During the past few months, I had the great pleasure of planning and executing a successful 12 person trip to Sand Valley, that for the most part consisted of golfers that didn't really know each other. The only factor that brought these folks together by our rationale was their love for the our kind of golf. I had the rare chance to visit Sand Valley way back in March 2017, during a trek to Wisconsin for USGA meetings in preparation for the Erin Hills U.S. Open. On that trip, Mike Keiser Jr., a friend from way back when we caddied together at Bandon Dunes, happened to be on-site managing some of the key affairs in development.
Mike pulled up in the above dune cruising machine and instructed me to put the seat belt on. He took me on a spirited adventure through the freshly shaped Mammoth Dunes and showed me how you really drive. The hydro-seed hadn't been sprayed in some areas but we could see the beginnings of the shaping. After that jaunt, we went for a LEVEL 2 joy ride on some of the unshaped areas where Mike pointed out the key areas in the routing. This whole experience reminded me of the ATVing area just north of Bandon Dunes where we'd go enjoy with our days off from caddying and working in the shop. I was amazed at how fast this Toro could go and just how much fun it could be to cruise around a pre-development phase links course.
Great fellow, inspiration to SEAMUS, and dear friend Mr. Geoff Shackleford recently asked me my favorite golf experience in a recent interview, and my response had to be this time with Mike, bombing around the newly routed golf course on an ATV and learning all the tid bits that go into it's design from Mike.
After the tour, Mike went on to have a quick meeting and I inquired with Clark Willard, one of founding staffers at Sand Valley, about booking some rooms for a trip later in the year, somewhere around the 3rd week of September. The funny thing was I had no clue who would fill this group but figured it couldn't be that hard to get guys interested in a trip to Sand Valley.
I've planned a golf trip or two, literally, but never with a group larger than 8 and never with golfers that didn't really know each other. I proceeded start with asking family, close buddies, and then to others I knew a little bit but fit a few of the criteria below:
-A sense of humor
-Measures themselves as a golfer by height as opposed to score (credit: Ty Webb, Caddyshack)
-A member of the SEAMUS clan (loosely defined as a supporter of what we're trying to do here).
Dialing down my rolodex, I thought of a few folks I'd had the great honor of working with or interacting with and there were quite a few folks on that list. The net effect was the following 12:
- Matt Brown (Dear friend and Mayor of Gearhart, OREGON)
- Ali Chisti (My brother, living the life in Hawaii)
- Alex Casebeer (old Oregon Junior Golf friend, now like Family)
- Matthew Hauth (My right hand man at SEAMUS)
- Trevor Livingston (Our attorney and star in the Solstice episode we had a chance to be part of on Skratch TV)
- Christian Hafer (Incredible photographer who took many of the photos in this post, and founder of the non-profit Carry Hope)
- Erik Anders Lang (Producer of Be The Ball, and Skratch TV Adventures in Golf, and part of just about anything cool in golf now like The Golfer's Journal, etc)
- Justin Fox (My past co-worker at KPMG, and he's still at KPMG)
- Blair Williams (A fellow friend from the Bandon Solstice episode, as well, and local flavor residing in Milwaukee)
- Gary Palmer (The General of Fun on this trip and holding it down in San Francisco, CA)
- Future father of the year 2018 Brandon Carter (Head golf professional of Pacific Dunes).
I keep referring to the Solstice episode above that we had a chance to be part of, and if you didn't get a chance to scope it out please refer to video noted below:
Pre-trip, a great deal of lot of banter ensued, despite the fact that most folks in the chain didn't really know each other. The most interesting call was when Erik asked if he could bring Snowball, his affable mixed origin lap dog. As I began to respond, he quickly stopped me as though my response made no difference, and proceeded to say that he had already obtained approval from Sand Valley and was bringing him either way. Snowball quickly became the irreplaceable 13th man of the trip, just like the discovered 13th hole at Bandon Dunes Preserve.
Being that this was a SEAMUS sponsored event, we curated a small gift pack to celebrate the fashion and nurishment needs of each player. While my experience in trip planning is low-to-medium, we love coming up with fun gift ideas. Using the theme of our favorite Glacier National Park Pendleton, each player received a head cover, pouch, and accoutrement to suite their needs. The main reason for this selection was that it goes with just about any bag, and from what I'd heard the dunes at Sand Valley were once formed by GLACIERS!
Each pouch came with a flask, appropriately filled with 'Black Bush' Jameson brought back from our recent trip to the distillery. Three of our players didn't drink, so they were given a few items that we came up with that might be appropriate. Our good buddy Frank Casey Jr., of Rosapenna, sent along chocolate Drifter bars for all, and that made for a fun, authentic, gift since in places like Ireland that and Mars bars are what make the snacking choice of true champions (as I learned).
We had booked the lodging on the Par 3 course dubbed the Dunes Lodge where all 12 of our group could stay in comfort.
6 holes were open from the Coore Crenshaw design and I learned that on the first morning, when I heard giggling and wedge shots through my sliding door which was left open from the previous evening. I scurried to find my sandals and ran out in my pajamas to play with them on one of the most mythical mornings we might ever witness. Without a ball or a club, I was able to find a little round white object to use in a tuft of fescue and bum a club from one of the early risers already out there.
Even today in the birthplace of our game, a routine round for folks in Scotland & Ireland includes their family pet. I really was surprised to learn that Sand Valley had been so quick to embrace such a cultural norm right here in America, one who is generally an unacceptable guest on most US soil golf courses. The only other spot I'd experienced this was Goat Hill last year, while playing with the great folks at Linksoul. Below is a look at Dean Wilson's gorgeous well trained pup on that day at the Goat.
Glen Murray, General Manager at Sand Valley, even brought along his good looking hound for an afternoon of alternate shot. There are some specifics surrounding the puppy rule but I think in general if the dog is behaved and you're not leaving treasures behind in the bunkers one ought to be good with prior approval from the great folks at Sand Valley. Below is Glen's Baby:
In this writing, I've skipped over a critical factor that I think really helped in rounding up the guys for the trip. Golf trips are typical. Often times it involves a lot of golf, eating and drinking. Generally speaking, it can be difficult to have a truly meaningful conversation with any of your playing partners, or even have a chance to learn something new. I wanted to create an environment where each golfer on the trip would leave with something new. Therein lies the special requests I made from a few of the key friends we've made along the way:
Erik Anders Lang - Erik and I have an obscure love affair through this strange game of golf. My wife has learned it is just a part of the deal and I think she is generally cool with it. We started hanging out a while back when Erik started the Be the Ball project, but moreso when the Skratch TV Urban Golf episode was filmed in Portland. Anyhow, Erik committed to not only be a part of this special trip, but also preview an early release version of Be The Ball, the film that brought us together a while back. The main point of the film is to scientifically test whether meditation can be helpful in golf. Right up the alley of our Spiritual Golf Man crew.
David McLay Kidd - YES, the loveable Scottish architect David Mclay Kidd, of whom we are all great fans of, responded to one of my early emails in the planning process and said, "If I can make it I'd love to spend some time with your crew". David came along to give our guys some story telling time behind the evolution of Mammoth Dunes, which each of us absolutely adored. He happened to be there working on the course and we lucked out to have him spend some time spreading links golf gospel with us.
Many great decisions have been made in the development of Sand Valley, and the people are high on that list. They've recruited a team that diligently executes to perfection each little offering, caring about every part of the experience by the golfer - ranging from service level to the wonderful ice cream sandwiches. After spending some time with DMK, we had some of these very special sandwiches and out of nowhere Mike Keiser Jr. appeared out of thin air.
"Let's go play alternate shot at Mammoth."
"But with you and Glen, that's 14," we said.
Mike never verbally responded to our concern, because by that time he was well on his way to the first tee. Without much more banter, the General of Fun Gary went around gathering golf balls to establish the teams. Yup, that's Gary below with all 14 balls in his hands.
It was at this very moment, of walking up the hill, I had an epiphany about this game we cherish so much. It so happened I was right near Hafer when he took the above picture, but the memory is permanently burnt into my brain. In order to play golf and really have fun the way it was intended, it's with less rules and less restrictions over the experience that golf can be at it's most euphoric and spiritual state. After this experience, I feel now that we've learned the very basics of planning a good golf trip:
1) GOOD PEOPLE
2) GOOD GOLF COURSE
3) DOGS (Let's not forget that SEAMUS was named after our family's mischievous and affable Irish Terrier.)
4) NON GOLF PLANNED EVENTS - Such as watching Be The Ball, spending time with DMK, or even doing something that is totally different than normal golf like playing a 14some. Or rather 16, when dogs are included.
If you'd like to be part of a SEAMUS trip, please feel free to jot a bit of information in the form below and we'll reach out when things start rolling for the next tour stop. We don't know that it's possible to recreate this exact experience, but with a bigger or different crew we can definitely make a new one!
FAR & SURE,
AKBAR CHISTI (Co Founder / Chief Peddler of SEAMUS GOLF)