To say spring has sprung is an understatement.

A recent visit to Wisconsin was a stark reminder of how stunningly lush the Midwest becomes once the weather turns kinder. Thankfully, it doesn’t mean golf courses get mushy-soft. As a recent trip to multiple of the Badger State’s noteworthy golf places indicated, brilliant green grass can still be pleasingly firm underfoot. More on those resorts and their newest amenities, plus notes from the site of this month’s U.S. Open, below.

Sand Valley not slowing down anytime soon

Sedge Valley, Sand Valley Golf Resort’s newest course, opens officially on July 1, 2024.

A return to Sand Valley, the north-central Wisconsin resort run by Bandon Dunes caretaker Mike Keiser’s sons Michael and Chris for the first time since 2017 was eye-opening. Not only have multiple golf courses been built and opened – Mammoth Dunes, The Sandbox and Lido, namely – in that interval but more are on the way. Sedge Valley, a new 6,300-yard, par-68 bantamweight beauty by Tom Doak, opens on July 1; stay tuned for our full review. There is also an awful lot of fresh sand being sculpted along the entrance road and it’s starting to look an awful lot like more golf…stay tuned for more on that front.

Other amenities continue to sprout up across the resort. The Gallery, a restaurant that occupies part of the building that will also serve Sedge Valley, serves up thoughtful Italian fare; we can vouch for the chicken parmigiana and look forward to returning for some wood-fired pizza. Coming soon, a new smoker-plus-seating called Bill’s BBQ will reside beside the first tee of The Sandbox short course. We also had the chance to stay in one of the resort’s new Mammoth Conservancy cottages on a secluded hilltop beside the Mammoth Dunes course.

Five* new greens and many more new rooms at Geneva National

Geneva National’s new Fairway Suites overlook the 18th hole on the resort’s Gary Player course, with a glimpse of Lake Como beyond.

Located in southern Wisconsin’s tony Lake Geneva region, the 54-hole Geneva National is becoming more and more of a full-fledged golf resort all the time. 2024 has brought the introduction of 32 “Fairway Suites,” well-appointed and spacious accommodations that overlook the 18th hole on the (Gary) Player course.

On the resort’s Palmer course, four greens have been heavily reworked under the supervision of architect Brandon Johnson, who was part of the former Arnold Palmer Design Company team before hanging his own shingle earlier this year. The putting surfaces in question were severe to the point of near-impossible, with few workable pin positions and many colorful comments from guests and members. Johnson also helped remediate the course’s woeful first hole, which would greet players with a forced layup and forced carry over a creek to one of the four offending greens. Piping the stream underground has opened up the playing corridor considerably for a friendlier start.

Geneva National also has a new putting course, The Dance Floor, centrally located beneath its airy hilltop clubhouse. Architect Craig Haltom fashioned a fascinatingly lumpy challenge for all golfers.

Pinehurst: The new World Golf Hall of Fame, No. 2 intel and a truly excellent caddie

Now curated by the USGA, the World Golf Hall of Fame has returned to Pinehurst.

We had a great recent Pinehurst junket to U.S. Open Media Day, parlayed with a round on the new No. 10 course by Tom Doak. In between, we had a wander through the new World Golf Hall of Fame, which is now curated by the U.S.G.A. Much smaller than the unwieldy and lightly-attended St. Augustine version, the new one is both bright and tasteful, and focuses on the previous iteration’s best feature: individual lockers devoted to each of the Hall’s current 176 members. Located conveniently on the walk between The Carolina, Pinehurst’s flagship hotel, and the main golf complex, it’s well worth a visit.

If May was any indication, expect somewhat lower scores in the 2024 U.S. Open than a decade ago, when Martin Kaymer ran away with the tournament as the only player to finish under par for the week. Spring has been fairly wet, and No. 2’s greens were surprisingly receptive during our round. A sustained dry spell and some aggressive maintenance practices could certainly bake it out and lead to more carnage, but our hunch is that it will be a slightly kinder course this time around. That said, the off-fairway areas of sand and wire grass are a little more treacherous than even during our July 2022 visit.

Finally, we wanted to shout out an exceptional Pinehurst caddie named Brent, alias “Sunshine.” Possibly the best reader of greens our Tim Gavrich has encountered so far on his travels.

Saving around St. Andrews?

Old Tom Morris used the lay of the land to create his links course at Crail just outside of St. Andrews.

Green fees continue to rise across Scotland and Ireland, but one charming and historic club just south of St. Andrews remains a relative bargain. Tim Gavrich’s father, Larry, recently returned from an annual golf trip centered around Crail Golfing Society’s two courses. Whereas a single round at The Old Course is £320 and a round at modern gem Kingsbarns will set golfers back £418 in peak season, Crail offers golfers a “day ticket” – a round each on its century-plus-old Balcomie Links and the more modern, early Gil Hanse-designed Craighead Links – for just £220.

If you should fall in love with Crail as the elder Gavrich has, overseas membership might be an even better bargain on a cost-per-round basis if you can swing it. At £320, it entitles members to as many as 16 total rounds per year – eight on each golf course. The well-kept secret of overseas memberships at Crail and other clubs has gotten out in recent years; Crail’s is currently on a waitlist.

Travel Tip: Bundling not just for streaming services

There’s strength in numbers, especially where golf clubs are concerned. Senior Writer Tim Gavrich always wraps a towel or two around his clubs where the clubheads protrude from the bag. In line with the fact that it’s harder to tear a phonebook than a scorecard, it’s harder to break a club when it’s swaddled with its fellows.

Stuffing the excess towel material in around your clubheads should also help dampen any impacts caused by abusive baggage handlers…

GolfPass welcomes your thoughts on your latest travels. Click here to reach out with any tips you pick up on your travels, or to submit a question for a future ‘Ask GolfPass’ mailbag.

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