Actor Nick Cage once ate a live cockroach for a film he was shooting. Later, when asked why—he could have eaten a pretend insect—he responded, “Anything less wouldn’t be real.”
The conceit is that at times the only way to fulfill the potential of a given situation—a movie scene, a piece of art, a military offensive—is to push as far and aggressively as possible. This principle applies to Landmand, a new design in northeastern Nebraska about 10 miles from Sioux City, Iowa. The course sits on a vast, elevated section of loess formations with eroded furrows and valleys. It winds across the bluffs and between valleys, and from the tops of the ridges horizon views of 20 miles or more are possible, filling the landscape with a feeling of unlimited proportion. Given the setting, it’s impossible to discern the scale of the features in the near and middle distance, and the only way for architects Rob Collins and Tad King to make the golf look like it fit against the endless backdrops was to construct fairways 80 to 100 yards wide and greens that are, cumulatively and in some cases individually, the largest in the United States. Anything less wouldn’t be right.
Landman, which translates from Danish into “countryman” or “farmer,” is owned by the Andersen family, who have been sowing and harvesting this region for over 100 years. It’s the vision of Will Anderson, a fourth-generation farmer who previously developed a nine-hole course nearby called Old Dane. The family acquired the 550-acre parcel Landmand sits on in 1977, but the terrain was too rugged to yield dependable agriculture, so it sat for decades waiting to be repurposed. While the site has obvious assets—the drama, the views, the majesty—it required significant work to pound it into something that would resemble sensible golf. More than a million cubic yards of earth were cut and shifted (a massive ridge perpendicularly crossing the 15th hole, for example, was knocked down), and it’s a remarkable accomplishment that King and Collins, previously known for creating the cult, nine-hole Sweetens Cove outside Chattanooga (this is their first 18-hole design), were able to link everything together in a manner that makes walking it not just plausible but inviting.
At this early stage, King and Collins’ social media following, as much as their architectural chops, has turned Landmand into an instant success. The club’s allotment of 100 memberships sold out in “a couple of days,” according to Andersen, as did the tee times for September, Landmand’s first month open. “We are extremely lucky—I didn’t expect this,” Andersen says. “No one would ever expect that you’d be packed for one whole month after just opening up. Social media is pretty much all of our marketing, and Rob and Tad’s following accounted for that. Almost everyone who came through said they loved playing Sweetens Cove.”
Going forward it will be the architecture and joy of playing over it that keeps Landmand aloft, in particular the greens. Not only are they large but they possess slopes, sections, crowns and internal contours not seen this side of St. Andrews. The putting surfaces average 14,000 square feet (the size of the average American green is about 6,000 square feet), and three of them—the fifth, 15th and 17th–are all more than 25,000 square feet. Much of the creative credit goes to a visiting crew of shapers, an all-star team that included, at various points, people like Dave Axland, Jeff Bradley and Jim Craig, all longtime associates of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw; Trevor Dormer, who has also worked with Coore and Gil Hanse; Mark Burger and John Ellsworth. The human brain has to be tricked into comprehending golf holes on a site this epic, so it makes sense that it required a large team of talented people, from the owner to the designers to the shapers, to make it real.
Best in State: Debut appearance.
2023-'24 ranking: Third.
Best New: Winner of our 2022 Best New Public award.