Can a Golf Course that Vanished During WWII Increase Sports Tourism?
26 Feb, 2021By: Mary Helen Sprecher
In Wisconsin, they’re capitalizing on a few things to ride the comeback wave. The first is the golf boom that came about during the pandemic (and continues to this day). Another is the country’s sense of nostalgia. And the third? Well, that’s sports tourism, which has been growing strong and remains an integral part of economic recovery.
The story actually came to national attention with the announcement that the course would be built in Nekoosa, Wisconsin, adjacent to the famed Sand Valley Golf Resort. In fact, it’s the operators of Sand Valley who are planning all this.
But long before that, the Lido was one of the top golf courses in America. It was located on Long Island, and, according to the podcast, The Fried Egg, was an “unprecedented feat of engineering,” particularly considering the time it was constructed – World War I.
According to the podcast, architect C.B. Macdonald and his partner Seth Raynor installed the course on a tract of seaside swampland by dredging an estimated 2,000,000 cubic yards of sand from the bottom of an inland channel. The project cost nearly $800,000—an astonishing sum for the time.
The Lido opened in 1917 to enormous acclaim from golfers nationwide. In fact, it was at one time considered the second-best course in the U.S. (Pine Valley was the first). In 1928, an enormous six-story oceanfront Lido Club, a clubhouse/hotel, was built, adding to the allure and making it one of the nation’s top resort destination.
But like many venues fueled by leisure time and disposable income, the Lido (and golf in general) took an enormous hit during the Great Depression, which hit the U.S. in late 1929 and the course fell into disrepair. A little more than a decade later, with the U.S. in the grip of World War II, the land on which the beleaguered course stood was given over to the Navy, which developed it into a base. Today, that same land hosts a neighborhood with a local high school and a beach. The old Lido Club Hotel has been transformed into a condominium complex.
But like the Titanic, people have been enchanted with the Lido ever since it passed out of concrete reality and into the realm of history and nostalgia. And, the podcast notes, “the romance of a lost masterpiece is irresistible… After its demise, the original Lido attained a kind of mythical status. For decades, golf architecture enthusiasts dreamed of reviving the course.”
Even so, it’s a stretch to try to understand how a long-vanished golf course is coming to Wisconsin. And that’s a long story, best explained here. Suffice it to say that recreating the Lido was a longtime dream of golf course developers Michael and Chris Keiser, who are working with golf course architect Tom Doak and consultant Peter Flory.
But, notes Golfweek, don’t look for this to be a course with tributes here and there. “This is not a design project inspired by the Lido,” Michael Keiser is quoted as saying on the website announcing plans for the new layout. “Our aim is to restore the Lido.”
But Wisconsin is, of course, quite different from Long Island geographically. The course is set to be located in the sand barrens area; however, sand does not a beach make. So we return to the need for “an unprecedented feat of engineering.” Forbes notes, There will also be a large detention pond to create water on several holes, with wooden bridges connecting parts of the course. Templates that marked the original are evident as well, the Redan, Biarritz and Punchbowl holes among them. Lakes will be dug to represent the coastlines and coastal lagoons that characterized the original property. Additionally, the directional orientation of the new course will be the same as the old one, and the wind patterns will be similar.
The Lido is tentatively scheduled to open in 2023 as a private club that allows for regular public play as well. And when it opens, it will join a number of established courses in the Badger State – not just Sand Valley but Erin Hills, Whistling Straits and a host of others, all of which host national, and even international tournaments. Officials expect the Lido to do so as well.
“Wisconsin’s portfolio of the best publicly playable courses in the nation is only getting better with the reconstruction of The Lido in the sand dunes of central Wisconsin,” said Acting Travel Wisconsin Secretary Anne Sayers. “To be home to an exact recreation of one of golf’s most magnificent courses speaks to the quality of the game that can be found in Wisconsin. With The Lido, Ryder Cup in 2021 and the 2023 US Senior Open coming to Wisconsin in the near future, we cannot wait to continue give players around the globe the best golf experience they’ve ever had.”
Additionally, the club will be private, although not members-only; the following information comes directly from The Fried Egg:
“Although next door to Sand Valley, the new Lido will not be part of the resort. Rather, it will be a private club that allows regular public play. At the moment, the Keisers plan to give members the run of the course on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning. From Sunday afternoon through Thursday, tee times will be available within specific windows to Sand Valley guests.
This is the first time since 1995s Dunes Club that the Keisers have experimented with private golf, and they want to make clear that their Lido will not be an exclusive enclave. It will instead emulate the relaxed model of many Scottish and Irish golf clubs: members will get preferred tee times and other privileges, but visitors will have ready access to the tee sheet.
“There is so much that inspires us about the architecture and culture of golf in the UK,” the Keiser brothers said in a press release. “Golf clubs in Scotland and Ireland generously welcome guests onto their grounds to play their extraordinary links. We look forward to introducing this hospitality to golfers here in the U.S.”