Sand Valley Golf


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Farm-to-table Next door to the coop stands the culinary garden, which is ringed by a fence and watched over by a scarecrow, cloaked in a caddie's bib and clutching a golf club. How well the scare- crow does its job is hard to say, but it may not really matter, since the garden's true guardian is Julie Shutter, a local farmer's daughter and lifelong horticulturist who doubles as Sand Valley's specialized groundskeeper. On almost any given day, Shutter can be found here, doing the kind dirty work she's always loved, tilling soil or tying up tomatoes or snipping back the branches of young plum and apple trees. When she isn't in the garden, she often spends her time promoting a different kind of growth by wandering the grounds and scattering seeds of native flowers and grasses. It's satisfying work that dovetails with the Keiser family's long-term goal of restoring this rolling swatch of the state to the sand barren that it once was. Not all plants flourish in the stingy, sandy soil, which is great for hardy turf grasses and firm, fast fairways but less conducive for root systems that need more nutrients or water. Without Shutter's help, many of the fruits and vegetables would strug- gle. But under her care, a garden blooms—at once a source of sustenance and a spectacle. "I sometimes feel like I'm part of a living exhibit," Shutter says. "Golfers are always stopping to stare as they arrive." Shutter makes sure to let them know that they're allowed in. Guests are free to wander the garden on their own. With ad- vance notice, guided tours can be arranged. If Shutter had her way, she would have a greenhouse constructed on the grounds. The resort, for its part, plans to expand the garden to make room for an arbor and a pizza oven—a scenic spot for early evening light-bites and casual wine pairings. Already, though, there's plenty going on. At least once a day, Simons drops by the garden, on the hunt for fresh ingredients or fresh ideas. Not long ago, on one of his visits, the sight of baby eggplants put him in the mood to make eggplant parme- san, but since the eggplants were too small to become a full- blown entrée, Simons put them on the menu in a different form: as crisp-coated, creamy-centered eggplant parmesan sticks. They were such a hit that Simons says he intends to con- tinue making them, all through the season, as long as he has eggplants, until the grounds go dormant, and then again next year, when the natural cycle begins again. Josh Sens, a freelancer writer living in Oakland, is a contributing writer at Golf Magazine, the restaurant critic for San Francisco Magazine, and the co-author, with Sammy Hagar, of Are We Having Any Fun Yet: The Cooking and Partying Handbook. SV

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