enjoyed playing this course. The first tee shot of the day was really awesome teeing off from an elevated tee over looking over the expanse of the property. It really gives you a sense of the grand scale of the course. The bins of water on the course were nice since  you have to walk the course. 
Course Layout - 8/10, Course Condition - 8/10, Visual - 8/10, Clubhouse - N/A

Sand Valley - 8.5/10
A visually stunning golf course. The green complexes are tough with a premium on hitting the flat areas or areas with backstops. Balls would routinely run off the edges where severe slopes were located at. When you miss the green, you usually had a few options to play. Mostly, the high risk through the air or try to putt it to a spot on the green for a longer putt. I think the back nine is much stronger than the front nine. Overall, I prefer the test of this course. 
Course Layout - 9/10, Course Condition - 8/10, Visual - 8/10, Clubhouse - N/A

Bonus - Sandbox - 10/10
This little gem of a course is just a joy to play. Each green complex is unique and with the variety of pin placements and tee boxes changing daily, each time playing is slightly different. I thoroughly looked forward to starting every day at the Sandbox. 

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Naga-Waukee War Memorial 6.0

The course if just a great local favorite county course. It is a great old design which has views of Pewaukee Lake in multiple spots. It has one goofy par 5(#11) where you tee off straight up hill and then it drops off down and to the right after about 240 yards or so. Other than that, I like every hole on this course.  I wish they would put some good sand in the bunkers and maybe modernize those a bit. Greens roll a bit slow compared to the other courses we played, but for the amount of heavy play it gets they stay in decent shape year after year.

The Club Lac La Belle – 6.5

I played this a few times now since it re-opened last year. My main issue with it is that they put so much money into the course it seems like they have to overcharge for it. It is a nice re-design though and they did a great job fixing the water drainage issues on the course. They also addressed how tight and short many of the holes were. Having been founded in 1896 it was due for some updates. I do enjoy the course, but it feels target oriented to me on a number of the holes. You can play hyper aggressive and take a lot of drivers but often from what I have witnessed and experienced, that leads to a lot of penalty stokes taken. I hit a lot of irons and hybrids off the tee to certain spots on the fairway and had one of my better rounds of the week.   

Lawsonia Links – 7.5

It isn’t really like anything I have played or experienced. It is just such a neat property overall.  I am not really a student of golf architecture at all but it seems like some of the design brilliance is in the subtle things and ways that they moved earth to visually change looks. Big reveals and raised greens are all over the course. I was not a big fan of the blind shots early on in the round. I just have never been a big fan of teeing off over a hill covered in rough. I think it is a must play if you come to sand valley. It gives you something different to see and the price to play it is a great value.

Mammoth Dunes – 8.0

This was the first time out on Mammoth for me. Visually, it is very cool. I love that this course is a journey. You don’t return to the clubhouse until 18 so after your first tee shot, you have committed to that end. It is a fantastic portion of the property and I love the layout. In some ways it is visually more appealing than Sand Valley. It was my best round of the week and I feel that this is nice course for a struggling golfer like myself to have a bit of a easy day and put up a decent score. The absence of much overall difficulty is also what keeps the course from being a top tier course for me.

Sand Valley – 9.0

I’ve now played it 3 times. I have not played many top tier courses, so this is probably in my top two courses, the other being Whistling Straits. I need to get out more for sure. SV is just a challenge, and a very fun one at that. You pretty much have to focus the entire way through the course. Number one is short and seems pretty easy, but leave yourself a partial wedge and I hope you are practiced up on those. The green has a false front as well. Holes 2 – 7 are the welcome to Sand Valley slap in the face. You get a bit of a break at 8 in my opinion which is a short uphill par 3 but you still have to hit a fairly tight landing area. Number 9 is drivable but it is almost the worst decision you can take for most of us the bunkers around the green are horrifying and the only water on the course is in play to the right. The first two par 5s on the back(10 and 12) are tons of fun, they are not overly long or at least they don’t play as long, and are very getable in 2. Number 13 is fairly forgettable as a hole but that second shot seems to be a tough one even though the hole seems fairly simple and is easy to lose focus on. It plays longer than it looks and is uphill to another difficult green. 17 and 18 are the ultimate test of exhaustion and your state of mind to this point in the round. A good player just needs to hit the proper side of the bowl for the pin position and will end up with a birdie putt(or in Erik’s case a 4” tap in). For a lesser player this hole can be a real challenge, at 210-235 uphill, depending on your tees. 18 is the final test, you are exhausted by this time, and you are asked to play a 3 shot hole in which you are walking up a fairly aggressive slope the entire way. It is maybe the best finishing hole I have played. Depending on the pin position you can bank your third shot off a slope for a run at the hole as well. I will probably find time to play this course every year that I possibly can, since I live so close. 

What a week this was!

 

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2 hours ago, cipher said:

You get a bit of a break at 8 in my opinion which is a short uphill par 3 but you still have to hit a fairly tight landing area.

I loved 8, but it’s hardly a break. It is a tough green to hit. I doubled it twice, haha. 

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(edited)

My observations of the week. 

1. Lac La Belle - 5.5

For me this was a target golf course. Very well maintained with a decidedly upscale vibe. The design forces you to think and execute for both tee and approach shots. Length was not a huge factor but good placement from the tee was crucial to have short irons in sloped greens. Greens generally receptive to proper iron shots but as is the case with almost all sloped greens, being on the low side of the hole makes the difference between a nervy bogey and a stress free par. the Par 3 4th with a hill on one side and cliff on the other side is a good representation of the target golf nature of the course... especially for someone who is rolling the dice every time they strike a ball.. :-) 

While I had my worst ball striking day here, I thought the course was fun. It is visually a maze of tree lined swirling holes. Quite a departure from the expansive landscapes of SV and Lawsonia Links. It had the feel of some of well manicured south west FL courses. Except tighter. All in all, it was enjoyable but not hugely memorable. Of course it may have been somewhat unfortunate in that it followed some of the most memorable courses that I played leading up to it.

Lawsonia Links - 7.5

I kept joking to my playing partners that I always wanted to play in a huge corn field one day.. 😄. It certainly seems to have been laid on top of one. The course is unique to say the least. It is a massive rectangle in which rolling up and down hill holes are laid up in true links fashion back and forth. I enjoyed the course thoroughly. While green were raised with false fronts and sides and even sheer drop offs they seemed friendly as they did not require a great deal of guess work as to what would be the best spot to target the approaches. Some tee shots were blind but picking out the proper line was not much of an issue whenever one presented it self. 

If you have a good tee shot game and hit your driver well, these wide fairway and not-so-penal rough is a ballers dream. Of course, for there were certainly more scoring sides of the fairways and, well, not-so-scoring sides, there were very few instant deaths other than the fescue which may have been the one penal challenge through out the course. The rough allowed one to get back in play without breaking your heart completely. The par 3s were exceptional requiring some good execution. A good student of course design would find this review overly simplified as the nuance may be lost on a relative simpleton (golf design wise) like myself but I came away having played this course twice in a day as hugely playable, fun, unique and memorable. 

Sandbox - 7.5

Perfect little starter (and finishing) par 3 course. Green complexes were designed for thought, target, nuance and... choices! It was a blast playing it three days in a row. 

Sand Valley - 8.5

SV is the more difficult of the two courses, but the fun factor is great. Rugged, demanding and tough to score unless one is playing tees that are one-size shorter than they would normally play. The greens are huge but there are plenty of pin placements where hitting the green in regulation does not seems like much of an advantage compared to being short. 3 and in some cases even 4 putts in some cases are not uncommon for being on the wrong tier or wrong side of the greens. As @ciphermentioned, holes 2-7 are a test of most mid-handicappers survival skills. Back nine were a lot of fun though. The shorter orange tees were much more playable and fun for the second time we played SV. 

The uphill Par 5 18th may be the greatest and the most memorable finishing hole that I have ever played. There are courses that you can feel unfulfilled after 18 and you can be tempted to want to do more. Not SV. It is truly a full, rounded feast of senses, physique and psyche.  

Mammoth Dunes - 8.5

What can I say about MD... fun, joyful, friendly, yet no pushover. If you haven't heard this already the other few times that has and will be mentioned in this thread, the scale takes your breath away from the first hole. The first holes (for both MD and SV) tee boxes sit at the top of either courses and invite you to unload without fear deep in the vast expanse below. It really gets you going and the fun really never stops till you are done. Even mishits that may have you reaching for a reload at other tighter courses, give you a chance to get it back in play with a decent chance at losing no more than a shot. This might be the only top tier course I have played that is so friendly yet so exhilarating. 

The sand areas were playable and added a visual element that can be best described as authentic and wild. The greens too were not overly penal as to allow collection rather than repel (SV style) half hearted shots. 

It was like hanging out with a good friend who is playful, gamey, rugged and visual treat. I was tempted to rate it higher than SV because of the slight ease of play but would be completely unjustified otherwise.   

Yeah, I will be going back. 

Edited by GolfLug
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Reading through these reviews one thing stands out.  You guys are lovers of the game, you guys are observant of the nuances of a golf course and you guys can write.  Kudos.  I think that defines your basic TST'er.

I have friends that fulfill the first two items, but they can't and/or hate to write.  Too much like high school.  So they'll never come on here.  They are famous for texting only "Ok" to a longish, heartfelt text I might send their way.

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The Club at Lac La Belle - 6.5

I wasn't a big fan of this course. It was beautiful and well-maintained, but I found parts of it to be a little contrived. It's definitely a target golf course and for someone like me who is wild off the tee, it took all the fun of strategizing out of it because the risks were just too high. I did like that there was variety in the course layout with a good mix of short/long, right/left, uphill/downhill holes.

I'm not sure I'd make a trip out to this one again if I'm ever back in the area for golf, but it's less than 10 minutes away from a delicious French bakery with the best croissants I have ever had, so that bumps up the score a little ;-)

I'd go back just for the croissants.

The Sandbox - 7.0

This little 17 hole par 3 course was just fun. It gave you different looks and a variety of options for play. I really liked it and tried a bunch of different things I normally wouldn't have on a regular course. A 7.0 is probably the most I'd give to a par 3 course, though.

Lawsonia Links - 7.5

I really enjoyed this course. Overall I found the layout to be good. There were plenty of places to miss, but you still needed to hit good golf shots to play well. I liked the way the mounds and bunkers were designed to play with the shape of the holes visually. There were really only a couple of holes I didn't like - 13 in particular, even though I made par both times using completely different strategies. It's just bordering on too many blind shots for me, though.

I'd definitely play this course again if I have the chance.

Mammoth Dunes - 8.5

This course was spectacular to look at - absolutely visually stunning. The pictures don't do it justice because they fail to capture the scale of everything. The place is massive. I'll echo what the others have wrote above: it's a journey. You feel like you're not going out to play a round of golf, but rather that you're going on an adventure while hitting a golf ball on the way. I understand now how some other reviews I've read or seen describe a feeling of getting lost, or losing your bearings for a bit. I wasn't thinking about routing. I had no idea where the clubhouse was. I didn't really care about any of it because I was out in this beautiful landscape. The golf itself for me was just there. I would be perfectly happy spending an afternoon just walking the course without playing it. And that's a bit of a detriment, because at the end of the day, it is a golf course. As a golf course, I found it didn't really matter much how you played it as long as you hit decent shots. There was certainly an ideal way to play the course well, and I hit some awful shots and paid the price for them, but plenty of just okay shots I got away with because of the layout. In the end that's fine. I don't need every course I play to be a grueling test of my skills. 

I'd make a return trip and play this course again.

Sand Valley - 9.0

This one is a golf course first and a spectacular view second. Where Mammoth Dunes focuses on the adventure, Sand Valley focuses on the golf. It's still visually stunning, but just not quite on the grand scale that Mammoth Dunes is. And Sand Valley does not let you forget for even one second that you're out there to do one thing: to play golf. I don't remember having a single shot out there that didn't require my undivided attention. The course absolutely punished you for missing your spots. But the flip side of that coin is that it was extremely rewarding to hit good shots there. An example is #8 mentioned above - I don't think I have ever felt so pleased to hit a GW to 35' before in my life, and I might never again. The course is a challenge in the best way. It makes you want to rise up to face it. I want to go back and battle it again. I shot my best score of the week with an 87 at Lawsonia, but it's the 94 the second time playing Sand Valley that I'm most proud of.

Like Mammoth Dunes above, I'd make a return trip specifically to play this course again.

Bonus Stuff

The facilities at Sand Valley Golf Resort were top notch. The prices at the pro shop were fair. The food and drinks were also reasonably priced and delicious. The food truck at The Sandbox had the best food in the whole complex, IMO.

Lac La Belle I felt was fancy but overpriced. I bought a polo at the pro shop at Sand Valley, but a similar shirt at Lac La Belle was like 50% more expensive. The golf carts had beautiful leather seats, but I absolutely hate geo-mapping on the GPS systems. I don't know how many times it slowed me down to tell me not to drive in the fescue even though I was driving parallel to it 20 yards away.

Lawsonia had an older clubhouse and it certainly had a quaint feeling to it. That's not a bad thing. I did not look to see the prices they were charging for their merchandise.

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A quick note on my rating scale, because I'm going to be a bit lower at the beginning. A 5, which is average on my scale, I would be happy to play all the time. You get above that, and you're getting into courses that I want to play every day if I could, or courses I will travel for.  The course I normally play at is probably a 6, and I think the Denver courses I play top out at a 7, maybe 7.5. On the top end, I would give Pasatiempo an 8.5 or 9, Pinehurst #2 a 9.5, and Ballyneal a 10. That should give you some grounding for what my scale is like. I have a lot of courses that I would rate between a 3 and a 7, and beyond that, you’re getting something truly spectacular in either direction. With that said...

Lac La Belle - 5

Overall, I liked this course. Conditions were good. I loved a few of the holes, hated one, and the rest were pretty much fine. Although it was an easy walk, it wasn't friendly for push carts. I rented a rickshaw cart from the course and had issues multiple times with lack of paths and ropes getting caught on the wheels. For the actual golf, I thought holes 4, 11, and 16 really stood out. 4 was a medium length par 3, but the upper tier of the green was a punchbowl. The flag was on the upper tier of the green when we played, so I may not like it as much when the flag is somewhere else. The challenge was to hit a shot somewhere on that upper tier and then let the punchbowl do the work. 11 was a redan - hit your ball on the slope on the front of the green, and it will funnel it towards a back pin. It gave you the choice of going at the flag, trying to stop it close (greens were receptive enough that this was an option) or trying to bank a ball off the slope. 16 was a great par 5. Off the tee, you faced an uphill tee shot guarded by trees and bunkers short, and bunkers long. You decided how much trouble to take on with your tee shot. If you played it safe, you would have a 3 shot hole. If you played it aggressive and pulled it off, you could easily go for the green in 2. Then, the green complex was amazing. You could run a ball onto the top of the green and have it feed into the lower tier. The aggressive play going right at a pin on the lower tier meant you have bunkers short of the pin. These were 3 legitimately great holes in my book.

In addition to those highlights, I felt like the green complexes were really strong. The greens were large and tiered, and you really had to think about how to play your shots around the green. The course could play very different with different pin locations, which is always fun.

What puts the course down to average is that there was a lot of target golf holes. There were a few holes with trouble on both sides, a few holes that forced or strongly suggested a lay up off the tee. 12 was a particularly bad par 5, with a pond you can't see pinching in the fairway on the right and a pond in your lay up zone. Even though there were a few holes where it was probably the wrong play, I still hit driver on a lot of holes, but I was being more aggressive than I usually am. 

The price seemed a little high ($125 plus more if you want a cart) for the quality of the course, but beyond that issue, I would play this course again if I were in the area.

 

Lawsonia Links - 7.5

This is an absolute gem. My group ended up playing 36 holes here because we loved the course so much. On hole 8, we reserved a second tee time for the day so we could play it again. The highlight of this course was approaching the greens. The greens were elevated and fairly generous, but missing them was death, especially if you missed them in the wrong spots. The architects played with your depth perception and really challenged you to commit to a club and yardage while factoring in elevation change.  They were not minimalists at all, though, so if that's your thing, this course is not for you. They built up mounds to hide trouble from the tee boxes. I found it a lot of fun to get past the mounds for the reveals. I also enjoyed that you really had to commit to a line off the tee without a great visual aid. The landing areas were generous, but trouble was lurking if you didn't concentrate. The other cool thing about this course is that it gives you opportunity to use kickers and slopes near the green to funnel balls to the green on a lot of holes. @DaveP043 used one to great effect on the 2nd hole, when I’m not sure he could have gotten on the green otherwise. It gives you another option when approaching the green, and it also gives you a way to get to the green when you otherwise are too far away. They are really cool features.

It's hard to highlight holes here, because I liked almost all of them. I thought 7 was a great par 3. I would call it a longer version of a short hole. The green was elevated - they literally buried a boxcar to get the elevation - and anywhere off the green was a huge problem. The green was probably 30-40 feet above the surrounding ground. There were no bunkers; not that you needed it on this hole. I hit 8 irons both times I played it. You really had to have a solid hit and pay attention to your line to get it on the green. once you're on the green, you could have an easy 15 foot putt or a nasty putt from a different tier. It was tough, but rewarding if you played it correctly. The par 5s were also really good (with one exception; see below). They offered the opportunity to go for the green in 2 with the right line off the tee, but also had enough challenges to make you pay attention with your approach into the green. 9 was a really good par 5. It was a dogleg right, allowing you pick how aggressive you wanted to be with your tee shot. The more aggressive you were, the longer carry you had, but you could be rewarded with a shorter shot into the green. There were a lot of good holes out there, so highlighting these 2 seems unfair to the rest of them.

One hole did bug me – it’s not a bad hole, but it’s not a good one either. It was the second par 5 on the back 9, number 13. It was a long par 5, with a huge slope about 100 yards out from the green. There was a tier just below the green, about 50 yards short of the green. The issue I had was that I could anything from a 7 iron to a 3 wood and end up at the bottom of that slope, with a 100 yard blind shot. I hit a solid drive and good 3 wood the second time and still didn’t make it up the slope. Laying back didn’t seem like the best idea because you would have a downhill lie and be over 150 yards away. I don’t like that trade off just to see the flag. In the end, I didn’t think there was much reward in a great tee shot or great second shot – you end up in the same place. If you’re a really long hitter, you may be able to get it on that tier below the green. I’m well above average and had very little chance to get on that tier. And I was not playing it all the way back, either.

That is a minor quibble, though. I loved this course. I would go out of my way to play it again. If you play Sand Valley, or even find yourself with a free day around Milwaukee or Madison, I would strongly suggest seeking out this course. It is a fun course to play, and it has enough challenge to satisfy all golfers.

 

Mammoth Dunes – 8.5

Even though I’m rating this lower than Sand Valley, if you gave me one round between Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes, I would probably pick Mammoth Dunes. I had a blast playing there, and it’s a very gettable course. As others have mentioned, the scale of the course is immense. The fairways are the largest I’ve ever seen. The layout of the course is amazing – you’re weaving through and up and down the sand dunes, which are, unsurprisingly, mammoth-sized.

It’s hard to pick out a few holes to highlight, because I liked or loved basically all of them. 1 was a really cool opener. The fairway is huge, and the green is huge. The trick is hitting the right side of the fairway. It gives you a view of the pin, and an easy shot to a right pin with a little bowl to play it into. If you are on the left side of the fairway, you’re closer to the hole because slopes will kick your ball further forward. But your trade off is not being able to see the green on your approach. Great little nuance to start. 3 was my favorite par 5 out there. If you hit a good drive, the hole was short enough to go for the green. A pin on the right side of the green gives you the chance to just give it over a bunker in front of the green that will allow slopes to funnel the ball onto the green. I missed carrying the bunker by a yard, and I think I would have had an eagle putt within 20 feet with one yard further carry. I desperately want another try at that shot. There were a lot of holes like that, where there was one spot you could hit and be rewarded with a great look at birdie or eagle. But if you missed those spots, you were not dead like can you can be at other courses.

The flipside of that, though, is why I have Sand Valley rated a touch higher in the end. A lot of holes did not require you to pay close attention to your lines. There were generally lines that were better and offered greater reward, but there wasn’t much downside in missing them. In addition, I wasn’t a huge fan of hole 6, which had a banana-shaped green. I hit the middle-ish of the green with my second and had almost no chance to 2 putt. With where the hole was the day we played it, the play was long iron-wedge, which I really am not a fan of. I wouldn’t say it was a bad hole, though, because a different pin would make the hole play better than when we played it.

Overall, I was blown away by this course. I have only minimal complaints with it, and it’s a lot of fun to play. I think I could come back and break par out there, which only adds to the allure in my eyes.

 

Sand Valley – 9

We played this course twice, and I’m really happy we did that. I moved up a tee the second day and had a blast playing it. I appreciated it way more the second time through, seeing more nuances and different areas of the course. It is not quite as immense as Mammoth Dunes, but it’s still a massive course. The front 9 goes up and down a big hill, and then the back 9 is flatter, playing down in a valley. On this course, I also don’t think there was a bad hole. I wasn’t a fan of one hole, but that’s more personal preference than it truly being a bad hole. What pushes Sand Valley as better than Mammoth is Sand Valley requires your full attention the entire time you play the course. If you miss your line, you can be looking at bogey, or worse. It’s not a super punitive course, but it’s more rewarding than Mammoth Dunes. There’s a thinner line between birdie and bogey here. I think the course navigated that line well – you can make a lot of birdies out here, but you can also make a lot of doubles out here.

Again, it’s hard to highlight just a few holes. 1 is a nice, handshake opener. You have a massive fairway and can play it just long iron/hybrid and wedge. You can also hit your driver and get it on the green with a good shot. The green complex is interesting enough that you have to pay attention to your spin and what tier you want to be on. Fun opening hole, and I know a few of us had birdies on it. @cipher mentioned 8 before, and I thought it was an awesome hole. It’s a short hole that plays uphill, but it’s disastrous if you miss the green in a bad spot. I hit 8 iron and gap wedge into this hole and made 2 doubles because I missed the green both times. One of them was a good double, because I was absolutely dead with where my tee shot ended up.

The best hole on the entire property for my money was number 10. It’s a downhill par 5 that is reachable in 2, but if you want to reach in 2, you have to take on trouble. A tee shot on the right side of the fairway avoids a centerline bunker, but then requires you to hit over about 60 yards of sand short and right of the sand. A tee shot on the left has to navigate that center line bunker and find the smaller fairway on that side. But then you can have a 200-230 second shot without need to carry all of the sand short and right of the green. You can play it safely as a 3 shot hole, but you may struggle to make birdie even with a good wedge in depending on the pin placement.

12 is another great par 5. I thought it played better up a tee than from the back tees, though. From the back tees, you have about 100 yards of fairway to hit, and if you hit it, you probably can go for the green in 2 from anywhere. A shot on the left side gives you the shortest shot, so that’s the challenge from the back tees. From the one-up tees, a bunker cuts off the fairway from the center to the left side of the hole. You have to decide whether to hit 3 wood and come up short of the bunker, or hit a driver and try to thread a small amount of fairway to the right of the bunker. There’s also a grove of trees that you have to consider if you go that route. If you can keep it in the bunker, you will be rewarded with a mid-to-long iron into the green. A great hole either way.

The finishing stretch of 16-17-18 was spectacular. Others have talked about 18, so I won’t go into detail, except to say that it’s a good balance of a tough but scorable hole to end your round. 17 was a punchbowl green that played really long. But there was amble space to run a ball up, and the green can funnel balls towards the hole. You had to decide whether to hit a ball short of the green and use the slopes around the green to funnel the ball into the green, or try to get all the way to the green. Even though it was long, it was still a friendly enough hole. 16 was a stout par 4, but I really liked it. It was a dogleg left, with a centerline bunker. If you went right of the bunker, you had a really long shot into the green. If you went left of the bunker, you had a short iron or wedge into the green. On the first day, @iacas went right of the bunker and hit a 3 iron into the green (and made an incredible birdie). I went left of the bunker and hit an 8 iron into the green. On the second day, I (accidently) took a more aggressive line and had a pitching wedge into the green. It’s a tough hole, but a really cool one.

The only complaint I have is that a few of the holes people point to as great holes were kind of meh to me. 6 is one of the more famous holes there, and the goal is to make you think about what club to play off the tee for the best angle into the green. I thought that decision was too obvious both days. 7 annoyed me both days. It was a par 5, and I thought tee shots that were okay were punished too heavily. I missed my line by 10 yards on the second day and was rewarded with a giant bunker lip in my face. I was lucky to make par, and that was annoying since I barely missed my line with the tee shot. The hole does reward a great tee shot with a good look at the hole in 2, but I think it punishes okay tee shots too much.

Overall, it was a great course, and up there with the best courses I’ve played. I’m dreaming about getting back there.

 

Bonus – Sandbox: 10

I’m giving this rating as solely for par 3s. It was the best par 3 course I’ve ever played. It was a lot of fun to try to hit different shots on this course. The greens were wild, and allowed you play a variety of shots to get close. The greens included a homage to the road hole, a redan green, a biarritz green, and a Himalaya-style bunker. We played it every morning, and that was exactly the right thing to do. It was a great warm up and way to get used to the turf and sand conditions. You can make a lot of birdies, and a hole-in-one is a distinct possibility on many holes.

I had a blast playing this course. Do not miss it

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Sounds like you guys had a great time, I loved reading the reviews.

I'd love to hear about some of the best shots you guys hit out there, did anyone go super low compared to how they usually score?

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45 minutes ago, klineka said:

Sounds like you guys had a great time, I loved reading the reviews.

I'd love to hear about some of the best shots you guys hit out there, did anyone go super low compared to how they usually score?

We did some competitive stuff on the Sandbox and the last day I shot about as well as I possibly could.  I shot a 53(par 51) on the final day when we did a team competition. The Sandbox was just and absolute joy to play, and some of the pin positions were very tough to get. 

I shot an 80 at Mammoth which was low for me on the one day my driver was behaving, but was mostly mid to high 80s on the other days. I had a few hybrid(it's a 3 cranked down to a 2) shots that were probably my best shots. The par 5 number 18 on Mammoth to just before the green from about 250 out. Same thing on 10(par5) at SV from about the same distance to the front edge. I drilled my second shot on the par 5 number 7 at SV that rolled off the back of the green from 240-250 or so. Unfortunately it rolled into a deep bunker off the back where I took a double. 😂 I saw some pretty incredible shots and a couple low scores taken out there, but that is for those people to share that if they want.  It was just such an amazing time out there, I had so much fun. 176 holes over 6 days, others played even more than that over 5. 

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