Except for one: No carts, not even pull carts, are allowed at the Dunes. "When we opened, the locals assumed we'd have carts," says Keiser. "Well, I hate carts. 'No golf carts,' I told 'em. 'We're going to have caddies.' Without exception, the locals said, 'You won't get caddies. It'll never work.' But we figured if we paid the caddies well enough, they would come."
Unlike many clubs where a caddie might burn an entire day before getting a loop, caddies at the Dunes are arranged for in advance and are only called to the course if they're needed. Keiser also encourages generous tipping. The system works. The Dunes doesn't get much play, only 3,300 rounds a year, yet it has an active list of 50 caddies.
Keiser had a sense for what might work in New Buffalo (pop. 2,300) because he has owned a house in the resort community since 1982 and spends summers there with his wife, Lindy, and their children: Leigh, 22, Dana, 20, Michael, 16, and Christopher, 9. Keiser would often play wilderness golf (pick a tree and get your ball to it anyway possible) on the future site of the course, but didn't immediately see the property's potential. "I bought the land defensively to keep it from being developed into town houses," Keiser says. "It took me two years of wandering around the land to see its similarities to Pine Valley. It finally struck me that with all this sand and one big ridge, there were the makings of some good golf holes here."
Because New Buffalo's sandy soil is easily manipulated, and because of Nugent's minimalist design, Wadsworth Construction built the course in only three months and for less than $1 million, all out of Keiser's pocket. "It was definitely a stretch," says Keiser. "If I had tried to borrow the money, no bank would have lent me a dime. I suppose I'm drawn to dicey projects, feeling that if we do them well enough—be it greeting cards or golf courses—there's a good chance to excel."
Keiser hit a home run with the Dunes Club.