Rapid City lies to the east of Black Hills National Forest in the western region of South Dakota. It’s known as the gateway to the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, featuring the granite sculpture portraits of four US Presidents which were eventually completed in 1941.
Hart Ranch Golf Course is located less than twenty miles from this iconic monument in Spring Creek Valley, within a massive 13,000-acre property that currently supports the public access 18-hole layout, along with an adjacent residential community, a membership campground and an authentic working cattle ranch.
Opened in 1995, the course has four sets of tees for regular play, measuring from 4,991 yards up to 6,833 yard. However, Hart Ranch also employs additional forward tee positions in its PGA Family Course Program, providing a beginner-friendly short course within the existing golf facility.
Hart Ranch was a pleasant surprise, a more traditional design. My first suggestion is due to elevation and greens not holding take one less club than you think. The first is a welcoming par 4, what you see is what you get. The 2nd is a long par 4 with OB left and right and fairway bunkers right that can come into play on your drive. The green is protected by a bunker right and long. I bounced my approach on and it finally settled on the back of the green just shy of the bunker. The par 5 3rd is a good risk reward hole and an excellent birdie oppty. Big hitters should cut the dogleg left by flying over the tree on the left side. However, if you miss left, be prepared for a big score as you will probably end up in the meandering stream. This stream can come into play on poorly played pulled or hooked second shots. The 3rd hole is rated the easiest on the course. A downhill gimme par 3, take one less club. The short par 4 5th is driveable, be wary of the creek left. The green is well protected by 3 bunkers and you do not want to be above the hole. The 6th does not look that tough on the card, all you have to do is hit a straight drive. The tightest hole thus far, the left side trees tighten the fairway even more by acting as bunkers in the sky. Another green that you do not want to be long on, best to bounce your approach onto the green. Do not underestimate the par 3 7th. The water on the right should not come into play, although yours truly shanked into it. There is a false front and the right center of the green is severely undulating. If you want to score you must play smart on 8. The stream bisects the fairway at about 115 yards out. To carry it from the tips is about 280. Hit an iron or a utility to get inside 150 yards. The 9th is theoretically reachable. However, the omnipresent stream bisects the hole about 50 yards out. Play it as a 3 shotter and select your preferred wedge yardage for the third shot.
The 10th is longer and similar to 8. Off the tee you want to lay up to about 150 yards otherwise the meandering stream will get you (again). The 11th, while not long, is the number one handicap hole. Favor the left off the tee to set up your second shot away from the water hazard on the left side. It is definitely reachable but favor the right side or get wet. For the life of me, I do not understand how the 469 yard dogleg right 12th is the number 5 handicap hole. It is a mcgilla, OB right and left, which is ok, but if you hit a good drive you will still be looking at a 180-200 yard carry over water. On this junket we played 19 different courses and, in my opinion, this was the toughest hole of all of them. The 13th is somewhat of a respite, from the tips 200 yards and that meandering stream is starting to annoy me. The 14th is long with OB right. Two fairway bunkers right as well as two right greenside bunkers. This has a long two tiered green so pick the appropriate club for the approach. The 15th is a dogleg right. Favor the left off the tee. The hole slopes right and there is a speed slot that will catapult your drive forward near the fairway/rough seem. The green sits on a ledge with two bunkers right. The 16th is a flip wedge over a deep ravine. The green has 3 bunkers, two front and one left with OB right. Of note as you walk up the stairs to the green there is a sign that says caution rattle snakes have been spotted in this area. I would suggest that may be something that should be posted and disclosed a lot earlier in the round. The 17th is a relatively straight forward par 4 with an elevated green. Probably want to take an extra club, but above the hole is death. If you were wondering what happened to my nemesis, the meandering stream, it is back on 18. It bisects the landing area, so do the math. If you are playing the correct tees it will be hard to carry. The brook then runs down the left side.
A fine golf course that I would pay to play again.
Would you recommend Hart Ranch or Red Rock if you had to pick one?
The courses are very different. Hart Ranch is more traditional. If you hate meandering creeks go to Red Rock. If you don't like greens that don't hold go to Hart Ranch. Both worth playing, kind of like chocolate or vanilla ice cream or brunettes or blondes.......