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North Dakota - Golfing Paradise?

Nov 25, 2014 9:50 PM
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When was the last time you read anything about golf in North Dakota? I'm guessing the only holes in the ground you know about in North Dakota are the ones that have been fracked for natural gas.


With America losing on average a golf course per day, exact industry figures on the number of golf courses in play can be hard to verify but by almost any count there are more golf holes per capita in North Dakota than any other state. So no waiting, the rounds are quick and the public courses are private. But what can you expect from these deserted golfing fields where seldom is heard a yell of "fore?"


Most of the courses in the Flickertail State are 9-hole affairs; greens fees range between $5 and $10 and can cover one loop or be good for the day. It is not unheard of to find clubhouses locked and a cashbox by the first tee at some courses that operate on the honor system on slow weekdays. These 9-holers are half-courses with full yardages around 3000 yards.  While many are on the shortish side the rakish winds and frequent elevation changes stretch the holes considerably.


The greens in North Dakota, without exception, are superb.  The short playing season and lack of play conspire to create smooth, true putting surfaces.  But by some counts North Dakota still boasts a few dozen courses that retain a relic of an earlier golfing age when woods were really crafted of wood and so were the shafts: sand greens.


The sand is saturated with oil and furrowed by heavy rakes used to groom the green after each play.  You cannot stop a shot on a sand green, no matter how high and soft and magical your approach.  Tip for putting on sand greens:  Plan to hit the putt like it is three times as long as it is, then hit the ball three times as hard as you think you need to, then walk ten feet to the ball and do it all again.


Some of the tracks in North Dakota are truly unique. Consider the Gateway Cities Golf Club in Portal. Well, the clubhouse is in Portal. You need to walk across the Canadian border into Saskatchewan to reach the first tee and play the opening eight holes in Canada. The 9th hole, a 125-yard three-par, affords the opportunity to hit from one country to the other.  The sign at the world's only international golf hole informs you that your tee ball will “cross the forty-ninth parallel and will land in the United States one hour later.” Now that's golf the North Dakota way. 

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