New course openings slow, but some blockbusters are on tap for 2018

Sage Valley Sage Run

New course openings slow, but some blockbusters are on tap for 2018

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New course openings slow, but some blockbusters are on tap for 2018

In 2018, the golf industry will see the continuation of a trend that has played out in recent years. We won’t see the addition of many new courses, but those we do see will be ambitious projects with compelling stories.

Those include the second course at Sand Valley Golf Resort, an addition to the TPC Network, a 22-hole layout and a do-over for Pete Dye on a project in which he was involved more than 50 years ago.

Here’s a look at the five new U.S. courses I’m most interested in seeing in 2018.

Sage Run, Harris, Mich.

Island Resort & Casino on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula already is home to Sweetgrass Golf Club, a highly rated Paul Albanese design. The resort wanted to give its lucrative golf customers a reason to stay an extra day or two, so it brought back Albanese to build a second course, Sage Run, on markedly different topography a few miles from the resort.

Get used to hearing the term “drumlin” often in connection with Sage Run. A drumlin – a hill shaped by glacial drift – is Sage Run’s dominant feature, creating a counterpoint to Sweetgrass, which has little elevation change. Albanese said he was given a huge swath of land on which to build and immediately was drawn to that landform.

“The drumlin made it easier to create something memorable,” Albanese said. “You’ve got something to respond to and inspire you. It kind of narrowed down the design choices because you knew you had this great feature, and then it was just a question of how to incorporate it into the design in the most creative, effective way.”

During construction, Albanese flipped the nines to create a more dramatic finish. Now the 15th and 18th holes (formerly Nos. 6 and 9) will play westward from roughly 150 feet of elevation.

“That is one of the best views you get of the course as you’re finishing up and you’re looking dead west,” he said.

Mammoth Dunes, Nekoosa, Wis.

The second course might be the most anticipated opening of 2018 because of all the attention Sand Valley Golf Resort already has received and the fact that it is being developed by the Keiser family, which gave us Bandon Dunes Golf Resort. The first course, by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, opened this year and finished at No. 15 on the just-released list of Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses.

Mammoth Dunes, from architect David McLay Kidd, has the prime position on property, beginning and ending next to the clubhouse. (The first course is several hundred yards away.) And Kidd chose to build on more dramatic terrain, dominated by an 80-foot-high, V-shaped ridge that players first encounter when they walk off the third green, then play around and across the rest of the way.

Kidd has been one of the game’s most vocal proponents of building more-playable courses, and Mammoth Dunes, with its sweeping fairways and large greens, might be his best expression of that concept. Kidd has described the property as “the best inland site I’ve ever seen,” and suggested Mammoth Dunes might be his best work. Given that he already has two courses ranked among the top 14 on Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses list, he’s clearly not concerned about downplaying expectations.

Ohoopee Match Club, Cobbtown, Ga.

Architect Gil Hanse developed an alternative-design concept for this new private club located 75 miles west of Savannah. He built 22 holes, 18 of which form a traditional layout. The four additional holes are part of a shorter layout that Hanse envisions members playing in the afternoons.

That afternoon routing would include the four extra holes. It also would entail playing the long par-4 sixth and the par-5 11th as drivable par 4s.

“It gives you the option in the afternoon to play a 6,100-yard or 5,900-yard course, par 68, that’s shorter to walk and easier to get around, but still creates interesting holes,” Hanse said. “It creates options for the guy who’s there because it’s a destination place.”

For Hanse, also a proponent of building more-playable courses, this is another example of enhancing “the fun equation.”

The Links at Perry Cabin, St. Michaels, Md.

This property on Maryland’s Eastern Shore has an interesting history. Architect Pete Dye worked on the original design in the early 1960s with his brother Roy “Andy” Dye. At that time, it was known as Harbor Town – not to be confused with the far more famous Harbour Town Golf Links that Pete later built in Hilton Head Island, S.C. The original work had some of the signature Pete Dye characteristics, including an island green with railroad ties, that we would see throughout his career.

The Dye family bills this as a “mulligan,” with Pete and wife Alice working with their son, P.B., on a re-creation of the site. The course will be open to members and guests of the Inn at Perry Cabin.

TPC Colorado, Berthoud, Colo.

Architect Art Schaupeter first walked this property, located 45 miles north of Denver, more than a decade ago and drafted various sets of plans. But the project, developed by Heron Lakes Investments LLC, was stalled by the soft economy. Work finally began in earnest in 2015, the TPC Network got on board and construction was completed about six weeks ago. It should be ready for play by mid-2018.

It’s a wide-open layout over rolling, high-desert terrain, with no trees on 17 holes. Schaupeter said he adopted a “Scottish theme,” with some stacked sod-wall pot bunkers. Water is only in play on three holes. The back tees will measure 7,991 yards, but Schaupeter said he managed to incorporate three reachable par 4s. To emphasize playability, he also built two sets of tees less than 5,000 yards.

“It’s a spectacular site,” Schaupeter said. “There are three very large reservoirs on the eastern boundary. I think it has about 2 miles of shoreline. So you look over the water, right at the mountains, right up against the foothills, and everything is oriented west with the great views of the Front Range.”

(Note: This story appears in the Dec. 18. 2017 issue of Golfweek.)

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