The owner of Bandon Dunes wants your par 4 on his next resort.


Everyone who plays golf thinks they could be a golf course architect. It starts at an early age.  Tiger Woods was just 11 years old when he entered Golf Digest's first Armchair Architect contest back in 1987.  (Officially, he was too young to win, so he had his father mail it in.) His dream hole was a U-shaped double-dogleg par 5 with an island tee, island traps and an island green (see below or click here to view his design entry in large-PDF format). Even at age 11, he probably had the talent to cut the corner by smacking an iron from the back tee over his 120-foot-high hill and onto the green where he'd have a putt for a double-eagle 2. (If he avoided the bunker in the center of his green, that is.) The rest of us would likely take the long way around, dodging trees, bunkers, mounds, a creek and a bog. 

While Golf Digest's 2016 Armchair Architect Contest isn't seeking something quite so expansive, it is searching for an exciting and original concept for a two-shot hole that will actually be built at the new Sand Valley Golf Resort in central Wisconsin. Mike Keiser, whose Bandon Dunes Resort in Oregon and Cabot Links in Nova Scotia are celebrated around the world, is in the midst of constructing his next destination resort on a massive formation of sand dunes deposited long ago by glaciers. 

One 18 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw at Sand Valley has been completed and will open next spring.  A second 18 designed by David McLay Kidd has started construction, but he has set aside the corridor of the par-4 14th hole to be filled by your imagination. 

It's a long stretch of sand, headed east to west, into the prevailing wind.  You're free to fashion a ball-buster par 4, or a moderate-length two shotter, or a drive-and-pitch hole or even a reachable par 4 if you desire. 

Read the checklist here to see if you qualify to enter. If so, start by printing out the topo map (click here to download the map in PDF format or JPEG format). Note the scale is one inch equals 200 feet or 66.7 yards. Adjust your printer scale accordingly so that the one-inch scale on the printout will match one inch on your ruler. That will make it easy to keep your design in scale. 

Then compare your topo map with the 3-D model (created by Brian Zager of Zager of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis.)  which has the same topographical lines – at two foot intervals – superimposed to help you visualize the topography. You'll immediately note the previous green (the par-3 13th) sits in a hole at the base of a steep hill. The corridor for your design is a 120-wide sand dune with a steep gulch along its right edge and a soft shoulder of hill along the left. It flows downhill and sidehill, right to left. Where you place the 14th tee boxes, the 14th green and any hazards are up to you, as is the length of the hole and its shapes and contours.  The only limitation is that David has already located the previous green and the tee boxes for the next hole, the par-5 15th, as indicated on the map and on the 3-D model (see video below).

We're looking for the most original and creative golf hole you can come up with, keeping in mind it still has to function as a real hole – meaning it should be relatively inexpensive to build and maintain, be playable for all categories of golfers, be challenging yet fair and fun, day after day. It should also be compatible with the other holes on this central Wisconsin resort course, which are being shaped from natural sand on a hilly parcel of land that had once been a pine tree farm but is rapidly being clear cut of trees.  Hint: if you suggest planting palm trees on your dream golf hole, it won't make the cut. 


“Think natural,” he says, “think minimal, think old school, think bounce, think contrary to modern convention.” 


It's not necessary to be a talented artist.  Kidd is looking for the best concept, not the prettiest picture. "Think natural," he says, "think minimal, think old school, think bounce, think contrary to modern convention." Entries will be judged by Kidd, Sand Valley developer Michael Keiser and Golf Digest Architecture Editor Ron Whitten, who will consider entries for originality of design, practicality as a functional golf hole and compatibility with the other holes on the course. The judges' decision is final and Golf Digest will not enter into any correspondence regarding their decisions. All entries become the property of Golf Digest and will not be returned.

The winner will be notified by telephone call or email and, at a time to be determined, will be flown to Sand Valley to meet with Kidd during construction to flesh out details in the field.    

Think you have some original ideas in golf architecture? Sure you do. Just remember, we must receive your entry by 5 p.m. EDT on July 15, 2016.  

Good luck. Perhaps we'll be playing your golf hole someday. 

By Ron Whitten • Photo by Ryan Farrow