News that David McLay Kidd has been selected to design the second course at Sand Valley in Rome, Wis., comes as little surprise. Property owner/developer Mike Keiser, who succeeded spectacularly with Kidd on the first course at his Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, is now handing the Scottish-born designer a chance to enter into the front ranks of American design.
That’s because of the high-profile nature of the site, some 1,500 acres of rolling, pine-sprinkled sand dunes, 75 miles north of Madison, Wis. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw already are at work on Sand Valley’s first course, which is likely to open in 2017.
Kidd, Tom Doak and the design team of Rod Whitman and Dave Axland each submitted proposed routings for the second course. Keiser, who launched Kidd’s solo career at Bandon Dunes 20 years ago, walked each of the routings with investors last month.
“David identified perhaps the most interesting part of our site and has routed the golfer through it in a very exciting way,” Keiser said in a news release. “I truly am looking forward to working with him again.”
The key for Kidd will be to stick to his rediscovered appreciation of fun, playable golf, best illustrated by his his most recent work at Gamble Sands in Brewster, Wash., where he built a playable and aesthetically pleasing layout.
Golfweek colleague Martin Kaufmann documented Kidd’s rediscovery of the fun factor in golf design (Golfweek, July 18, 2014) – this after developing a reputation for building some of golf’s most difficult layouts. At Gamble Sands and other recent designs, Kidd illustrated that he has re-embraced the simple, elegant ground-hugging elements that made Bandon Dunes such a success when it debuted in 1999.
It’s the kind of approach that will suit the land at Sand Valley well, because it’s not terrain with breathtaking views or oceanfront land. It’s basic Middle American land, with the local market defined by vacationing Midwesterners who are comfortable traveling in an RV and relaxing with a beer or three on their fishing boat. They already love their golf, though there’s nothing quite like Sand Valley out there for them – walkable, a bit on the rugged side, wide open and with windswept shot-making over a vast playing surface.
Kidd’s links upbringing will be ideal for the site. The trick will be for Kidd’s course to look and feel different enough from the Coore-Crenshaw venture to draw appreciation on its own. They managed this at Bandon. There’s every reason to think they can do it again at Sand Valley.