Located in the Badlands section within North Dakota is Bully Pulpit -- named for the phrase used by former US President Teddy Roosevelt when describing the platform that any Presidents can use in advocating his positions. The course is primarily set in a valley floor which has several holes near to the Little Missouri River.
Much of the fanfare tied to Bully Pulpit has centered on holes 14-16 which work their way directly into the hills. The uphill 14th is a quality hole with not one bunker included. The land itself is the star. At the par-3 15th is one of the most scenic and devilish short par-3 holes in all of American golf. Hitting the green requires the most well-executed approach. The 161-yard hole plays from a ridgetop to a green also set on a ridgetop. The slightest error can mean some big time numbers on the scorecard. When wind is blowing the target can become an immense chore to hit and hold. To give an example the 15th at Bully Pulpit is on par with the likes of the 8th at Royal Troon because there's literally no place to miss.
The downhill par-4 16th that follows is also well done with a bottleneck fairway that provides a demanding target to hit. The par-5 17th is especially well done with a series of bunker that split the drive zone between right and left sides. The par-4 18th caps the round in solid fashion -- a mid-length par-4 to a green set just above the fairway so that one's approach has to be hit with precision.
The downside with Bully Pulpit is that the first third of the layout is fairly ordinary. There's no real design elements that add much beyond the natural beauty of the land itself. That does change at the long par-4 7th but the real qualities of Bully Pulpit have to wait till you get to the 10th tee. The inward half is over 300 yards shorter than the front nine but the range of holes, the unique terrain and the need for a range for a broader array of shotmaking expertise is clearly called upon.
The golf season is not a long one in this part of America but the Medora area is quite a recreational getaway on a number of fronts. Bully Pulpit would certainly gain from an updating of a few of the holes from the outward side. Not overdressing them as sometimes Hurdzan and Fry have done with other projects but in being able to add design elements that can add a bit more to holes not blessed with quality terrain.
Nonetheless, for those venturing through western North Dakota a side visit to Bully Pulpit is certainly well worth the time and effort.
by M. James Ward
Date: April 16, 2018