Scottish Golf in America’s Heartland
Dunes Golf Fever has been raging in America for some time now. The Links at Spanish Bay on the California coast nurtured the infectious bug for years, but then it went pandemic at places like The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island (South Carolina), Whistling Straits (Wisconsin), Bandon Dunes (Oregon), Ballyneal (Colorado), Quivira (Los Cabos, Mexico) and Chambers Bay (site of next month’s U.S. Open in Washington).
Nebraska’s golf-laden Sandhills region is no less infectious—highlighted by brilliantly crafted courses that are redefining the allure of America’s heartland. Here are five reasons to take your game to the Cornhusker State for some no-cure Scottish-style thrills:
1. Sand Hills Golf Club is what initially fueled well-heeled golfers’ appetites for Nebraska’s made-for-golf landscapes. Opened in 1995 near tiny Mullen (pop. 509), this the private Sand Hills was ingeniously crafted by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who penned 136 holes before whittling it to 18. Phone a well-connected friend if you hope to play this super-exclusive, Top-100 experience.
2. Dismal River Club already was a shining star in 2006—the stunning Jack Nicklaus course saw to that—but last year it added to its members-only luster by opening a new Tom Doak design. Also located near Mullen just north of North Platte, it absolutely is worth penning a letter to the club to request a tee time.
3. Awarii Dunes near Kearney is a sensational new creation from esteemed Colorado golf architect Jim Engh. Playing perks include a well-appointed clubhouse, real estate opportunities and a golf academy that fine-tunes the University of Nebraska/Kearney men’s and women’s golf teams. Located in Axtell, the semi-private facility is a casual five-hour drive from Denver via I-76 and I-80.
4. The Prairie Club in Valentine (pictured top), near the South Dakota border, is a 46-hole triumph consisting of the Dunes (Tom Lehman design), Pines (Graham Marsh) and Horse (a 10-hole par-3 rota from Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackelford). Sited on the rim of the Snake River Canyon, Prairie Club also offers a sleek Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired hotel/clubhouse/restaurant that spoils stay-and-play guests and members.
5. Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg illustrates the underrated and highly playable design talents of Dan Axland and Dave Proctor, both of whom worked on Sand Hills Golf Club. In 2015 the five-year-old layout earned “Best Public Course in Nebraska” and “77th Best Public Course in America” accolades from Golf Digest.
Chris Duthie is a contributor to Colorado AvidGolfer, the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it. It publishes eight issues annually and proudly delivers daily content via www.coloradoavidgolfer.com.