Our knowledgeable crew of course-rating panelists have stuck pegs in the ground just about everywhere. Many of those courses you probably know, but some are less renowned. In Best Course You’ve Never Heard Of, we celebrate those sneaky-good designs.
The early 1990s saw a seismic shift in the world of golf-course architecture. Its epicenter was the Western Plains of Nebraska, 60 miles northwest of North Platte, at Sand Hills Golf Club, a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design that is widely recognized as the finest modern layout in the world. Known for its heaving topography and cavernous, naturally created blow-out bunkers, Sand Hills set a standard for minimalist design of maximum interest. Its influence soon rippled through the industry.
A few years later, at the request of local community leaders, the workhorse shapers from C&C’s Sand Hills crew, Dave Axland and Dan Proctor (aka Bunkerhill Design) created a public minimalist gem: Wild Horse Golf Club in Gothenburg, Neb., 30 miles east of North Platte. Like its nearby famous relative, it features blow-out bunkering (albeit fewer and slightly smaller) and is set on sandy, rolling terrain. It is also rich with strategic challenge, sporting well-contoured, speedy greens and compelling greens surrounds. Wide and bending fairways yield critical lines of charm that either entertain or befuddle every level of player. The maintenance has long been near flawless, allowing for season-long fast and firm conditions. Tall native prairie grasses greet you, waving in the Nebraska wind from the moment you arrive. Your group is often spied upon by inquisitive prairie dogs and darting jackrabbits.
Just off Interstate 80, at mile marker 211, this unassuming jewel is both easily accessible and inviting. A simple, utilitarian clubhouse offers the basics with classic prairie understatement. The same is true of a very useful practice facility. Staffers are warm, welcoming and authentic. No gruff greetings here. All the more remarkable is that you get all of this for under $70, making Wild Horse one of the highest-value public courses you could ever desire to play. The golf is world class, rustic, charming and pure. Eighteen holes just might not be enough at this unhurried, hidden gem.