Once a golf course closes, it's gone forever...right?
"Forever" turns out to only be about 80 years in this case. Golf course architecture fans have fantasized about the idea for years, and now, on a site adjacent to Sand Valley Golf Resort in Wisconsin, Bandon Dunes developer Mike Keiser's sons Michael and Chris and architect Tom Doak are leading an effort to recreate a long-lost legend hole-for-hole and nearly contour-for-contour a thousand miles west of its original site.
While the loss of any golf course is a somber occasion, golf historians and architecture buffs continue to mourn the loss of particular historic "NLE" (i.e. "no longer existent") courses of yore, especially from the game's early-20th century "Golden Age."
Perhaps the most significant of these losses was of The Lido Golf Club, a course built on the sandy southern shore of Long Island within an hour of Manhattan. Designed by C.B. Macdonald, The Lido opened in 1917, but was closed in 1942 when the United States Navy commandeered the land to develop a base as part of the World War II effort.
There still is a Lido Golf Club on Long Island, but it is a relatively middle-of-the-road public course built years later on adjacent property, bearing no resemblance to the original.
The Lost Treasure: The Downfall of Manmade Giant- The bigger they are the harder they fall. Lido’s strongest run was only a decade long. In those 10 years Lido thrived with 1500 members. Bernard Darwin called it the greatest golf course on earth. What did it lack- a clubhouse! pic.twitter.com/iOVj9ae404— Society of Golf Historians (@SHistorians) October 12, 2018
Despite its short life, the original Lido took on almost mythical status for the ingenuity of its layout, which early 20th century golf writer extraordinaire Bernard Darwin once declared the best in the world. As at the National Golf Links of America a decade earlier and 75 miles east, Macdonald loaded The Lido with holes inspired by the great links of Great Britain and Europe. The course included many of Macdonald's signature "template" holes - Redan, Biarritz, Eden and the like - and its sandy setting made it a then-modern American links.
The Lido also contained a one-of-a-kind hole design, adapted by Macdonald from a design contest submission from a then-little-known aspiring architect named Alister MacKenzie. MacKenzie's audacious concept hole was rife with options for golfers to navigate from tee to green based on their skill level and the amount of risk they wanted to take on. It was, by all accounts, a marvel of a golf hole, long assumed lost to history forever.
This hybrid transplantation-restoration project is currently set to open in 2023 as a private club.
This particular part of central Wisconsin should prove a surprisingly good place to recreate The Lido, absence of sea aside. Ancient, massive sand deposits give the terrain its character. Long used for pine plantation and harvesting, the site of the future Lido will first be stripped of its trees before being remade by Doak into the new, old course. The total project - course, clubhouse and other physical plant - is estimated to cost $16 million.
Change of plans for new Sand Valley resort course?
The Lido is the second Keiser golf course in this area to which Doak has been linked. In September 2018, shortly after Sand Valley opened both its David McLay Kidd-designed Mammoth Dunes and the 17-hole Coore & Crenshaw par-3 Sandbox, we reported that Doak had agreed to design the third "big course" at the resort, Sedge Valley, with a prospective opening date back then of 2020 or so. What caught our eye about Sedge Valley was its conceptually smaller footprint. Doak and the Keisers both expected the course to measure just about 6,000 yards, with a par of 67 or 68.
It's now 2021, and amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it's eminently understandable that plans and priorities have shifted. Kemper Sports, which operates Sand Valley, has confirmed that Sedge Valley plans are on hold at the moment.
Golfers disappointed that Doak will now be designing a new private course instead of a resort course open to all should take heart: The Lido will reportedly welcome some rounds from guests of Sand Valley Golf Resort on select days of the week upon opening.
Sedge Valley will hopefully soon follow, as it is an idea worth bringing into the mainstream as golf looks for ways to strategically reduce its footprint in the 21st century.
This is not the first attempt to revive The Lido in the contemporary golf world. Outside of Bangkok, Thailand, the nascent Ban Rakat Club is opening Ballyshear Golf Links in August 2021, designed by Gil Hanse to evoke The Lido on a completely flat, blank slate of a site. At Ballyshear, Hanse laid the course out in almost the exact same order as the Lido proceeded, only swapping two holes.
Once Doak's version opens, it will inevitably invite a debate over who adapted the design best. Doak has implied his version will be a faithful and absolute replica of the course. He drew a distinction between his concept and Hanse's, writing on Golf Club Atlas, "I know Gil Hanse is supposedly building an homage to the Lido in Thailand, but since the footprint is very different, I don't see how that counts as a recreation."