Sneak preview: The reimagined golf course and community event space opens today

Doug Moe golfs nine early holes with benefactor Michael Keiser at The Glen Golf Park, which reopened to the public July 1.
Drone view footage of the reimagined Glenway golf course, which is now called The Glen Golf Park
Photo by Theran Steindl.
Glenway Golf Course is now The Glen Golf Park, thanks to a donated $750,000 redesign by Michael Keiser. The public course, which will also serve as a community event space, reopened on July 1.

Michael Keiser walked off the ninth green at The Glen Golf Park early Monday morning, having just played a nine-hole round in a little over an hour.

Keiser spotted Theran Steindl, golf operations supervisor for Madison Parks, standing nearby.

Keiser grinned. “It’s ready,” he said.

Steindl, in the manner of course superintendents everywhere, said there were still a couple of things that needed tweaking.

No doubt Steindl — who served as project manager for the reimagining of the nearly century old Glenway Golf Course — made his tweaks prior to today — July 1 — which marks the much-anticipated official opening of The Glen Golf Park.

I was fortunate to play a preview round Monday with Keiser, his stepfather-in-law, Gerry Seizert, and Sue Shapcott, whose Change Golf Instruction partners with the city to provide instructional programs at Madison public courses.

In introducing Seizert and Shapcott on the first tee, Keiser noted that, as a teenager, Shapcott represented Great Britain and Ireland in the prestigious Curtis Cup team golf competition against the United States.

I remembered that Royal St. George’s, the golf club in England where the event was held, didn’t allow women members in 1988 and in fact had a sign in the parking lot that said, “No women, no dogs.”

Shapcott chuckled and said, “Actually, it was ‘No dogs, no women.’”

The Glen Golf Park is striving for the opposite. Everyone is welcome, including non-golfers. This was Keiser’s vision when he and his wife, Jocelyn, offered to fund the design and construction that turned Glenway into The Glen at an estimated value of $750,000. By the end of July, the park will be closed to golfers on Sunday afternoons to open for activities like music, games, movie nights and exercise classes, along with the chance to simply walk and enjoy the park’s natural beauty.

The Glen Golf Park from above in drone footage.

Photo of redesigned The Glen Golf Park by Theran Steindl.

For golfers used to Glenway, the course’s transformation is stunning. Keiser’s team has created greens — “the heart and soul of any course,” in his estimation — with the kind of size and slope you would find at the nation’s top courses, though they won’t roll as fast.

Those greens and some new sight lines from the back tees will challenge good players. At the same time, with multiple teeing areas on each hole and few “forced carries” over hazards, they’ve fashioned a layout that is long on “playability” for all ages and talent levels. It’s a return to a concept that has often been lost in modern course design: the game is supposed to be fun.

I can recall exactly when I first heard Keiser mention Glenway. It was late winter 2020, and I was profiling him for Madison Magazine, highlighting his celebrated Sand Valley golf resort that had recently opened in central Wisconsin.

The Keisers had lived in Madison since 2016 and had started a family. He and I were having lunch on the Capitol Square. At the time there were rumors about a renovation of Yahara Hills and he said he’d spoken about it with city officials.

“What about Glenway?” he said at one point. I don’t recall his exact words, but it was along the lines of, “Wouldn’t it be great if we could make those nine holes something special?”

I frankly didn’t think much about it until a year later, when I heard a rumor about Glenway and Keiser gave me an interview outlining his hopes for the venue, which dates to the 1920s. George Vitense — whose name now adorns a well-known local golf facility — was the pro at Glenway in the ’20s. Steve Caravello, nine-time Madison city champion, caddied for Vitense and won junior tournaments at Glenway.

Those two names are Madison golf royalty. The Keiser name is another kind of golf royalty, revered by the countless golfers who have made a pilgrimage to the Bandon Dunes resort built in remote coastal Oregon by Mike Keiser, Michael Keiser’s father. It’s one of a handful of the greatest golf destinations in the world. Keiser and his brother, Chris, took the baton from their dad and created Sand Valley.

Our early round Monday at The Glen was hugely enjoyable. We played quickly — Shapcott had a lesson to give at nearby Odana Hills — but didn’t rush. Keiser rolled in a birdie putt on the first green and everyone hit some good shots, even me.

Keiser shared tidbits of design strategy, including how The Glen’s fourth green is modeled after a famous green at Royal Dornoch in Scotland, one of the world’s greatest courses. Though the course routing is basically unchanged, golfers familiar with Glenway will find holes four and five bending more into “doglegs.”

The Glen Golf Park will have a grand reopening on Sunday, July 10, with a 3 p.m. ribbon cutting, music, kite-flying, a movie and a putting contest, presumably on the immense new putting green adjacent to the clubhouse.

I didn’t ask him, but I hope Michael and Jocelyn Keiser will be there so people can say thanks.

Keiser’s dad also has a new book out called “The Nature of the Game.”

In the introduction, he mentions his son, noting that one of Michael Keiser’s favorite sayings, which comes from architect Daniel Burnham, is as follows: “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood.”

I first played Glenway some 55 years ago. It’s the course where my son, Quinn, first beat me for nine holes. He shot 37. He was 9.

And now, The Glen Golf Park. It was stirring for me to play. I couldn’t stop smiling.

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