As spring continues to break through the thick shell of an especially nasty winter, I circled the wagons of owners and architects who are—at the very least—rumored to be associated with new courses on the horizon.
Kohler moving ahead with a fifth championship golf course
Since Pete Dye told me he had just returned from a site visit to what would be the fifth course at American Club in Kohler, Wisc., the only 5-star golf resort in the Midwest has confirmed plans to utilize their land along Lake Michigan for more golf.
Kohler Co. officials appeared before the Wilson Town Board on April 7 and informed them that they planned on building a golf course on 247 acres where they originally envisioned a luxury wilderness retreat.
"He's been sitting on this property for years," said Dye, who told me there would be four holes on the water. Last week, when asked for an update, Dye told me there are no immediate plans to break ground. "There are a lot of things that need to happen," said Dye. "Times have changed. They still need lots of permits. Lots of approvals."
Dye has built the first four courses for Kohler's American Club, and says the proposed fifth course will be worthy of hosting a major championship. The Straits Course will host a third PGA Championship in 2015 and a Ryder Cup in 2020. Blackwolf Run hosted a U.S. Women's Open in 1998 and 2012.
Coore-Crenshaw's Sand Valley in Wisconsin progressing
Kohler's fifth course in Sheboygan is perceived to be a reaction to Mike Keiser's first course near Wisconsin Rapids, Sand Valley, being built be Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
Last week I reached Coore at the Madison airport, having just spent a few days in Wisconsin walking the property.
"It's all very good," said Coore, who had been to the site once before Keiser bought the land.
When I asked if there was any hint of Streamsong, Coore said: "The dunes are not that extreme."
Coore walked the property with Craig Haltom, who will oversee the construction of the course. It was Haltom who approached Keiser several years ago and pitched a golf destination on what was a prehistoric lake. Keiser passed at the time because he was busy building Cabot Links in Nova Scotia and expanding Bandon Dunes in Oregon.
Now, three years later, Coore says they're in early stages of developing a routing. Mike Keiser Jr. will be the project manager and Josh Lesnik, president of Kemper Sports, will consult with the Keisers on development, marketing and operations.
Keiser briefly considered a collaboration of Coore, Crenshaw and Tom Doak for the first course at Sand Valley. At this point, Lesnik still says Doak is the front-runner to build the second course at Sand Valley. The third course could go to David McLay Kidd, who built the first course at Bandon Dunes.
Streamsong mulling a new 18 holes, other resort additions
There's still a lot of talk about Streamsong adding a third course. Doak built the Blue and Coore-Crenshaw built the Red on phosphate mines in a remote portion of Central Florida. After hearing Michael Clayton and Geoff Ogilvy were on a short list of potential architects for a third course, I'm told Gil Hanse will be making a site visit in the near future. Hanse is busy building the Olympic course in Rio and after renovating the Blue Monster at Trump National Doral Miami, Hanse and his partner, Jim Wagner, are still busy working on the Red and Gold courses at the Miami resort.
Another possibility for Streamsong's third course is a recreation of an American classic. Josh Lesnik and Mike Keiser are scheduled to meet with Streamsong ownership in a month, where they will discuss the possibility of a partnership in C.B. Macdonald's original Lido Course.
Keiser has been looking for the right piece of land for what was once considered the best course in the country. George Bahto, who died March 18, was the owner of the original plans for the Lido, which was on Long Island and ultimately lost to the military in 1942. Bahto, who was 83, once told me the plans are so specific that on the right piece of property, a recreation could be exact. On the sand-based topography of Streamsong, where there's 16,000 acres dedicated to the golf resort, it could be a good fit and would be quite a tribute to both Macdonald and Bahto.
I'm told a short course and another pub are also being considered at Streamsong, which opened a 216-room lodge in January. Although I still prefer the food and the convenience of the 12 rooms at the original clubhouse, I recently had a blast bass fishing, which is only one of the new amenities available to resort guests. In two hours, I caught seven bass, all about five pounds. It's catch and release, no equipment required and the guides were great at what they do.
New for 2014, Streamsong is introducing a new variety of golf packages. Currently, golfers can book a one-night, 36-hole package with breakfast for $440 at StreamsongResort.com, valid thru May.
Update on 'Bandon Muni' in Oregon
On April 9, the Oregon Park and Rec Commission approved the idea of a land swap that would give access to the Gil Hanse-designed Bandon Municipal Golf Links. Although approval is good news for retail golfers, negotiations continue between Keiser and the commission on what they'll get in exchange for the land Keiser will use to build a sixth and eventually a seventh course along the Southwest Coast of Oregon. "The project is one step closer to reality," Keiser said in a statement released after the recent vote.
Keiser has always said both courses at Bandon Links would be his opportunity to give back to local golfers, offering significant discounts on green fees, as well as using the courses to develop a junior caddie mentor program. The site, 20 minutes south of Bandon Dunes, reminds Keiser of Pacific Dunes.
Cabot Cliffs, Nova Scotia
Before Bill Coore flew to Madison, Wis., and made the one-hour drive north to Wisconsin Rapids, he was meeting with his crew at Cabot Cliffs in Nova Scotia. The rough winter froze the land that needs clearing and shaping for the remaining 13 holes that will complete the second course at Cabot Links. Coore said that by the time he left there was some thawing and progress. By the fall, Coore said there's still the chance of limited preview play on the five holes that were sanded, shaped and grassed by the end of last year. If all goes as planned, there could be preview play on all 18 holes by fall of 2015, with a grand opening in the early summer of 2016.
When I was asked recently for my favorite oceanfront holes, I gave viewers of "Morning Drive" my top 5: The 16th at Cypress Point, eighth at Pebble Beach, 16th at Bandon Dunes, fourth and 13th at Pacific Dunes.
I also said that when Cabot Cliffs is done, several holes would be worthy of this list.
Video: Ginella heads to Cabot Cliffs with Coore & Crenshaw
Michigan's Forest Dunes shelves second 18 holes
One of my favorite remote destinations in America was only going to get better. Late last year, Tom Doak told me he had been asked by Forest Dunes' owner, Lew Thompson, to build a second course in Roscommon, Mich.
That project has officially been stalled, and Doak is understandably frustrated.
Keiser admitted that the confirmation of Doak building a second course at Forest Dunes affected his decision to ultimately hire Coore & Crenshaw to build the first course at Sand Valley. If the second course never happens at Forest Dunes, and Keiser either never builds a second course at Sand Valley, or goes with an alternate architect, Doak will be out two jobs at a time when new jobs in North America are scarce.
However, if the new Lido course ever gets built, Doak would be the obvious choice. He has extensive knowledge of Macdonald's template holes and along with former partner Jim Urbina, built Old Macdonald at Bandon Dunes, which was an homage to "the father of American golf architecture.