Sand Valley's addition to the Wisconsin golf landscape has created a buzz far and wide since its first 18 holes opened two years ago, but the world-class golf resort south of Wisconsin Rapids took it one step further this month.
Its original layout, designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore debuted at No. 18 in Golf Digest's biennial rankings of "America's 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses" released this week. In addition, Sand Valley's second championship layout — Mammoth Dunes, which opened last May — came in at No. 27, giving Wisconsin five courses among the magazine's top 30.
The Straits Course at Whistling Straits in Haven, north of Sheboygan, flipped spots with The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C., and moved up one spot to No. 3. It trails only Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links, site of this year's U.S. Open, and Pacific Dunes — the second course built at Bandon Dunes, the oceanside golf resort in Oregon built by Sand Valley owner Mike Keiser.
"Pete Dye transformed a dead flat abandoned army air base along a two-mile stretch of Lake Michigan into an imitation Ballybunion at Whistling Straits, peppering his rugged fairways and windswept greens with 1,012 (at last count) bunkers," the magazine wrote of the Straits layout. "It has too much rub-of-the-green for the comfort levels of many tour pros, two dozen of whom will tackle the Straits again in the 2020 Ryder Cup."
Erin Hills near Milwaukee (No. 9) and The River Course at Blackwolf Run in Kohler (No. 15) maintained their positions from the 2017-18 ranking.
Both layouts at Sand Valley debuted ahead of many high-profile championship layouts. The Crenshaw/Coore Course ahead of 2015 U.S. Open venue Chambers Bay in Washington, The Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii (another Crenshaw/Coore layout) and Harbour Town Golf Links in Hilton Head, S.C., while the David McLay-Kidd-designed Mammoth Dunes Course moving ahead of such public-access stalwarts as The Greenbriar in West Virginia, 2008 U.S. Open venue Torrey Pines South near San Diego and The Broadmoor's East Course in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Wisconsin wasn't done there.
The Irish Course at Whistling Straits moved up two spots to No. 43 while SentryWorld dropped 10 spots to No. 44. However, the magazine noted that SentryWorld — winner of Golf Digest's first "Best New Course" honor when it opened in 1984 — had never appeared in its every-other-year compilation of America's top 100 public courses until 2017 when it became the highest-debuting course since the ranking's inception in 2003 at No. 34 following an ambitious redesign led by Bruce Charlton and Middleton native Jay Blasi.
The Meadow Valleys Course at Blackwolf Run moved up three spots to No. 56 while the Links Course at the Golf Courses of Lawsonia in Green Lake inched up one spot to No. 57. That gave Wisconsin nine courses in Golf Digest's top 60 and, with Troy Burne GC in Hudson at No. 69, there were 10 in the top 70.
Golf Digest's state-by-state list of the top courses is due for its biennial update next month. Here is what it looked like in 2017.