Mike Keiser surveys Cabot Cliffs in the fall of 2013.
Courtesy of Cabot Links
By Josh Sens
Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The ground has not yet broken, but the big news has. Mike Keiser and David McLay Kidd will be teaming up again.

Confirmation came this week via Golf Advisor with word that the Bandon Dunes domo has enlisted Kidd to build the second course at Sand Valley, Keiser’s destination-in-the-making in Wisconsin.

Kidd got the nod when his proposed design was chosen over routings submitted by two other candidates, architect Tom Doak and the design duo of Rod Whitman and Dave Axland.

“David identified perhaps the most interesting part of our site and has routed the golfer through it in a very exciting way,” Keiser said. “I am truly looking forward to working with him again.”

The last time Keiser tapped Kidd for a job, the result was Bandon Dunes, the first course at Keiser’s southern Oregon resort of the same name. The course, which opened in 1999, gained near-immediate acclaim and set the Scottish-born Kidd toward architecture stardom. It also helped establish Keiser as a pioneer of a back-to-the-classics architecture movement that has since flourished in an otherwise struggling industry.

Since opening Bandon, Keiser has added four other courses on the property, three 18-holers and a 13-hole par three course, but Kidd was not the architect of any of them. For two of the designs (Bandon Trails and Bandon Preserve), Keiser turned instead to the architecture team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The other two jobs went to Doak, who took advantage by building Old MacDonald and Pacific Dunes, which soon surpassed Pebble Beach as the No. 1 course on Golf Magazine’s Top 100 You Can Play list.

In the intervening years, both Kidd and Keiser have remained busy, the latter with projects in Tasmania and Nova Scotia, the former with work in Scotland, Fiji, Nicaragua and central Oregon. Along the way, though, Kidd fell out of Keiser’s favor, landing on what one Keiser intimate called “the naughty list” for creating what critics called overly punishing designs, including Tetherow in Oregon and the Castle Course in Scotland. Those exacting layouts clashed with Keiser’s belief in courses built for the “retail golfer.”

“Mike made it clear he didn’t like what I was doing after I built Bandon Dunes,” Kidd told the Golf Advisor this week. “And his opinion had an impact on me.”

Reverting to a style more in line with his successful work at Bandon, Kidd immersed himself in building Gamble Sands in eastern Washington. A rollicking course with broad, rumpled fairways, Gamble Sands opened this year, revealing the efforts of a kinder, gentler Kidd and a layout, as the architect himself put it, that “emphasized fun.”

From Keiser’s perspective, the course proved a clincher. After playing Gamble Sands in September, he emailed Kidd, hailing the layout as a “grand slam homerun.”

With this new Wisconsin job, Keiser has handed Kidd a spectacular canvas, a dunescape spread across a natural sand deposit in the center of the state. A first course at Sand Valley, designed by Coore and Crenshaw, is already in the works, and slated to open in the summer of 2017. Kidd plans to start turning earth on the second course this spring, and expects play to begin in the summer of 2018.

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