Why Landmand Golf Club (in Nebraska!) has our course raters buzzing
Seven years after opening Sweetens Cove, their triumphant nine-hole underdog in Tennessee, design partners Rob Collins and Tad King have cut the ribbon on their first 18-hole project. Landmand Golf Club in northeast Nebraska began welcoming the public last weekend. Given his pedigree, Landmand will inevitably draw comparisons to Sweetens – but he also deserves close scrutiny in his own right.
A handful of GOLF Review the panelists were in Cornhusker State last week for a sneak peek at one of the nation’s most anticipated courses, and we asked them for their early reviews of the design.
Let’s start with a game of compare and contrast. How is Landmand similar to Sweetens Cove? How is it different, other than it has twice as many holes?
Steve Lapper, panelist since 2009; played 84 of the Top 100: The simplest answer is scale. Both courses offer a lot of width at the start. The difference is that while Landmand’s terrain is massive and dramatic, Sweetens Cove is intimate and understated. Both courses allow for creative recovery around the greens, but Sweetens is much less severe and Landmand more expansive and steep.
Paul Rudovsky, panelist since 2015; played all Top 100: Both are great fun, but they get there by totally different routes. Landmand is big and bold. Sweetens is cute and quirky, in the positive sense of the word.
Adam Messix, panelist since 2015; played all Top 100): Sweetens and Landmand both have bold and interesting greens and should appeal to shooters. They both match their properties well and have their share of quirkiness. Sweetens is much more intimate than Landmand, which has a scale as large as anything I’ve seen.
Landmand has been described as “wild” and “bold”, an emblem of “architectural maximalism”. These traits come with an air of adventure. They also carry an element of risk. In your opinion, how well does the wildness of design work? Does it sometimes go too far?
The fear : The adage “fortune smiles on the bold” comes to mind. This huge, dynamic site needed some bold thinking, and the King-Collins team did just that. There are a few places on the course that are overdone or perhaps gone too far, but they are relatively few, especially compared to the number of exciting and excellent holes that work well even pushing the conventional envelope. One thinks of the influences of the iconoclast Tobacco Road of Mike Strantz.
Rudovsky: The design works superbly. I saw it while it was still being shaped last summer and it occurred to me that just as there is a fine line between brilliant people and crazy people, there also has a fine line between spectacular golf courses and “over-the-top” courses. The King-Collins team stayed on the right side of that line.
Thomas Brown, panelist since 2015; played 95 of the Top 100: The property is 580 acres, which is huge. Few courses built in the modern era have given the architect of golf such open ground to run on. The Debate: Detractors may consider the contours of the green to be excessive while admirers of King-Collins’ bold style will appreciate finding ways to steal their approaches into sections of the green that result in flatter putts. The par-5 holes play uphill for the approach, which can get repetitive. Few chances of an eagle putt from the back tees will be seen without a helping breeze. Several rounds are required to learn all the different hole locations.
Pete Phipps, panelist since 2021; played 65 of the Top 100: As long as anyone venturing into far northeast Nebraska knows what they’re getting into, they’ll have a blast playing a unique and memorable course. If you go with an open mind and are looking for a change of pace from conventional routings and terrains, you’ll appreciate the off-the-beaten-track approach King Collins takes with their design (see: early Pete Dye, Mike Strantz ). Every industry does best when certain concepts or personalities push certain envelopes, and if that’s the niche market King-Collins feels is their best bet, then more power to them. Again, as long as you read the brochure, you will have fun on the roller coaster!
Messix: The spectacular nature of the property and the constant presence of the wind required a grandiose design. Most of the courses blend very well with the surrounding property, which is a credit to King and Collins. The property was not as easy to work with as it looks today. The course invites creative shots with the amount of movement throughout and it will be the rare windy course that will appeal to both the strong shooter and the weaker player who usually bounces it. Landmand requires local knowledge as there are places to avoid as well as subtle ways to maneuver the ball close to the hole.
What is your favorite hole and why?
The fear : The par-4 3rd. The incorporation of several rough-lined barrancas, dividing the fairway diagonally and vertically (similar to the bottle bunker formations found on the 8th at National Golf Links and the 5th at Baltusrol Lower) is aesthetically striking, visually intimidating and requires a strategic decision on the tee. The second (approach) plane climbs steeply to one of the most interesting green complexes. This is a terrific hole that would stand out on any course.
Rudovsky: The par-4 15th. It takes an oft-used concept (the Cape hole) and incorporates it into Landmand’s boldness and size. The result is amazing.
Brown: I found the uphill 3rd, playing like a 475-yard par-4, to be a good challenge. The twisty terrace line of the rough Steve mention divides the left fairway from the right fairway in a subtle way. It adds just enough definition to a very open uphill canyon tee shot. The way of shaping the slope is an attractive feature that I don’t recall being used anywhere else.
Phillips: The par-3 14th deserves credit for having achieved a “real redan”. For a term that’s turned into clichéd podcast slang, King-Collins didn’t just do a redan for marketing purposes, they did it so you could watch your ball roll on one side of the line. huge green to another for more than 20 seconds. , creating anticipation and excitement within your group.
Messix: When you first look at the tiny par-3 8th, you wonder if it’s part of the course. With a scorecard and pencil in hand, it becomes a terror as the green is incredibly shallow. You step off the tee with a bit of wind in your face, it begs you to get the ball flying. Downwind, it takes a perfect shot to get the spin needed to hold the green. Short holes that require precision are rare in modern design, and the 8th succeeds perfectly.
Short holes that require precision are rare in modern design, and the 8th succeeds perfectly.
Any holes that need work?
The fear : The 15th par-5 has a semi-fatal fault. The tee shot must cross an upward slope over 250 yards for you to have a view of what lies ahead: a fairway encroached on the right by native rough, with two large pinched bunkers creating a narrow neck. This leaves two unappealing options: either a lay-up at 180-200 yards (too long for the average player) or a gigantic uphill shot covering 240-260 yards to a fairly large green with a large false front. Either approach smothers any reasonable risk-reward for most mere mortals. In my opinion this could be solved easily by converting the native rough to a fairway on the right.
Brown: I found the 310-yard passable 17th hole limited in the always-on category, which I dream of. Maybe I should move from the back tees, because tossing the ball onto the green isn’t particularly realistic. You have to fly it. Bunkers are massive at Landmand, and the bunker in front of the 17th green is a magnet.
Phipps: The 13th hole has the best intentions of following in the footsteps of the super cool 7th hole at the Cal Club, but unfortunately due to being pushed into a lesser corner of the field it is not entirely successful. It’s a sharp dogleg to the right, nothing stopping a big hitter from driving the green, but it doesn’t play as well for the rest of us. For the average player, there is no element of risk/reward at the tee shot, leaving a longer-than-preferred uphill approach on a hole where your opponent might put in for the eagle. The difference with the No. 7 at Cal Club is that even average hitters have the chance to catch a slope and see their drives getting closer and closer to the green.
Messix: Each hole at Landmand fits well into its setting and has a lot of strategic merit. I was disappointed with the 4th and 7th greens, where there were some potentially super cool hole locations that aren’t available because the green in those areas is too harsh to be pinnable.
Green fees at Landmand are $150. You can book tee times here.