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Keiser Plans 'Bandon-esque' Golf Resort in Wisconsin


Mike Keiser, the spearhead behind the wildly successful golf resort on the Pacific Ocean in Bandon, Ore., is now setting his sights on 1,500 acres of sand dunes in Adams County, Wis.

The site about 15 miles south of Wisconsin Rapids, a town of about 18,000 in the central part of the state, is on the bottom of a prehistoric lake that evolved into a sand barren.

Keiser's plans for the land are to build up to four golf courses and lodging, making "Sand Valley" a destination for golfers. Wisconsin is already home to Kohler Company's two 36-hole resorts - Whistling Straits near Sheboygan and the American Club in Kohler, as well as Erin Hills near Hartford, the host site of the 2017 U.S. Open.

"(Sand Valley) would make Wisconsin the best summertime place for golf in the world," Keiser told reporter Gary D'Amato of Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel.

If all goes well with permitting, construction on the first course could begin in 2014 and open for play in 2016 or '17. The Oliphant Companies, a Madison-based golf construction and management firm, will build the courses on a site blessed with sand 100 feet deep.

The proposal involves harvesting tens of thousands of red pine trees on the property, exposing the sand and creating courses that remind Keiser of the famed Pine Valley in New Jersey.

"We're going to restore it to sand barren," Oliphant vice president Greg Haltom told D'Amato. "Globally, that's a rare ecosystem."

Keiser added that environmental groups should have no problems getting behind having the site returned to its natural state, noting that "this will be the biggest restoration of a sand barren ever tried."

Keiser is considering Tom Doak, David McLay Kidd and the team of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to design the initial Sand Valley course. Each of the architects designed courses at Bandon Dunes.

Green fees are expected to be in the $125-150 range; Keiser is still deciding whether to make Sand Valley - like Bandon Dunes - walking-only, although caddies will certainly be part of the playing experience.

He's also uncertain about the size of the development, saying that the success of the first course will determine the resort's ultimate scope. "We won't find out until the golfers come or do not come and then return or do not return," Keiser told D'Amato.

"If they don't like Pine Valley in Wisconsin, there will be one course."

For D'Amato's full Journal Sentinel story, visit http://www.jsonline.com/sports/golf/golf-course-visionary-plans-resort-near-wisconsin-rapids-b99145788z1-232685361.html.