Bully Pulpit In Medora, North Dakota – Explore It. Adore It
By E. Nolan
Have you ever been somewhere you wish you could immediately transport all of your friends and family members to (if only for a minute) just so they could comprehend and appreciate how surprisingly great it is? I mean, everyone knows how great Hawaii is, and parts of California, Maine and Canada. You don’t need to sell those places. But almost no one in America, when asked to name a special place they’ve been (or would like to go) would mention North Dakota. All that tells me is that they’ve probably never been to Medora, and possibly never heard of North Dakota’s Mount More-Rush (Holes 14, 15, 16 at Bully Pulpit). Well, 350,000 of you are about to get a journalistic introduction.
Speaking of introductions… every year Bully Pulpit Golf Course and Medora are represented at the Minnesota Golf Show by one of the nicest and most authentic Americans – Kathy Solga. She has a love for America, and North Dakota, and Medora (and golf) that goes well beyond the incredible golf course she manages in Medora, North Dakota, America. Kathy will stand for hours, for days, telling people all the reasons she loves Medora, inviting them to come visit, not because she gets any financial perk out of it, but because she really wants people to discover what she already knows. Medora is unbelievable and awesome!
I walked by the booth for years, and would occasionally stop and talk to Kathy – that smile and wave is impossible to ignore – but it took seeing pictures of Bully Pulpit’s incredible golf romp through the Badlands to get me out there, and once I arrived I immediately realized Medora was SO MUCH MORE than golf… and so much more than advertised. I hear people advocate for places I’ve never been all the time, but when the words “North Dakota” are part of the pitch, I’ve tended to tune them out. No more. What a lifetime oversight that was on my part. Don’t make that same mistake!
I’m going to get to the golf course, because that is arguably the marquee attraction, but I want to spend a little time on the rest. I want you to hear about the Medora Musical, the professionally produced high-energy presentation that draws tens of thousands of guests every summer not just to watch it, but to actually be a PART of it. Described as “The Rootin’-Tootinest, Boot-Scootinest Show in All the West” anyone with kids has to check it out – watch them get up on that huge, awesome OUTDOOR stage beneath the brightest of starry skies and sing, dance and laugh with the incredibly talented cast of performers. (Kids 6 and under are FREE!) But I jumped the gun here – roll it back. Before the Musical you need to check out something called the Pitchfork Steak Fondue.
The Pitchfork Fondue is a cultural phenomenon, highlighted in almost every legitimate travel/food magazine in the country (A Food Network “Best Of” favorite). Half grill-fest, half mega-picnic and half-greatest-family-social-dining-stage-ever, the Pitchfork Fondue experience is more than a whole of everything and unlike anything you’ll likely experience anywhere else. Presented on top of the Tjaden Terrace cliffs overlooking the Badlands and Amphitheater, every evening from June 1st through September 8th (5:30-6:30 Mountain time), expert grillers stack pitchforks with steaks, and fondue them “western style” over fires. Served with fruit, vegetables, toast, potatoes, brownies, donuts, lemonade and coffee (with beer and wine also available) this is a feast of surreal proportions. (On Sundays and Wednesdays, KIDS EAT FREE!)
Beyond the Pitchfork Steak Fondue, Medora has many other eating options. There’s Theodore’s Dining Room at the Rough Rider Hotel (more on the Rough Rider hotel later), Badlands Pizza & Saloon, the Maltese Burger on the Town Square Patio, fudge and ice cream shops and even a (very popular) Gospel Brunch!
In terms of activities (beyond golf), Medora is famous for the 150-mile Maah Daah Hey (Bike) Trail, for Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the North Dakota Badlands, for the Medora Riding Stable and Trail Rides, Chateau de Mores, the Cowboy Hall of Fame and plenty of other family activities like Mini Golf, the Children’s Park, and a Calendar full of other concerts/events/presentations worth checking out on their website. Walking through town is a thrill of its own, with the aforementioned snack shops and other stores scattered about. Definitely a vacation hub worth hopping over to.
Speaking of “worth hopping over to,” it’s about time we get to the golf. I could write the entire two-page article on just Bully Pulpit Golf Course, but I don’t/won’t because I want every non-golfer to realize Medora is just as much for them. True as that is, the golfer gets the added bonus of playing one of America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses here AND its IN the Badlands.
At Bully Pulpit you get to climb up and down the chiseled cliffs and valleys of The Badlands. You get to hit dramatic shots into canyons and off clifftops unlike any other setting in the world onto fairways as starkly contrasting with their surroundings as stark and contrast get. The front nine meanders through meadows and woodlands, with an occasional breakaway along the Little Missouri River, but the entire routing is chock full of anticipation for those holes you can always see off in the distance… holes 14, 15 and 16 that every keeps the fingers and thumbs of every Social Media snapper in hyperactive mode. The setting is surreal, and yet so, so real.
Medora, North Dakota is 500 miles from the Twin Cities (less than an 8 hour drive for me most of the time, even with four kids), and only two hours past Bismarck (with a great course to pair with Bully for “buddy golf groups.” If you’re wondering what else you can squeeze into a Medora/Bully Pulpit trip consider making my favorite loop down to Devil’s Tower then on to Mount Rushmore and back home (to MN, WI, IA, etc.). My point in these suggestions is to tell you that you can make an incredible Summer/Golf Vacation in the Dakota’s with a little geographic creativity and not miss out on all the proximate and very affordable greatness.
Golfers and non-golfers alike have a number of accommodation options in Medora. I never pass up an opportunity to stay at the fabulous Historic Rough Riders Hotel, but families should check out the New Elkhorn Quarters, and the budget conscious can go with the Badlands Motel, Hyde House, Wooly Boys Inn or even camp at the Medora Campground (cabins also available there). There are many more options in the area, but these (particularly the Rough Riders Hotel) are where I’m looking if I’m visiting, and you should too. Medora.com offers you plenty of Stay & Play packages and you can easily add extra golf rounds to the Bully Stay & Play at a discount.
I’ll close with a couple of recommendations. First, go to the Course Tour tab on the Bully Pulpit home page and watch the Course Flyover. Secondly… if you do the first, I won’t need a second, and neither will you. If you love golf, beauty and adventure, you’ll be hooked and ready to book.