Planting your peg on the first tee of a great new course is like waking up on Christmas morning. You may have some idea about the gifts that await, but the surprise is half the fun. As each hole unfolds, it’s akin to unwrapping one present at a time. Each hole, and course, is different, and that’s what makes it so enjoyable. As the calendar year comes to a close, GOLF.com will unveil its best of the best when it comes to new courses of 2018. Check the December 2018 issue of GOLF magazine for the full lineup.
On the tee: The best new course of the year
Mammoth Dunes at Sand Valley
6,935 yards / par 73
Architect David McLay Kidd faced a tall order when tasked with creating the second course at Central Wisconsin’s Sand Valley Golf Resort. After all, its Coore/Crenshaw–designed track, Sand Valley, captured our Best New Course You Can Play award in 2017 and ranked No. 52 in the U.S. among all courses. How do you match or possibly top that? Easy. You craft a layout that checks every box—from its distinctive, sand-based setting and joy-filled appeal for both low- and high-handicappers, to its plethora of individually memorable, strategy-laced holes that unfurl on a massive scale.
Hewn from restored sand barrens speckled with native vegetation and perimeter trees, Mammoth Dunes plays like an inland links, with emphasis on the ground game. The ball darts here and there, and it’s up to the player (and perhaps his caddie, on this walking-only course) to solve the puzzles the contours present. Enormously roomy, rumpled fairways allow golfers to choose their own path to the target, amid vast areas of open sand and gargantuan greens. While the landing areas are plenty wide, finding the spot that provides the most advantageous angle into the green is paramount.
The drama soars at the drivable 332-yard, par-4 sixth, which wows with a gigantic sand feature short and right, and a horseshoe-shaped green. The top postcard moment arrives at the shortest (90-150 yards) hole, the 13th, which plays across a chasm of sand 50 feet deep to a narrow green that stretches 50 yards front to back. Kidd’s current design credo is to deliver maximum fun and minimal frustration. After what you’ve accomplished at Sand Valley, here’s looking at you, Kidd.