Gothenburg, Nebraska, is a quiet little town in the central part of the state, about 30 miles from North Platte. It’s known as the birthplace of the Pony Express and there are some original stations that still stand from those much-memorialized era.
It’s also home to the outstanding Wild Horse Golf Club.
As you might expect in this part of the state, which is heavy on prairie and light on elevation changes, Wild Horse is a fun course that keeps almost all shots in front of you. There are few blind shots and not a lot of guesswork as you navigate this enjoyable 18-hole layout.
Wild Horse was built in the sand hills by the team of Dave Axland and Dan Proctor, a duo who were instrumental in shaping the famous Sand Hills Club in Mullen. Axland and Proctor transferred their experience to Wild Horse and created a challenging course that is second-to-none in the area.
This is minimalist golf at its best. The fairways are plenty wide – but often not quite enough, it seems. If you miss them, you run the risk of losing the ball in the natural grass, which looks pretty from the tee but is an unforgiving place. A sign in the pro shop tells you the locals call the rough “Woosa.” (I heard it called a few other things during the round.)
There isn’t the same remote feeling that you might experience at some of the other higher-end courses in the sand hills. (You can hear the train whistle as it chugs through town.) But there are no homes and very little noise. It’s very quiet out there.
“It’s a challenging golf course that’s enjoyable to play,” said Luke Rickerstsen, vice president of the Gothenburg Improvement Company and member of the club. “When the wind blows, it can give you all you can handle.”
Wind? Yep, there was plenty of that, particularly late in the day when storm clouds came across and turned the sky dark. The temperature probably dropped 15 degrees and the wind was blowing about 20 mph. It did nothing to diminish the experience.
The wind and the layout help dictates your strategy. Unlike most courses, you can’t expect to fly the ball to the hole and expect it to stop, especially when conditions are firm and fast. The course is make for a low game, sort of like you’ll find in the UK, says PGA professional Don Graham, who has been at the course almost since the beginning.
There isn’t a bad hole on the course. The par 3s offer a variety of length, from the 126-yard 11th to the 200-yard 13th.
The 16th is rated as the hardest hole. It plays 418 from the middle tees and requires two excellent shots to get home in regulation. The two-tiered green is guarded on the front right by a pair of bunkers.
The eighth hole may be even tougher. It plays 451 from the back tees and features an extra-large blowout bunker on the left side.
The best advice at Wild Horse is to stay out of the native grass that lines the fairways. Do that and you’ll have an enjoyable round. Fail to keep it in play and you’ll constantly be reaching into the bag for another ball.
Where we stayed: The Comfort Suites in Gothenburg provided comfortable accommodations with a solid breakfast experience. Sign up for the Choice Club and accumulate your points.
Where we ate: Our group dined with Deb Egenberger, the executive director of Gothenburg Community Development, and her husband Buck at the Nebraska Barn and Grill. Highly recommended is the cream corn as a side item.
Read Part 1, Heritage Hills GC, McCook: http://thegeorgiagolfer.com/nebraska-golf-tr…-hills-gc-mccook/