But Mike’s role has definitely changed. While
he was once hands-on and entrepreneurial,
today at age 72 he’s more like the chairman of
the board. He no longer wishes to be burdened
by countless details and endless meetings.
Instead, he focuses on the big picture.
If he has one mission, it’s to ensure that his
vision of golf — the vision that created Bandon
Dunes and led him to this 10,000-acre expanse
of sand dunes in America’s Dairyland — is
validated by his sons.
“He’s doing what he does best,” Michael said.
Sand Valley represents a significant turning
point in Mike Keiser’s career. Slowly but surely,
he’s letting go. His sons are gradually assuming
control of a legacy like few others in golf.
What will they do with it?
No retirement in sight
Let’s get one thing straight: Mike doesn’t intend
to step away from the family business anytime
“I’m not retiring,” he insisted. “If I can think
and speak, I’ll be involved.”
Mike and his sons already have several other
projects in the works. (See accompanying
story.) But no matter which of these opportu-
nities the Keisers pursue, their main focus dur-
ing the next few years will be on Sand Valley.
“I think we could do eight great courses at
Sand Valley,” Mike said. “I’m sure we could do
five, and I haven’t even seen the whole property.”
Mike expects to select a designer for the
resort’s third course this summer. Proposals
from Tom Doak and Mike DeVries are on his
short list, but the leading contender appears to
be a Harry Colt homage course that would be
created by Coore & Crenshaw.
Following a blueprint
From the beginning, the Keisers’ achievements
have been based on a development formula
borrowed from Dornoch: a sandy site, an
ocean and a great architect. Those core elements have been Mike’s guiding principles,
and it appears the next generation will remain
true to them.
“It’s not like we’re going to shift to a new
paradigm,” Michael said.
Still, Sand Valley indicates that the Keisers
are willing to violate the formula that made
them famous. If they’ve concluded that an
ocean is no longer truly essential to their work,
then it’s easy to envision their future courses
emerging on a virtually unlimited number of
“The courses at Sand Valley aren’t links, but
they’re true to the land in central Wisconsin,”
Michael said. “Everything we do is inspired
by the land. We’ll always let the land speak for
Michael’s philosophy hints at the effect
Sand Valley will have on what comes next: It’s
where Mike’s links model, the Dornoch model,
successfully adapted to a heathland model. It
illustrates how the sons might honor the past
without being burdened by it.
Robert J. Vasilak is a contributing editor.
What’s next for the Keisers?
During the next three to five years, Mike Keiser and his sons expect to be involved in two new
projects. Here are some of the developments they are weighing.
Last year, the Keisers committed to building
a fifth 18-hole track at their renowned resort
in Oregon, on waterfront property currently
occupied by the free-form, semi-secret Sheep
“I really want Sheep Ranch to happen, and
it will,” Michael Keiser said. “It’s just a matter
The odds-on favorite for the design com-
mission is Gil Hanse, who has described the
property as “the best site we’ve ever seen for a
new golf course.”
If Mike Keiser has a dream project, it’s his
imperiled venture in the Scottish Highlands.
Pending approvals, the 18-hole links will take
shape just north of Dornoch, on property that
Bill Coore once said “might be the best ever.”
“They’ve turned me into a Trump tycoon,”
The Keisers have a secret project in the
Secret Project No. 2
Golden State, on coastal property that isn’t yet
under contract. They won’t even hint at the
location, but Mike said it will be “very excit-
ing” and “worth the wait.”
Michael says his “long-term goal” is to
develop “a gorgeous area of sand dunes” at
an undisclosed location in the Southeast. For
now, that’s all he’s willing to say.
This one’s a stretch, but the sons plan to visit
two areas of “black volcanic sand dunes” in
the world’s third-happiest nation. At least for
the time being, Mike is keeping his distance.
“That one is all Michael and Christopher,”
he said. “I’m sure it’ll be a fun and educational
The Keisers may build the fourth course at
Streamsong, The Mosaic Co.’s neo-classic
resort in Florida. By the end of this year,
Streamsong will have tracks by Coore &
Crenshaw, Tom Doak and Hanse. Mike has
all but convinced Mosaic to let him replicate
Lido Golf Club, a legendary venue on Long
Island that was razed during World War II.
Lido’s 18-hole track, once described as “the
finest course in the world,” was co-designed
by C. B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor, reportedly with help from Alister MacKenzie, and
Mike has the original plans.