Review: Sand Hills Golf Course

If you build it they will come
I know this isn’t an original title, but let’s be honest, is there a better one out there?  The Sand Hills region of the country has about a bizzilon acre of ideal golf land, with only a couple hundred people who actually play golf.  In 1995 Coore and Crenshaw designed a course in the middle of nowhere.  It has since become the best modern course in the world.
Sand Hills is truly an amazing place.  It is ultra-exclusive and requires guests to be accompanied by a member in order to play.  The lodging, food, golf, everything needs to be arranged through a member.  You simply can’t just show up and play.  (Not likely with location anyways)
The club is simple.  They have a small clubhouse with everything you would need.  A great pro shop, a couple of dining rooms and a bar.  There are locker rooms but those get minimal use because most members stay in the cottages.  These too are simple, almost rustic.  They have the necessities, but that is about it.  A 2 beds, 2 TVs, 2 dressers, and 1 bathroom.  They are not 5-star accomodations, but just enough to get a good nights rest so you want to spend every waking moment on the course.  The one thing the cottages have going for them is their beautiful hillside location overlooking the Dismal “river” (more like a stream).  Once you arrive at the club, you park your car and travel from clubhouse to cottages to golf course via golf cart.

The course itself is what this place is all about.  It is about a 10 minute cart right over the dunes and through the hills to the course.  When you arrive you check in at Ben’s Cabin.  The starter there keeps all the groups organized and moving so that everyone is happy.  Between rounds is typically when most golfers grab a bite at the grill.  Drinks and other snacks are available too.

As you look out over the expanse of the course and surrounding land, you realize there could literally be 1,000s of golf holes made on this land. (They even have a drawing in the clubhouse of a bunch of other routing options.)  Because the land is so perfect for golf, you just till up the ground, smooth it and plant grass.  There was very little earth moved in making this course, and it shows with how natural it looks, feels and plays
Hole 1

Sand Hills is all about one thing, pure golf.  During the weekend I was there, I played 8 rounds of golf.  Normally I would get bored after a couple of rounds on the same course in that short of time span, but because of the design, changing winds and weather, along with new pin placements; each round felt very unique.  This might be one of the few places I could play over and over and not get bored with it.  The conditions were perfect.  They had the greens rolling very fast (according to our host) the fairways were firm and the tee-boxes smooth.  It was everything you would expect from a private course.  Between the designs and the conditions you could use a variety of shot styles to get the job done.  It wasn’t pure links, but many elements of links golf were in play. 

There are so many great holes that it is hard to pick out some favorites, but I must say there are a few on both the front and the back that really stand out.  On the front side the stretch of holes 5, 6, 7 and 8 were really some of my favorite on the course.  While hole #5 has a strange back tee; since you hit over the 4th green, but the hole is a great design with a vertical bunker in the middle of the fairway.  The approach shot is slightly uphill as you eye up the giant blow out bunker on the right side of the green.  The 6th hole is an interesting par 3.  It shouldn’t be that hard since the green is huge, but at 200 yards, varying winds and severe undulation; this green was rather tricky.  One day I hit an 8-iron into this green, then next day a hybrid.  It just depends on the wind since this hole is pretty exposed. The short par 4 7th is a great risk reward sort of hole.  If you can hit a baby draw into this green you can be rewarded with a look at eagle, but if it draws too soon, you are just hoping to escape without a double because of the giant bunker you will find yourself in.  If you just try to pound one straight at the green, it will most likely end up bouncing either over the green or it will get kicked to the right.  Laying up off the tee is the safest way to par. The 8th hole is a simple par 4.  It is fairly wide off the tee and when down wind it was even drivable.  The real fun is on the green since there is a deep pot bunker front and center of the green giving it a kidney shaped putting surface.  Depending on the pin placement, you might not be able to put directly at the hole because of that bunker.

Hole 6

On the back side, I really liked the finishing stretch of holes 16, 17 and 18.  Hole #16 is the longest par 5 on the course at 612 yards along with having a ginormis fairway blowout bunker on the left side that simply must be avoided for any chance to make par.  The tee shot is down hill while the rest of the hole as it plays mostly straight with a slight dogleg left for the second half of the hole.  The 17th hole is the perfect example of a tough short par 3.  It plays only 150 yards from the back tee, but the saddle nature of the green with danger for just about any miss makes this a real shot makers hole.  The final hole is both a brute and a beauty as it plays long and up hill.  It has a very picturesque windmill just off the left side of the fairway.  The one nice feature of this hole that allows even fairway wood shots to hold the green is the banked sides of the green and surrounding rough.  It tends to funnel or keep balls on or near the green.  When you get done with 18, you just want to head out for more as soon as you can.

Hole 17

It’s as simple as this, if you ever get the chance to play Sand Hills, drop everything and find a way to get to the middle of Nebraska.  If you want to join Sand Hills well start saving your pennies and networking with the right people because it is very private.  I really apprecaited this once in a life time experience.  Many thanks to my host!!  It lived up the hype and even surpassed many expectation.  They built it and members bring their guests from all over to experience the best mordern course in the world.

Quick Hits
+Stunning scenery
+Impeccable conditions
+Outstanding design
+Excellent variety of shots required

–The middle of nowhere Nebraska
–Very privat