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.
Madison-based Oliphant Golf Management assumed the operation of The Golf Courses of Lawsonia on a lease arrangement effective March 1, the Green Lake Conference Center announced.
The Golf Courses of Lawsonia -- the Links and Woodlands -- will remain public courses, with annual memberships and daily play available as in the past.
Oliphant also will oversee Lawsonia's pro shop and restaurant operation. Formerly known as the Caddyshack, the restaurant's name has been changed to Langford's Pub after Links Course designer William Langford.
Jeff Kleinke, the director of golf, and Nick Lueptow, the restaurant manager, will continue to manage the pro shop and restaurant business.
"I am excited to see Lawsonia as a whole benefit from the expertise and the passion of The Oliphant Companies for creating outstanding golf experiences," Ben Mott, president of the Green Lake Conference Center, said in a news release.