Sand Valley resides in the middle of nowhere Wisconsin. Miles and miles of trees and corn and farm with nary a sand dune in sight. However, as you enter the resort, the sand seems to bubble out of the ground and golf comes to the forefront of your mind.
The first and tenth holes of the Coore/Crenshaw course are elevated tee shots right below Craig's Porch (clearly modeled after Ben's Porch at Sand Hills) and you launch the balls into the stratosphere and watch them land in the various fairways or sandy blowouts around the course and you are off!
The amount of elevation gain and losses at this course is impressive. There is an uphill par 5 modeled after the first hole at Sand Hills which just keeps going up and up. There are several holes (a very fun short par 4 and this incredible downhill par 3) that almost encourages you to job down the hill given the slope.
The use of the natural sandy soil and Coore and Crenshaws shaggy bunkers is in full effect at Sand Valley and the sand seems to be eating away at the fairways.
The sand is very playable to play out of which is good news because dollars to donuts you will be in the sand several times during the round. One of my few small critiques of the course is in fact that there is too much sand and the fairways are shaved and angled to throw balls into the sand, even well struck shots.
The fairways and greens were in fantastic shape and allow a golfer to hit a variety of shots, either bump and running shots or high-arching approach shots. Once you gain the green, they are some of the hardest, fastest running greens I have ever played.
The stimpmeter must have been reading 14 over the few days I played the course and the putts will run forever on the course. As the course matures, so will the greens so I imagine they will soften up some for the heavy resort play that is sure to come but be confident in your flatstick or you will be in trouble!
The course reminded me a lot of Sand Hills in Nebraska and it was if SH married the Pinehurst region and the baby they had was Sand Valley. The topography is outrageous and C&C do their best to incorporate it into their minimalist routing and also crazy design elements like the 17th hole (which is a par 3 that plays over 200 yards with rolling hills obscuring 2/3rds of the flag stick).
The 18th is one of my favorite holes. A par 5 that goes up a hill which can be easily reached in 3 shots and gives you a great last look at the course while you are climbing the hill. It is like the mirror reverse image of 18 at Sand Hills which plays as a par 4 but I will take the one extra shot here any day.
I would be remiss in mentioning the "resort" aspect of Sand Valley Resort.
There is a hotel, several lodge buildings and a restaurant. All of the facilities are top notch with the rooms really well appointed, the food really well cooked and the staff all brimming with midwestern friendliness. The resort is still very new so the food selections are a little limited but overall you will enjoy your stay not just the golf.
After a great time at Sand Valley, pull up an Adirondack chair at Craig's Porch and take a load off.
Overall, Sand Valley offers a golfer as much challenge as they want to chew on and even if the course and sand beats you up, you are eager to play it again because of the beauty and serenity offered by the course. The resort is top notch and is a cut above almost every hotel I have ever stayed at. As the course matures, it should soften up some and allow for the average high handicapper to have a really fun day in the sand nature of Rome Wisconsin.
Can't wait to go back!
For more information about Sand Valley check out the link: http://www.sandvalleygolfresort.com/sand-valley/