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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Travel Club
August 22, 2017

Bully Pulpit - Retro Chic
E. Nolan

There's a slight contrast between Medora, North Dakota and whatever town you live in. The bigger and less "Old West" your city, the greater the contrast. That's not to suggest Medora isn't loaded with modern attractions and amenities - cause it sure is - but rather to establish that this is more than just an off-ramp stop. This quaint little I94 detour, in the far western reaches of the Peace Garden State, is North Dakota's "must visit" destination. And not just for the amazing Badlands golf at Bully Pulpit.

Some golf properties don't like it when you discuss the alternative draws in their area. Their competitive insecurities outweigh their logic. The owners and operators of Bully Pulpit not only don't mind the local shout-outs, but insist that the regional highlights be part of their article. Why? Because ALL of the elements are what make Medora come-from-everywhere worthy. And the superior quality of Bully's golf, lends to few (if any) insecurities.

Medora is an interstate-straight shot west from Bismarck and Fargo - an easy-enough day's drive from everywhere in Tee Times' coverage zone. It is surrounded by the North Dakota Badlands and the staggeringly beautiful, bison-loaded, stomping grounds of Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Medora has retro boardwalks connecting ice cream parlors to bake shops, and burger, buffet and pizza places linked to first-class lodging hosts like the renowned Rough Riders Hotel. It is home to the world-famous (and Food Network acclaimed) Pitchfork Steak Fondue & Cowboy Cookout (a stunning dinner experience atop the bluffs of the Tjaden Terrace), as well as the interactive and immensely popular Medora Musical at the Burning Hills Amphitheatre (that YOUR kids will get to participate in... if they'd like). There are parks, riding stables, trails (like Maah Daah Hey Trail) a Family Fun Center with a waterslide, carriage rides, National Park Jeep tours and mini golf. There's all of those perks and amenities, tons of rich local history to explore and then...

Then there's Bully Pulpit. If it's cliché to "save the best for last" then consider this the ultimate cliché. You've learned about the innumerous reasons to bring your family along to Medora on vacation. You already know they're going to love it here. Now... here's why YOU should come here. Here's why YOU - the golfer - will love it here.

If you love golf (as we suspect you do if you're reading an article voluntarily) you likely enjoy the great adventure... or eighteen mini-adventures wrapped up into one giant reward. Bully Pulpit as a golf course gives you a little bit of everything. A few links-style holes, a few forest holes, some river runs, some mountains, some elevated tee shots and a diverse blend of wides and narrows. For most of the round you are surrounded by the stunning glory of the Dakotas' signature landmarks - the Badlands. And then you actually get to play IN them.

Dr. Michael Hurdzan masterfully blended the meadow with the magnificence, naturally enhancing his golf holes with Mother Nature's best local elements - the Little Missouri River and the aforementioned Badlands. It was very important to him to not alter the landscape but merge with it. The 13th hole runs you at the towering bluffs - the gateway to the course's signature experience - and then you make "the climb." The Badland Holes are a trio of scenic stunners - a Par 4 escalation to a tricky green, a top-of-the-world kick-butte 3-par across treacherous terrain, and then a positively awesome, lengthy plummet from the peaks to the plateau green far below. I don't believe there's a golf experience in America that can replicate the playing experience of these three holes. But - and this it the perfect time to clarify this - Bully Pulpit as a major draw isn't defined by just those three holes. It is defined just as much by the special personal service in the clubhouse, the perfectionist tendencies of the greenskeeper and maintenance team, and the other truly fun fifteen holes. For every person who tells you how special "those three Badlands holes are" there are five others who will assert the quality of the other 80% of the course. I consider that Bully Pulpit's greatest testimonial.

Bully Pulpit, by name alone, implies the course is tough. It's not that kind of bully. It IS a championship golf course in every sense of the word, but the impressions it makes on you hole-by-hole are more subtle..."encouragements" almost. You can always see the shot you're supposed to make. Dr. Hurdzan DOES like to use false fronts, and play visual tricks on you, but they're never concealing trouble. You're almost never punished for hitting the "smart" shot. "Bully Pulpit" as a term is political (credited to Mr. Roosevelt), and has nothing to do with golf, but if there is any "bully" in the natural sports pulpit it is in the constant reminders of the surrounding beauty. The various sections of the gorge-ous athletic arena never let you forget where you're playing... or really how lucky you are to be playing there. I've played a lot of golf in North Dakota, and this is the only course in the state where I remember every single hole. (And I last played it in 2010.) For whatever that's worth. This is my year to get back there - taking the entire family - and we honestly, absolutely, can not wait.

Everyone in town takes great care of you. Everyone wants you there. They want you to bring your family, your pets, your friends. Every local business feels like they're owned by the same parent company - which would be a pretty spectacular monopoly - a most impressive realization. This, Medora, is an incredibly welcoming community - every resident wanting you to experience everything they have to offer all at once. But I'd suggest taking your time. Spend a few days here - or a full week - and really soak in the blend of "old world" charms and modern luxuries. Sit up on the colorful bluffs at sunset and watch fading streaks and shadows give way to the bright lights and talents of actors and actresses performing under a star-laden ceiling... take lots of pictures, eat a lot of great food, and see for yourself why so many travel publications have hailed Medora as a "Middle America Marquee." (It definitely isn't just me!)

GolfDigest ranked Bully Pulpit a "Top 100 Public Course in America." They are under no obligation to pick a course from every state, so their love for the Badlands playground is as legitimate as mine. Whoever you trust as your source, whatever you use as your vacation-planning resources, let your fingers lead you to Medora.com to explore the possibilities awaiting you in western North Dakota this year. There's no time like the present to gift yourself and your family with a trip to Medora.

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