The golf courses at Prairie Club in Nebraska’s Sandhills region are laid out within an enormous property that once operated as a cattle ranch in Snake River Canyon, some twenty miles southwest of the small town of Valentine in Cherry County.
There are currently 46 holes in play here: 18 on the Dunes course (a Tom Lehman and Chris Brands co-design), 18 on the Pines course (fashioned by Graham Marsh), and 10 holes on a lovely little par-three circuit named Horse, which were introduced by Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackleford.
In Daniel Wexler’s book The American Private Golf Club Guide the author describes the Pines course as “moving between dunes and pine-covered terrain (where) it’s shorter front nine initially offers the well-bunkered 548-yard 2nd but peaks at the twisting, semi-blind 616-yard 7th and the sloping (but massively wide) 462-yard 8th.”
He continues: “the pines are more in evidence on the 4,822-yard inward half, particularly at the narrow 602-yard 11th, the 461-yard 12th (a strong, sweeping dogleg left), the 460-yard 16th (whose fallaway green favors a run-up approach) and the 183-yard 17th. Also memorable are a pair of par threes with huge triangular green (the 159-yard 6th and 173-yard 10th) as well as the 595-yard dogleg left 18th, which dares a long second across a corner of the Snake River canyon.”
The Prairie Club’s Pines Course might have been called the Line of Charm Course. Time and again, the player stands on the tee (or on the second shot on a par five) and has to decide how much risk to take on to get the reward of a better angle for the shot to the green. That doesn’t mean an aerial approach is the only possibility, just that there are generally advantageous sides to approach from. The course was in excellent condition in September of 2019—firm and fast.
I found these features, along with the challenge posed by the contoured greens, to be the strengths of the Pines. On the downside, I hit the same club on three of the four par 4s and the routing is not at all intuitive, requiring long walks from too many tees to the next green. In fact, I was the only walker I saw all day…..other than my playing companion, whose cart failed at the farthest point from the clubhouse.