“Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. ”
Nebraska's Prairie Club
The power of the Nebraska prairie has been a literary theme for more than a century. Now it's part of golf lore.
A century ago, Nebraska’s greatest novelist, Willa Cather, gave voice to the raw nature and overwhelming scale of the state’s landscape. No one who has ever read her books, O Pioneer! (1913) or My Ántonia (1918), would mistake them for golf writing. But in drawing attention to the stark beauty and unremitting power of Nebraska’s vast open spaces, she identifies what makes a place like the Prairie Club so compelling.
The quality of golf helps. Out here in north central Nebraska, amid 18,000 square miles of the hemisphere’s largest naturally grassed dunesland, there is a sensibility to the game found elsewhere only on the classic linksland of Scotland and Ireland. There are two fine 18-hole courses on the site, both of them par-73 and opened in 2008. The Graham Marsh-designed Pines Course rolls across wooded uplands overlooking the Snake River. The Tom Lehman-designed Dunes Course rides roughshod atop some wild sandy ground. Once formal golf is over, you can turn to an enjoyable little par-3 layout called the Horse Course that Gil Hanse designed.
The 2,500-acre site occupies ground that’s directly under the migratory flight path of the Sandhill Crane. Their seasonal fly-throughs involve these birds in such masses that they can momentarily darken the skies. But they also provide the kind of wild cries that make it clear you are in a special place.
It helps, too, to have the kind of comfortable onsite lodging that owner Paul Shock has provided in the form of a 31-room lodge and 28 cabins. The combination of rugged outdoors and luxurious interiors offers considerable refuge for those lucky enough to find themselves out here, in what is not an easy place to get to. It’s the kind of remoteness that makes the journey part of the occasion. Small wonder that members and resort guests are doing what those Sandhill Cranes are doing—coming from afar to flock here.
The Prairie Club, Valentine, Nebraska. For information, call (402) 376-1361 or visit theprairieclub.com.
Miller Field (KVTN) in Valentine, Nebraska, is 17 miles northeast of the club and has a 4,704-foot runway.
Brad Klein (email@example.com) is the architecture editor of Golfweek. His latest book is Wide Open Fairways.