The centerpiece of your golfing trip to Nebraska should be the Prairie Club, about 30 minutes from Valentine. The Prairie Club has two 18-hole courses and a 10-hole par-3 course on one of the most interesting pieces of property in the Midwest. This is a little slice of golf heaven.
On a recent visit in May, our foursome was having dinner in the clubhouse when a bus full of guys from Iowa pulled into the parking lot. The disembarked, most of them wearing short pants in the 45-degree weather, and had their bags carted up and ready to go in no time.
You see, it’s all about golf at the Prairie Club. There are no tennis courts. There is no swimming pool. The only non-golf diversion is the upstairs library, which has a pool table as the centerpiece. Otherwise there’s nothing but golf.
The development was the braintrust of Paul Schock, a South Dakota native who owned the property and decided to build a golfing playland in 2010. He hired former World No. 1 Tom Lehman to design the Dunes Course and Australian professional Graham Marsh to build the Pines Course. Gil Hanse designed the Horse Course.
All three are magnificent.
The Dunes is built in the middle of the prairie, surrounded by a sea dunes – you’re in the heart of the sandhills, after all. There are plenty of elevation changes and blowout bunkers – which look like barren places that a buffalo used to take refuge in a hundred years ago. The green complexes are large, some 75-yards long, and average 14,000 square feet. The fairways are more than generous – 100 yards in places – and become critical to hit if you want to shoot a respectable score.
As you might expect, the wind can really blow out there. When it does, the native grasses that border the fairways are quite picturesque. But the winds can play havoc with your shots and lower the temperature significantly. When our group played, the wind-chill dropped the temperatures into the high 30s.
The isolation of the Dunes is remarkable. You can go all day without seeing another person on the golf course. There are few better feelings in the world.
The Pines has more protection from the trees and has several holes that run next to the Snake River Canyon. The trees provide a certain amount of break from the wind, which can be quite helpful. The green complexes here aren’t quite as big – an average of 9,000 square feet – and that adds to the challenge. But the native grass is still problematic if you stray far from the fairway.
The Horse is a course that allows you to set your own limits. There are no tee boxes, so you determine the starting point. Usually, the player with honors gets the pick. That means you can play it long (1,125 yards) or short (as little as 425 yards). This is a great place to end the day – before or after a meal – with good friends and perhaps a cigar.
The Prairie Club isn’t just another high-end club that you’ll never be able to play. A special arrangement made by Schock leaves one of the courses designated each day for members only, with the other open to the public. The next day they switch roles. Members can play either course and visitors can stay two days and play both courses – as many times as they’d like.
The Stay and Play packages are the best deal. You get to stay on the property in the lodge or in one of the cabins or bunkhouses and gives visitors a chance to enjoy the club to its utmost.
Read Part 1, Heritage Hills GC, McCook: http://thegeorgiagolfer.com/nebraska-golf-tr…-hills-gc-mccook/
Read Par 2: Wild Horse GC, Gothenburg: http://thegeorgiagolfer.com/nebraska-golf-trip-wild-horse-gc-gothenburg/
Read Par 3: Frederick Peak GC, Valentine: http://thegeorgiagolfer.com/nebraska-golf-trip-frederick-peak-gc-valentine/