The remarkable makeover of The Club at Lac La Belle promises a brand new golf experience on a historic course

OCONOMOWOC – Perhaps you knew it as Lac La Belle Country Club, a once-prosperous private club that, like many private clubs of a certain vintage, struggled with a dated business model, took on too much debt – much of it for an expensive clubhouse renovation – and had no choice but to sell.

Maybe you played it in subsequent incarnations as Rolling Hills Country Club and La Belle Golf Club, which despite the good intentions of its owners struggled for market share in a region saturated with golf options ranging from high-end private clubs to affordable municipal facilities.

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Going for 3: Koepka chases the mysterious Willie Anderson

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — It’s hard to blame Brooks Koepka for not knowing much about the man whose record he’s chasing. For decades, pretty much everyone forgot about him.

His name is Willie Anderson. And though Anderson will never be confused with Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods, his accomplishment back in 1905 — winning his third consecutive U.S. Open — is something nobody has been able to match.

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Development of the Year: Mammoth Success

When you Wisconsin, think golf. Indeed, think great golf. Already home to acclaimed courses such as Whistling Straits and Erin Hills, Wisconsin is now home to Mammoth Dunes, Golf Inc. magazein’s 2019 Development of the Year first-place winner.

Mammoth Dunes is the latest addition to Sand Valley Golf Resort, the Mike Keiser development in central Wisconsin built on isolated, dune-peppered land carved out by glaciers.

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A Recipe for Success: Stevens Point Country Club, Wisconsin, USA

When funds are tight, it becomes even more important that any windfall is not wasted, but rather gives as much bang for the buck as possible. And, even after a brief look at Stevens Point Country Club, it’s not hard to agree that they have done exactly that.

Designed originally by architect Larry Packard, Stevens Point, located in central Wisconsin, looked a lot like many other mid-century layouts - wall to wall green, from grass and trees. But, like so much of this part of Wisconsin, Stevens Point is built on sand, and that proved to be its saving grace when it lost a large portion of its tree stock because of the use of the DuPont herbicide Imprelis.

Stevens Point is now managed by Oliphant Golf, and that fact meant that Oliphant partner Craig Haltom, a young man trying to develop his reputation as a golf architect, saw a lot of the course. Haltom, who found the property later developed by Mike Keiser as Sand Valley (the Craig’s Porch snack hut at Sand Valley is named for him.) The settlement of the Imprelis legal case meant Stevens Point was in line for a substantial windfall: Haltom proposed to the members spending some of the money on a radical project involving taking out further trees, completely rebunkering the course and turning a traditional parkland course into something far rougher around the edges, with exposed sand and large bunkers dominating the view.

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A little piece of Scotland: Three Oaks distillery opens 18-hole putting green course

As the founder and owner of Journeyman Distillery, Welter took this passion and opened an 18-hole putting green course behind his Three Oaks business.

Known as Welter’s Folly, the Scottish-style putting green course was opened to the public Saturday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The 30,000-square-foot putting green course features dramatic mounds and contours inspired by the “Himalayas” public putting course in St. Andrews, Scotland.

Welter teamed up with longtime friend and golf course builder, Craig Haltom, to bring a bit of Scotland to America. Welter said he and Haltom both have an affinity for golf, having lived in Scotland for several years.

Welter pitched the project to Haltom, and the idea grew from there.

“The project ties in two of my passions: golf and whiskey,” Welter said. “We were hiking around the sand dunes in Wisconsin, and I thought what a cool idea it would be to do something like this in Three Oaks.”

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How it all began... A Sand Valley Story

In the early 2000's Craig Haltom began scouring the state of Wisconsin with his wife, looking for an ideal piece of land to build a golf course. Haltom, a construction executive with Oliphant Golf Construction, came across the land on which Sand Valley now sits and knew he had found what he was looking for. In 2012 Haltom connected with Mike Keiser via KemperSports President Josh Lesnik. One site visit led to another, and another, until Mike Keiser decided, with his sons Michael and Chris, to purchase 1700 acres of land in 2013.

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw were hired to design the first course, Sand Valley, and began designing a routing through the tumbling sand dunes in 2014. Sand Valley opened in May 2017 and was honored by Golf Magazine as "Best New Course You Can Play - 2017." 

Two additional courses will open in early summer of 2018: Mammoth Dunes, designed by David Kidd (designer of Bandon Dunes), and The Sandbox, a 17-hole Par-3 course designed by the team of Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw.

Craig Haltom and his partner, Mike Oliphant, were hired to construct all three of the golf courses at Sand Valley Golf Resort and have been a critical part of the overall development of the resort.

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Prestwick Group moving to Lac La Belle

The Village Board unanimously approved Wednesday night an agreement that the Prestwick Group will rebuild the Lac La Belle Golf Course and then relocate its corporate headquarters on 26 acres adjacent to the course.

The vote followed a 90-minute closed session during which Village Administrator George Stumpf provided a progress report on negotiations with Prestwick and village trustees discussed the details of the 15-page development agreement, according to Village Attorney Hector de la Mora.

De la Mora and Stumpf explained there are two construction phases called for in the agreement.

During the first phase, Prestwick will totally redesign and rebuild the golf course it is purchasing from a group of owners.

Village officials say redesigning the golf course, which is adjacent to Lake Lac La Belle, will help improve the water quality of the lake by reducing surface water runoff into it.

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Golf Digest's Best New Course of 2017: Sand Valley

Sand Valley was not Keiser's dream. It was that of Craig Haltom, at one time a golf-course shaper (now a partner with his old boss, Mike Oliphant, in a firm called Oliphant-Haltom Golf). Haltom wanted to design and build his own course, and he scoured Wisconsin searching for the perfect site. More than a decade ago, he discovered an unharvested pine plantation southeast of tiny Nekoosa and 108 miles north of Madison: 1,500 acres of red pines, planted in rows, running up and down enormous hills that reached up to 80 feet high. With pure sand beneath, deposited eons ago by a glacial lake, it was ideal for golf—nothing supports the game better than a deep strata of sand offering perfect drainage and firm turf. Haltom had not nearly enough money to purchase the land, so he sought an investor, eventually Keiser among the prospects. Keiser first saw the property in 2013.

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Stevens Point (Wis.) CC On Road Back After Losing 2,000 Trees

The opening of its revisioned golf course in April is only the start of a big 2017 for the Stevens Point (Wis.) Country Club, the Stevens Point Journal reported.

Players who grabbed their clubs and headed out for the first time this year when the course held a soft opening on April 1, with only 10 holes available for play and no carts, got an up-close look at major work on the property, including a renovated clubhouse and new pool area, that is expected to be complete this season, the Journal reported.

A $3 million facelift for the course was announced last August, the Journal reported, following the loss of over 2,000 trees from a chemical used for broadleaf weed control about three years earlier. The removal of the trees was eventually completed in 2015, and led to the first major work on the course in decades.

(After receiving its state charter in 1925, a nine-hole course was completed at the club in 1927, the Journal reported, followed by the expansion to an 18-hole course in 1965.)

C&RB reported on the course-recovery plan last August (

Major work on the course that has been completed includes new bunkers, widening of fairways, new tees, a new irrigation system and some minor adjustment of greens, the Journal reported.

“Everything came together really well, and we think people will enjoy the course,” said Craig Haltom, who is serving as architect for project. “We got a break with the weather last fall, and that helped us get the work done on a schedule where we didn’t lose a year.”

Haltom is co-founder of Oliphant Haltom Golf Management, which oversees the country club along with a number of regional golf courses including Bull’s Eye Country Club in Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., and Lake Arrowhead Golf Course in Nekoosa, Wis., the Journal reported.

But the work on the Stevens Point CC course—which also offers new practice facilities, including multiple short-game areas—is just the beginning for the 300-member club, the Journal reported. A renovated clubhouse will have updated restaurant and banquet facilities, a new pub in the basement, and a new outdoor patio space with fire pits. An addition for the pro shop, previously located near the pool, will move all golf operations to the clubhouse.

C&RB reported on Oliphant Haltom’s long-range plans for the property in 2014 (

Pursuant to those plans, the pool and connected building have all been demolished, and a new pool with lap swimming and a splash pad for children is expected to open Memorial Day weekend, the Journal reported. A new family activity center and outdoor bar will include new outdoor furniture. The tennis courts will have a new hard-court surface that will also be marked for other activities like pickleball and basketball.

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Stevens Point golf course gets $3M facelift

A damaging situation has turned into an opportunity for the Stevens Point Country Club to make some big and exciting changes.

About three years ago, a chemical used for broadleaf weed control killed over 2,000 trees at the golf course leading to the removal of the trees which was completed last fall.

The loss of the trees prompted the club to look at making some changes at the course, which is now undergoing a $3 million renovation. According to Craig Haltom, architect for project, changes will include new bunkers, widening of fairways, new tees, a new irrigation system and some minor adjustment of greens. The project is expected to be completed this fall.

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