Steeped in history, The Old Course at St. Andrews has a spirtual hold unlike any other, with golfers leaving there more reinvigorated than ever by the joys of the game of golf. For many, the course in the United States that offers a similar reconnectionto all the game’s best attributes is – ironically -just over ten years old.
How can this possibly be, one asks?To understand how, one must appreciate the expansive sand hills range in north central Nebraska where the Sand Hills Golf Club is located. As with the Old Course, the land was shaped by the elements and was largely untouched by man for thousands upon thousands of years. The overall result is that a game at Sand Hills Golf Club immerses the golfer in nature like few courses anywhere in the world.
The credit for finding and providing this primal reunion with nature belongs to Dick Youngs cap and his partners. Youngscap had previously worked with Pete Dye in the eastern part of the state when he founded the Firethorne Golf Club in 1986. Long aware of the great sand hills range and of the Ogallala aquifer, Youngscap searched this unique area for several years looking for property with land forms that might yield holes of high golfing quality.
As Youngscap notes, ‘Not all sand hills are created equally’ and the particular parcel of land that was eventually settled upon was brought to Youngs cap’s attention because of its poor grazing qualities: the sandy soil lacked humus and thus much vegetation, requiring 25 acres to support each cattle.Excellent grazing land consists of soil/vegetation conditions that allow cattle to be supported on just 5 acres per head.
Course critics say that Sand Hills was waiting to be ‘discovered.’ Certainly, Perry Maxwell’s comment re:Prairie Dunes about eliminating one hundred holes applies to Sand Hills. However, these comments are dismissive of the fact that the monumental challenge was to route eighteen consecutive holes that play well together in all wind conditions. Many architects could find several dozen great holes scattered over the 8,000 acres. However, hole D’s tee might require a three hundred yard walk from Hole C’s green. Or perhaps the architect finds a fine string of six or seven holes only to become boxed into a less appealing portion of the property. Or, lacking the patience to follow nature’s lead, an architect resorts to bulldozing landforms to force a conventional set of holes upon the landscape.