Sand Valley resurrecting The Lido Golf Club in Wisconsin
NEKOOSA, Wis. (AP) — A classic old golf course — The Lido — is being resurrected 1,000 miles from the original with the assistance of a video game and GPS-guided tractors.
The Lido at Sand Valley Golf Resort in central Wisconsin is perhaps the most ambitious project the golf course-developing Keiser family has undertaken. They aim to make an exact recreation of the original course on Long Island, New York, down to bunker positioning, fairway contours, even directional orientation.
All that will be missing is the Atlantic Ocean.
The original The Lido Golf Club opened in 1917 and was considered in the same company as Royal Dornoch, Ballybunion, Pine Valley Shinnecock and National Golf Links as among the best golf course designs in the world. The course was designed by architect C.B. Macdonald and included three holes inspired by entries in a golf architecture design competition in Country Life magazine. One contest winner was Alister MacKenzie, considered one of the greatest golf architects ever.
The Lido fell into disrepair during the Great Depression and closed when the land was taken over by the U.S. Navy during World War II.
It has since become the holy grail of lost golf courses, dubbed “The greatest course you’ll never play” by Golf Channel.
“It was up there in thin air,” said Michael Keiser, who is leading the Wisconsin project with his brother Chris.
Because the original course had to be manufactured — 2 million cubic yards of sand were brought in to fill marshes on Long Island — extensive plans were filed then, providing lots of detail about the design.
Michael and Chris’ father, Mike Keiser, who developed Bandon Dunes along the Oregon coast, had wanted to replicate The Lido after reading George Bahto’s C.B. Macdonald biography, “The Evangelist of Golf.”
After consulting with Bahto, Keiser considered resurrecting it with the Old Macdonald Course at Bandon Dunes before deciding to make that an homage to Macdonald and construction engineer Seth Raynor. A similar homage to The Lido, Ballyshear Golf Links, was designed by Gil Hanse and recently opened in Thailand at The Ban Rakat Club.
The Keisers’ idea of recreating The Lido was abandoned until Michael began digging around for information on the old course that had intrigued his father.
“During COVID, I went down one of these rabbit holes of studying the Lido and convincing myself that it was as good as some of the people saw and thought it was,” he said.
Peter Flory, a financial consultant and part-time golf historian, had created a detailed version of The Lido using the video game The Golf Club. Flory pored through photos and other historical information, creating a digital duplicate that turned into the blueprint for replication.
And the Keiser Family already had what they thought was the perfect spot to attempt the recreation.
Sand Valley was built on dunes that were once the bottom of a glacial lake. The terrain was good for the earth moving and shaping needed to resurrect The Lido.
The Keisers enlisted Tom Doak and Brian Schneider to build the course to exact specifications, using GPS-guided tractors that can grade down to the millimeter.
“What Tom and Brian do is they have these great routings on beautiful pieces of property where they don’t have to do a whole lot,” Michael Keiser said. “They have to touch every square inch here. It’s this high-intensity creative focus over every square inch.”
The Lido is being built just north of Sand Valley and Mammoth Dunes, among high-level courses in Wisconsin that include Whistling Straight, Blackwolf Run, Erin Hills and Sentryworld.
“I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it’s going to be one of the most anticipated new course launchings in history,” said Rob Jansen, executive director of the Wisconsin State Golf Association.
The Lido will be a private course with access for resort guests. It will open for 13 holes of preview play next summer and fully open in 2023.