Review: The Prairie Club Golf Courses, NE
The Prairie Club is the newest resort, but probably not the last to build golf courses in the sand hills region. I heard about the master plan a few years back and have waited patiently for the courses to be built and opened. They finally did in 2010. Not only did the Prairie Club open 18 holes, they opened 46 holes. Two full 18 holes courses, the Pines and the Dunes, but also 10 holes of HORSE golf.
The 36 hole at the Pine and Dunes (and 10 holes at the HORSE) were simply amazing. The conditions were some of the best I have ever played, (I’ve played some good courses). The greens were fast and smooth, while the fairways were hard and tight. Tee boxes were flat and well maintained, even the back ones. I would even be willing to put these in the same conversation as some of the greats at Bandon, they are just missing the ocean.
Because these are literally in the middle of nowhere, most golfers are going to have to travel to this course and stay, which is something you are going to want to do. When you drive up they take care of everything. The valet parking takes care of your car, the staff gets your clubs to the pro shop, the lodge workers drop you bags off at your room, and you barely need to lift a finger. The staff is all incredibly friendly and helpful. The food is excellent at all times of the day and the rooms are awesome. The dark woods and rich warm colors in the rooms along with free wi-fi and a nice LCD TV make things cozy and relaxing. Depending on your cell-phone provider you might not have service out here, but getting away from the phone can actually be kind of nice.
Now is a great time to go, their first year stay and play rates are very reasonable. But if you can’t make it out there just yet, the future sounds to be better for this resort as there is another course slated to be built. So if you want to play great sand hills golf, enjoy a lodge like retreat and get away from it all, Prairie Club is open the public.
For more information: http://theprairieclub.com/
The Pines Course
The fairway is pretty wide and there are nice framing bunkers to aim at. After ripping the drive down the middle, a smooth iron shot in capped with a 2-putt par. The 2nd hole, a good length par 4, took just a little maneuvering to find the right tee box, but once I did I again found the fairway only to top the second shot, but the reward of links golf is roll. I was still able to hit a short iron into the green and another par. The par 3 3rd hole is all about hitting the right spot on the green, because even if your ball starts on the green it can easily run off just about any side. The long par 4 4th hole takes a good drive to have a decent shot into the green. While the drive wasn’t perfect, I was able to hit a running hybrid right into the middle of the green and exit with another par. The medium length par 4 5th hole is a dogleg right with a semi-blind tee shot. But there are great aiming points with the windmill in the distance and a tall bunker to hit just right of. The second shot into this hole plays slightly downhill to another generous sized green. After just missing this green, a simple chip close for another par. The next few holes enter into the Pines part of the course. The par 3 6th hole has a huge multi-tiered green. Even if you hit the green off the tee, it doesn’t guarantee a par depending on hole location. But thankfully my Slighter Damascus was rolling the rock to leave this hole with an easy par. The par 5 7th hole is most likely going to be a 3 shot hole. It plays straight away for the tee shot and second shot. Just avoid the pines on the right side. After getting within 100 yards, the green is down hill to the right. It is fairly deceptive. There is a nasty false front and while the back looks like a backstop it is much flatter than it looks. But again dropping the ball on the green for a 2-putt par seemed simple. The long par 4 8th hole plays up hill. The fairway is huge so it is easy to hit, but trying to navigate the second shot is all about trusting the yardage and going for it. While there is some danger on the right side, it also rewards balls by kicking them down onto the green, again leaving a simple little par putt. The short par 4 9th hole is a great risk reward. There is nasty tall stuff left, and there are some bunkers and junk to the right, but the green is reachable off the tee. I hit a nearly perfect drive only to come up about 20 yards short of the green. A little chip and two putts for par left me with a boring 36 of all pars on the front side.
The fairways are generally big and rolling and there are sand bunkers and blowouts all over the place. The green is elevated and kind of domed, but nothing too severe. The second hole is another long par 4 with an incredibly wide fairway, but everything pinches in at the green. Behind the green is one the few trees on the whole property. Also behind the green are visual bunkers that probably never come into play. The par 5 3rd hole is all about getting your tee shot up the left side so you can see for your second shot, but most likely a lay up anyways so even if you go right, you can still get your par. The par 3 4th hole was the closest I’ve had to a hole in one in some time. I burned the edge of the cup and stopped just inches away. It is a huge hourglass shaped green, that can play anywhere from a 5-iron as it did on my first round down to a 9-iron as it did on my second round. Also with the hills in the back, you can bounce it off those too to bring it in. The par 4 5th hole is short but depending on pin placement can be nasty. While it is pretty wide off the tee, navigating the pot bunkers and being at the right spot for the approach is vital. They have a nasty pin placement that can be on the right side of the green behind this huge blowout bunker. At least there is a collection area to the far right in case you bail. The par 5 6th hole isn’t real long for a par 5, but playing up hill makes it a 3 shot hole for most golfers. Navigating the second shot can be tricky because it is semi-blind. The 3rd shot into the green needs to stay right otherwise it will kick down to the left and gather in a collection area. The par 3 7th hole is a nice little downhill hole that has a bunch of little collection areas, but for the most part is one of the simpler holes on the course, only to lull you to sleep for the hardest hole on the course the brute of a par 4 8th hole. You need to hit two very good shots on this hole to have a chance at par. Needing a long accurate drive and then another long second shot funneled between the hills over the bunker. While the green and landing area around it are very forgiving and huge, it is just a very difficult hole. While on the card the par 4 9th hole is really long and plays uphill, for some reason I didn’t have too many troubles with this hole. Just make sure you stay to the left off the tee, there isn’t much room to the right, especially not over the bunker. The green up on top of the hill will be generally very receptive to long irons or hybrids.
The H.O.R.S.E. Course
What I also really like about this short course, is that it played like the regulation sized courses, you could bump and run, you could hit short and trickle one on, is wasn’t just fly the green and putt out. Not only was the set up awesome, the greens were more fun than just a normal course too, because they offered huge undulations, almost like a mini-golf course. I think if you go with a couple of buddies, grab some beers, a couple of clubs and you could spend hours playing HORSE on this course.