The Lido Course Review: Long lost C.B. Macdonald course is reincarnated in Wisconsin
06 Jul 2024
by Pete Wlodkowski of AmateurGolf.com

Richie Blumberg of Philadelphia takes a swing at The Lido
Richie Blumberg of Philadelphia takes a swing at The Lido

Deep within the annals of golf history, the Lido Course had a storied past. Originally designed by the legendary golf course architect C.B. Macdonald, The Lido course was situated on Long Island, New York. Its opening in 1917 was met with great acclaim, and it quickly gained a reputation as one of the finest golf courses in the United States.

Macdonald's vision for the Lido Course was ambitious and groundbreaking. He drew inspiration from the great links courses of the British Isles, incorporating strategic bunkering, undulating fairways, and intriguing green complexes. The course became known for its challenging yet fair layout, requiring players to exhibit skill, precision, and strategic thinking.

After falling into a period of financial difficulties brought on by the Great Depression, The Lido Course was taken over and closed by the U.S. Navy in 1942.

It is worth noting that the closure of the original Lido Course in 1942 marked the end of an era for that particular club. However, its legacy and design principles continued to influence the golfing community and inspire future generations of golf course architects and enthusiasts.

The Lido may have closed, but golf enthusiasts continued to pay homage to its greatness in a variety of ways, such as The Lido Contest, which has allowed aspiring golf architects to design a hole, awarding prizes for the best one since 1998.

Before going any further, It should be noted that the current contest pays homage to one that was held in 1914 by Country Life Magazine. Architect C.B. Macdonald saw the winning design submitted by an unknown architect named Alister Mackenzie. So impressed, in fact, that he decided to use the design as the 18th hole at The Lido course he was building on Long Island. More on that later.

But first, fast-forward to present-day Wisconsin, where two members of the family that owns Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley (Michael and Chris) set out on a mission to resurrect the spirit of The Lido. Their father, Mike had paid homage to Macdonald already at Bandon Dunes, where the Old Macdonald course challenges golfers daily. He had an interest in The Lido, which Michael put into motion.

“It was up there in thin air,” Michael Keiser told SI Golf. ““During COVID, I went down one of these rabbit holes of studying the Lido and convincing myself that it was as good as some of the people saw and thought it was.”

From the SI Article:

Peter Flory, a financial consultant and part-time golf historian, had created a detailed version of The Lido using the video game The Golf Club. Flory pored through photos and other historical information, creating a digital duplicate that turned into the blueprint for replication.

And the Keiser Family already had what they thought was the perfect spot to attempt the recreation.

Sand Valley was built on dunes that were once the bottom of a glacial lake. The terrain was good for the earth moving and shaping needed to resurrect The Lido.

The Keisers enlisted Tom Doak and Brian Schneider to build the course to exact specifications, using GPS-guided tractors that can grade down to the millimeter.

The result was a blend of tradition and innovation, a course that honored Macdonald's (and Mackenzie’s) legacies. The newly opened Lido Course in Wisconsin became a testament to the enduring influence of Macdonald's design and the dedication of those who believed in the course's timeless appeal. It opened for play in June of 2023 and I was fortunate enough to be one of the first non-members to play it.

It was just my son Lawson and me and a caddie. Not a single group was on the course on a slightly windy afternoon. Despite having played earlier that morning at Sand Valley, there was a new spring in our steps. We witnessed something completely different than Sand Valley or Mammoth Dunes, the resort courses that have brought tens of thousands of golf enthusiasts to Wisconsin.

The Lido reminded me immediately of some of the great links courses I’ve played. Pot bunkers to avoid off the tee, but other than some water to avoid off the tee, there is not too much difficulty keeping it in play if you select the right club. The approach shots get really fun, with several to elevate greens. I can’t remember if it was the third or fourth hole but the second shot looks next to impossible. In fact, it’s just the landscape playing tricks with your eyes.

The par 3’s are wonderful, particularly No. 17, where the crosswind and length made hitting the green a real challenge. And then there’s No. 18, as designed by Alister Mackenzie. Of course, any replication of The Lido would include Mackenzie’s award-winning design, and this closer is a beauty. Our caddie gave us the background. But when you play The Lido, you’ll already know the story.

Join AmateurGolf.com at The Two Man Links and Father & Son at Sand Valley in May, and learn more at www.amateurgolf.com/sandvalley. The Lido is used for one of our four rounds.

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