Built by Dan Proctor and Dave Axland, two of the crew that constructed Sand Hills for Coore & Crenshaw in the mid-1990s, the course at Bayside Golf Club overlooks McConnaghy Lake, with views of its sparkling waters found on almost every hole. Truly showcasing the beautiful western Nebraska landscape, this is a family-owned facility that’s marketed by the club as “the home of extreme golf!”
Situated on rugged terrain not far south of where the Oregon Trail once cut through Nebraska, the 18-hole layout occupies a rugged and unforgiving environment that has hardly changed since the days when fur traders and trappers passed through in the early 19th century. The first nine opened for play in 1999, followed a couple of years later by another nine holes.
The short 17th (measuring only 138 yards from the back markers), is undoubtedly the signature hole on the course, featuring a ragged-edged bunker in the middle of an elongated, heavily-contoured putting surface. Expect a little delay on the tee box here as golfers take the opportunity to mess about with a few putts from different positions around the green before heading to the last tee.
For those who venture to the far western corner of Nebraska I would strongly recommend stopping by Bayside. The course is located on the shores of Lake McConaughy. Dave Axland and Dave Prcotor -- the two men who shaped nearby Sand Hills in Mullen for Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, are the two men responsible for the layout. The course is truly a tale of two distinctly different nines.
The outward side is relatively benign. There are design features but many are in the subdued and subtle categories.
The routing is done well on the front half. There's constant changing of direction and the greens are ably defended -- either with bunkers or internal contours. The long par-4 6th, par-3 8th and mid-length par-4 9th are all solid quality holes.
When you reach the 10th hole the whole presentation of Bayside is about to change in an utterly unbelievable manner.
The land for the inward half is truly rolling and Axland and Proctor have clearly ratcheted up matters. The 10th is a short par-4 of 350+ yards but the green is set upon a green island -- surrounded by native area. At the long par-5 11th -- measuring a stout 650+ yards -- you come to a hole easily among the State's top 18. The hole turns right in the drive zone and after that the width of the landing area tapers down considerably. One cannot miss either left or right. In many ways, the nature of the terrain reminds me of how Pine Valley's par-5 15th plays. There's also a devilish center-placed bunker that lurks for those who fail to appreciate the kind of poison it can inflict. The green is both long and narrow. Escape with a par here and consider yourself blessed by a higher power.
The par-4 13th is also one of the best holes at Bayside. Playing generally into the prevailing wind the green is fronted by native area.
The dog-leg left 14th at 380+ yards is another eye-opener. The green looks like it's driveable but one must temper your testosterone because the smart play is out to the right. The green is another gem -- plenty of movement quite hard to read on first play.
The par-5 16th often plays with a helping wind from the left when standing on the tee. This cape hole presents a serious issue -- how much of the corner does one wish to cut. Failure means a likely visit to the native area which patrols that side. The green is one of the best at the course -- set on the far side and above a gully area -- with trees bracketing both sides. The green can be reached in two blows but one had best hit the brakes when landing on this elusive target.
The final three holes show how fun holes can be created without relying upon excess yardage and penal inclusions. The par-4 16h is just over 300 yards but there's a range of decisions to make. It's sort of the junior public course version of Riviera's 10th hole. The par-3 17th borrows another aspect from Riviera -- the center-placed bunker in the heart of the putting surface. Playing only 147 yards -- the green is wonderfully contoured and can be a real thrill to see how close you can come when placed in the deep far left corner.
Baysides's closing hole is 416 yards and features a fairway cut-off. You have to decide how close you wish to hot your tee shot before the fairway ends at just over 300 yards. Working the ball with a left-to-right movement is the best play but just realize the fairway does taper down considerably the further you advance the ball from the tee. The green sits on the other side of the native area and is quite large. The front left area can be quite challenging to get near.
It's a pity the two nines could not have been more closely aligned in their overall presentation. If Bayside had two back nines of comparable quality then the course's overall standing would have been far higher. Nonetheless, a visit is certainly well worth scheduling if ever in that area.
by M. James Ward