Keiser launches resort project in Wisconsin

Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis-St. Paul are within a four-hour radius of Sand Valley.

Mike Keiser is at it again.

The founder of Bandon Dunes Golf Resort has finalized plans to build a golf resort on a sandy site in central Wisconsin. Architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who built Bandon Trails for Keiser, have been hired to design the first course, with work scheduled to begin when the snow melts this spring. Keiser wants the first course to be open by spring 2016.

The first course and resort will be named Sand Valley. At least four courses are planned for the site. Keiser purchased 1,400 acres and has an option for an additional 700 acres, according to his son, Michael Jr., who is working on the project with his father.

Unlike Keiser’s other projects – Bandon Dunes and Cabot Links in Nova Scotia – Sand Valley is not located on the water. It is near the Wisconsin River, but not on it. Despite that fact, Keiser Sr. isn’t downplaying expectations.

In an email announcing the launch of Sand Valley, he said, “I really tried to resist this project, but within 30 minutes of being on site, I was hooked. It is a thrilling dunescape – a cross between Pine Valley and Sand Hills.”

Rather than water, Keiser Jr. said “what we have are oceans of sand and grass. I think it’s a similar experience to when you’re at Sand Hills, and you just see oceans of grass that’s blowing and moving, like it’s almost alive.”

The nearest town to Sand Valley is Rome, Wis., about a 20-minute drive south of Wisconsin Rapids. It is about a mile from Lake Petenwell, a man-made, 23,000-acre lake that forms the hub of a popular summer resort area.

Keiser has never been dissuaded by a remote location if he thought the site lent itself to a compelling golf experience.

“When you compare it to Bandon, the closest major city is Portland, which is a small city four hours away,” Keiser Jr. said. “If you draw a four-hour radius around our site, you have Chicago, Milwaukee, Madison, Minneapolis-St. Paul. So we think it’s far closer to golfers than anything we’ve done, ever.”

Keiser Jr. said the goal is to “create an experience like Bandon, but in this totally unique ecosystem in Wisconsin.” He said there were no concerns about starting a big golf development project in the midst of a weak economy and stagnant golf participation.

“We’ve seen Bandon bounce back and beyond,” Keiser Jr said. “Our dream is that if we build something good enough, people will have fun playing and will want to come. There will always be demand from golf enthusiasts, golf purists.

“A lot of golf that’s been hurting the past couple of years is all real estate driven, but the pure golf enthusiasts will still go to the ends of the earth to find something great, to find something unique and often to find something new.”

Keiser will be involved in openings of a new course for the next five years starting with Cabot Cliffs in 2015, Sand Valley in 2016, Bandon Links (the municipal course south of Bandon) in 2017, the second course at Sand Valley in 2018 and the second course at Bandon Links in 2019.

– Alex Miceli contributed to this report

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