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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Travel Club
August 22, 2017

The Prairie Club
Dunes Course #7Photo Courtesy of Peter Wong Photography
+ click to enlarge
Dunes Course #7
Photo Courtesy of Peter Wong Photography
Pines Course #11Photo Courtesy of Peter Wong Photography
+ click to enlarge
Pines Course #11
Photo Courtesy of Peter Wong Photography

Located in the heartland of America is arguably one of the most breathtakingly beautiful and undisturbed golf courses in the world. It encompasses the very essence of prairie golf, and has recently earned the titles of "Overnight Destination of the Year" by Golf Digest Magazine for 2010, "One of the Top 25 Golf Resorts in the U.S." Golf Week for 2010, and "Best New Courses You Can Play 2010" by Golf Magazine.

The Prairie Club is a semi-private golf resort just twenty miles south of Valentine, NE, an oasis for golfers situated smack dab in the middle of the sand hills. The course is a dream of Sioux Falls executive Paul Schock, who hired renowned course designers Tom Lehman, Chris Brands, Graham Marsh and Gil Hanse to design each of the three courses at The Prairie Club.

When Paul Schock first laid eyes on the land that would eventually become home to The Prairie Club a tingle ran up and down his spine and an obsession gripped him almost immediately. Where most people would see rolling hills carpeted in prairie grass and scrub brush, dotted with enormous sand dunes, Schock saw a place where he could completely lose himself in a passion that has engulfed him since he was a young man growing up in South Dakota.

"The land seemed to be teasing and taunting me," said Schock, a venture capitalist from Sioux Falls, SD, "daring me to pull out my golf clubs right there and then."

Situated along the Snake River Canyon in the heart of Nebraska's Sandhills region and located dead center in the annual migration flight path of the Sandhill crane, there's a magical quality to the land that seems to have a way of casting a spell over its visitors. It's a place that Paul Schock envisioned a world-class golf destination that would always welcome those who have an almost unquenchable fire to challenge their golfing skills.

The Prairie Club offers two championship-length 18-hole golf courses, The Dunes Course and The Pines Course, and a par 3, 10-hole golf course called The Horse Course. The three golf courses are situated on 1,260 acres, and will be complemented by a third 18-hole golf course to be called Old School, which will be developed at a future date. Gil Hanse, Golf Magazine's 2009 Architect of the Year and president and principal architect of Philadelphia-based Hanse Golf Course Design Inc., was selected by The Prairie Club to begin designing Old School.

The Dunes Course is an 18-hole championship golf course designed by PGA professional golfer and golf course architect Tom Lehman, and golf course architect Chris Brands. It's six sets of tees stretch from 5,842 to 8,073 yards. Marked by dramatic elevation changes, endless views of the Sandhills in all directions, and immense blow-out bunkers, a player will face this wind-torn land and massive rolling seascape of prairie grass, searching for a bright, calm slick of green fairway. Those who are accustomed to, or have dreamed of playing a traditional, links-style golf course on the order of Scotland's Carnoustie Golf Links, will welcome the challenge.

The Pines Course, the other 18-hole championship course, takes advantage of the remnants of a nearby, ancient ponderosa forest situated along the banks of the Snake River Canyon. This course was designed by Graham Marsh, an internationally renowned touring golf professional, who also is recognized for his 25 years of worldwide golf course design experience, including most recently, South Dakota's highly acclaimed Sutton Bay.

The Pines Course features five sets of tees ranging from 5,329 to 7,528 yards. The prevailing prairie winds are somewhat blocked by the western wall of the canyon and the trees, making the warming sun and the canyon views stunningly beautiful, creating a silent reverie for the golfer.

"I attempted to blend my two favorite forms of golf into The Pines Course," said Marsh, "meshing my love for the Old Course at St. Andrews with the classic tree-lined courses in the sand belt region near Melbourne, Australia, which I played as a young amateur."

Uniquely set apart from the two championship 18 hole courses is the wickedly fun Horse Course. Set just off the lodge, this par 3 with 10 holes takes basketball's game of "horse" to a whole new level. There are no tee boxes - the one with the honors calls the spot from which you tee up your next shot. Set right on the rim of the Snake River Canyon, this golf course plays from 485 to 1,125 yards, depending, of course, upon where a player decides to call the tee shot, as the traditional game of "horse" dictates. Designed by renowned golf course architect Gil Hanse, along with his partners Geoff Shackelford and Jim Wagner, The Horse Course is the perfect complement to the putting green complex named "The Himalayas".

Off the course, Schock's vision is to offer a comfortable, relaxing retreat to give his guests a respite from the stresses of daily life. At the center of The Prairie Club experience is the Prairie Club Lodge, which has been designed to capture and reflect the harmony and connection with the prairie and the sand hills. Offering relaxed dining and lodging accommodations, the Prairie Club Lodge features 31 rooms, a gourmet restaurant, two bars, a library, a 20-person conference room, covered and outdoor patios, merchandise store and golf shop. In addition to the Lodge, The Prairie Club also offers a four-room and three eight-room cabins located on the rim of the Snake River Canyon.

With all of the recent accolades and press for The Prairie Club, founder Paul Shock couldn't be more proud. "We are honored to be listed as the top overnight golf destination among some of the most prestigious courses in America," says Shock. "Our vision was to give people an amazing game of golf while preserving and showcasing the natural beauty of the sand hills area. The Prairie Club is even better than I imagined it could be."

Joe Passov, Senior Editor for Golf Magazine ranked The Dunes Course #2 for Lehman and Brands' ability to drape 18 sand hills-style holes onto a rolling, treeless canvas, with firm, incredibly wide fairways that still manage to demand strategic driving, thanks to the artistically sculpted, well-placed bunkers at every turn. Passov also gave the #8 honor to The Pines Course, comparing it to Melbourne's Sandbelt courses.

The Prairie Club is a semi-private club that offers a wide-open membership philosophy. The Prairie Club welcomes avid golfers from all over the world who dream about experiencing the Club's world-class golf courses. Each day, one course is designated for both member and public play and the other is reserved for members and their guests only. The Prairie Club's membership philosophy is best summed up as: if you want to play the Prairie Club, you can; if you want to play regularly, it makes sense to become a member.

"Our mission is to touch the soul of the golfer by creating unforgettable memories through a world-class golf experience," Schock said, in describing his vision for The Prairie Club. "This is a place where men and women have always chased their dreams; buffalo, antelope, summering ponies, vast herds of beef cattle, and now a little white ball."

A number of commercial flights are available through Pierre, SD, which is located 130 miles by ground from Valentine, and North Platte, NE, which also is about 130 miles by ground from Valentine. Commercial carriers flying to Pierre include: Delta, Frontier, and United. Commercial carriers flying into North Platte include: Delta, Frontier, United and Midwest Airlines. Some may wish to fly into Sioux Falls, SD, Rapid City, SD, Omaha or Denver and drive to The Prairie Club. Regardless how you arrive, The Prairie Club is sure to make for an unforgettable golf experience.





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