In the News
OCONOMOWOC – Perhaps you knew it as Lac La Belle Country Club, a once-prosperous private club that, like many private clubs of a certain vintage, struggled with a dated business model, took on too much debt – much of it for an expensive clubhouse renovation – and had no choice but to sell.
Maybe you played it in subsequent incarnations as Rolling Hills Country Club and La Belle Golf Club, which despite the good intentions of its owners struggled for market share in a region saturated with golf options ranging from high-end private clubs to affordable municipal facilities.
When Craig Haltom landed in Madison, Wisconsin, after completing a landscape architecture program in Scotland, he did what no job searcher would do today.
He opened up the Yellow Pages and called the only golf management company in the phone book. That was 2001.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It’s hard to blame Brooks Koepka for not knowing much about the man whose record he’s chasing. For decades, pretty much everyone forgot about him.
His name is Willie Anderson. And though Anderson will never be confused with Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, his accomplishment back in 1905 — winning his third consecutive U.S. Open — is something nobody has been able to match.
When funds are tight, it becomes even more important that any windfall is not wasted, but rather gives as much bang for the buck as possible. And, even after a brief look at Stevens Point Country Club, it’s not hard to agree that they have done exactly that.
Designed originally by architect Larry Packard, Stevens Point, located in central Wisconsin, looked a lot like many other mid-century layouts - wall to wall green, from grass and trees. But, like so much of this part of Wisconsin, Stevens Point is built on sand, and that proved to be its saving grace when it lost a large portion of its tree stock because of the use of the DuPont herbicide Imprelis.
Stevens Point is now managed by Oliphant Golf, and that fact meant that Oliphant partner Craig Haltom, a young man trying to develop his reputation as a golf architect, saw a lot of the course. Haltom, who found the property later developed by Mike Keiser as Sand Valley (the Craig’s Porch snack hut at Sand Valley is named for him.) The settlement of the Imprelis legal case meant Stevens Point was in line for a substantial windfall: Haltom proposed to the members spending some of the money on a radical project involving taking out further trees, completely rebunkering the course and turning a traditional parkland course into something far rougher around the edges, with exposed sand and large bunkers dominating the view.
When you Wisconsin, think golf. Indeed, think great golf. Already home to acclaimed courses such as Whistling Straits and Erin Hills, Wisconsin is now home to Mammoth Dunes, Golf Inc. magazein’s 2019 Development of the Year first-place winner.
Mammoth Dunes is the latest addition to Sand Valley Golf Resort, the Mike Keiser development in central Wisconsin built on isolated, dune-peppered land carved out by glaciers.
Sand Valley was not Keiser's dream. It was that of Craig Haltom, at one time a golf-course shaper (now a partner with his old boss, Mike Oliphant, in a firm called Oliphant-Haltom Golf). Haltom wanted to design and build his own course, and he scoured Wisconsin searching for the perfect site. More than a decade ago, he discovered an unharvested pine plantation southeast of tiny Nekoosa and 108 miles north of Madison: 1,500 acres of red pines, planted in rows, running up and down enormous hills that reached up to 80 feet high. With pure sand beneath, deposited eons ago by a glacial lake, it was ideal for golf—nothing supports the game better than a deep strata of sand offering perfect drainage and firm turf. Haltom had not nearly enough money to purchase the land, so he sought an investor, eventually Keiser among the prospects. Keiser first saw the property in 2013.
Soaring sand dunes flank the winding entrance to Sand Valley and then the golf course appears – a moonscape of sand blowouts, jagged ridges and green fairways snaking to the horizon.
Are you in Montana? Idaho? Abu Dhabi?
None of the above. You’re in the sand barrens of central Wisconsin, near the Town of Rome, which is not to be confused with its namesake in Italy. You’re about as far removed from civilization as a golfer can get. And as close to heaven.
The massive makeover of the CC of Beloit into The Beloit Club and the financial turnaround that followed it are starting to gain recognition nationally.
The club received the first-place honor for most improved among private clubs from Golf Inc. magazine. It was one of 10 courses recognized by the magazine in its November/December issue for improved business operations and customer amenities in an increasingly difficult financial climate.
“The amount of trees that had to be cut down was a loss, but it started a conversation that is leading to what we think will be some exciting changes,” said Haltom. “It’s not a small project and very ambitious, but the memberships has been very supportive.”
Haltom said the renovation is the first major work on the course, located at 1628 Country Club Drive in Stevens Point, in decades. After receiving its state charter in 1925, a nine-hole course was completed at the club in 1927 followed by the expansion to an 18-hole course in 1965.