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October 2019

Sand Valley Gets Into the Swing of Things

By Sally J. Sportsman

As a choice golf destination, Wisconsin boasts a number of well-known golf resorts with sand dunes, attractive vistas and activities aplenty.
 
None, though, has a choice of amenities quite like Sand Valley Resort in Rome. With three golf courses and a fourth under development, Sand Valley Resort is known for its fine golf. But that’s not all.

“Our owner said some of our fairways were so wide that tennis could be played on them,” says Glen Murray, general manager of Sand Valley Resort. “We thought about it and noticed an unused, perfectly flat driving-range tee.

“We tested it for tennis in 2016, and it didn’t take long to convert it to a tennis court. We now have a full-fledged tennis program.”

The owner is renowned golf course developer Mike Keiser, along with his two sons. And the full-fledged tennis program quickly has gained recognition. With 15 grass courts, located near the golf practice center, Sand Valley Resort has one of the largest such tennis facilities in the country. In fact, there are not many grass courts at all in the U.S., and most of them are found at private clubs. Sand Valley Resort is changing that dynamic.

“Tennis is building momentum here,” Murray says. “This year we’ve conducted clinics and received recognition from tennis writers.”

Five of the grass courts were opened last summer, 10 more this past spring. There are three banks of courts, five in each bank, all surrounded by sand dunes and pine trees, a kind of natural fence.

“It makes people think of Wimbledon,” says Murray.

The Sand Valley Resort tennis pro, Rob Wright, is part of the Cliff Drysdale Tennis program. The grass-court concept is garnering attention for the resort. The number of visitors who play both golf and tennis is small but growing, according to Murray. It’s under 5 percent now but on an upward trajectory. Golfers say they enjoy trying something they’ve never done before.

“Tennis started as a novelty for us,” Murray says, “but we are seeing how people react to it. Our objective was a certain amount of court time this year, which we are attaining.”

Plans are still evolving, perhaps to include a separate tennis pro shop. The courts are fully public. Tennis is complimentary for resort guests and $20 per hour for public players, who are asked to call a few days in advance to reserve court time.

“The golf is what has made it possible to do the tennis. Otherwise, it would be too risky as a standalone.
“The two experiences are complementing each other. It’s not our goal for golf and tennis to compete.”

The grass courts were constructed efficiently, according to Murray, as all the equipment already was on site for golf course construction and maintenance. The courts have other uses, too, such as lawn bowling and soccer.

“It’s okay as long as you don’t impede the tennis players,” Murray says.

The objective of the Sand Valley Resort ownership and management is to get people outside to enjoy the unique landscape of what formerly was a tree farm covered in rows and rows of red pines, not native to the area. At the resort, 9,000 acres of land have been restored to sand dunes and their natural ecology. 

In addition to golf and grass-court tennis, Sand Valley Resort offers hiking and biking trails, farm-to-table dining, swimming, fishing and other activities. Lodge, cottage and suite accommodations are available for resort guests. Golf is the most popular resort activity, but tennis is coming along nicely.

“We are betting that enough people will say they want to experience our grass-court tennis,” says Murray.
It seems a safe bet.

Sally J. Sportsman is an Orlando, Florida-based freelance golf writer.

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