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 short course of the year
The Sandbox At Sand Valley
1,652 Yards, Par 51
The Sandbox at Sand Valley Golf Resort continues the trend of recently built par-3 courses that are family-friendly but compelling for all. Architects Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, together with developer Mike Keiser, pioneered the “odd number of holes” concept at Bandon Dunes with their brilliant 13-hole, par-3 Preserve spread. There are 17 holes here and they’re all worthy. Designed to be tackled with just a few clubs, the holes unfold over a sandy tract dotted with native scrub and situated next to the resort’s lodge, so it’s extremely convenient to access—and inspiring to play.
Coore, Crenshaw, associate Jim Craig and the Keiser family peppered the layout with wild, funky contours. Some holes pay homage to C.B. Macdonald classics and others are pure originals. The longest hole is 149 yards from the Crenshaw tees, but from a set of shorter Coore tees, 104 yards is the max. There’s even a set of tees that encourages the use of only a putter. Good players are engaged by the imaginative contours and beginners by the scenery and relative lack of obstacles. After one season, it’s clear: Golfers of every skill level dig the Sandbox.