By Mike Dojc | Aug 15, 2017
Driving through the Sandhills of Nebraska you’ll spy black cows, brown cows, and Holstein heifers too. Rural Nebraska unfolds like a bovine Benetton ad. There are nearly 170,000 cattle in Cherry County (tops in the nation on the agricultural census) sporadically grazing, mooing and chewing their cud on this vast hinterland the size of Connecticut. The Sandhills also likely tops the leaderboard in America as far as number of possible golf courses that could be built. The pristine stretch of prairie is punctuated by towering mounds of grass stabilized sand dunes akin to the ones you see in Scotland and golf course architects and DIY backyard hole dreamers get downright giddy on these barely trafficked roads where it’s a veritable Easter egg hunt of fully formed tracks. You don’t have to do much in the way of building either—these are aux natural golf courses. All you need to do is happen upon them and plant flags.
The Prairie Club is a stirring example of golfing grandeur in the wilds of the rural Nebraska. A private club with a strong resort component, the Dunes and Pines courses rotate daily between hotel guest accessibility and members only. The Tom Lehman and Chris Brands designed Dunes is a pure golf marvel to behold with wide fairways framed by the course’s fescue covered namesake mounds.
The charms of aux natural linksland and expansive views as far as the eye can see are myriad and there’s nary a dud on this veritable dreamscape. The dogleg left 481-yard par 4 proves the most exceptional mettle tester on the course. It’s tapering fairway nearly disappears, choked off by natural blowout bunkers hundred yards or so shy of the green, rendering the majority of approach shots semi-blind.
Meanwhile the 7403 yard Graham Marsh designed Pines Course, traverses plenty of tree-laden territory as you mosey along the edge of the canyon. The protective foliage of the ponderosa pines keeps the wind at bay on gusty days and there are some incredible canyon views making it a worthy rival of the Dunes. Portions of the course do veer into the wide open prairie that that is the bread and butter of its sister course and so the varied terrain on offer gives golfers a taste of both landscapes.
Routed along Snake River Canyon, Prairie Club’s par 3 Horse course was no afterthought to coax guests to linger longer. Bereft of tee boxes, there are ten greens on this Gil Hanse designed gem and play mimics basketball’s shot matching horse game. The winner of the previous hole decides from where the next one will be played. Imagination is key on this track that Golf Digest’s has included on their most fun courses you can play in America shortlist. If you’re hitting Prairie Club as part of a rural Nebraska road trip, a couple other destinations to add to your Cornhusker combing itinerary are Wild Horse Golf Club in Gotenburg where steer skulls serve as tee box markers and Bayside in Brule set along Lake McConaughy or “Big Mac” as the locals call the 22 mile long reservoir that is a heralded walleye hotspot.