Hawktree Golf Club
I told a New York City friend I was taking three days to play golf in North Dakota, and he was polite enough to inquire if I had taken leave of my senses. I was of sound mind and body, yet he blinked vacantly for a few seconds while I reassured him that North Dakota courses have won two best new course awards in the last few years (Hawktree in 2000 and Bully Pulpit in 2005 for those of you scoring at home). Moreover, there is as scenic a landscape as can be found anywhere in the country complete with horseback riding, hiking trails, fishing, National Parks and wildlife preserves. And - Surprise! - North Dakota is no more remote for travel than Texas for most Americans. Most importantly, the golf is dirt cheap.
Too few people have taken advantage of all the wonders North Dakota has to offer. Its like they actually believe things that could be headlines right out of that comedy newspaper The Onion:
North Dakota is really just East Montana, South Saskatchewan
Area Nimrod actually bragging about going to North Dakota
U.S. to Canada: Trade you North Dakota for all the Molson we can drink
Wife Concusses Husband with 9-wood for Suggesting North Dakota for Vacation Spot
All right I better quit the North Dakota jokes or golf course architect Jim Engh, a native North Dakotan, will bust my head. Nevertheless, the secret is out ' golf courses in North Dakota are claiming numerous awards for their stellar designs and unspoiled natural setting. North Dakota is no joke. The golf ' like the state itself - is an unspoiled frontier adventure, and its dirt cheap.
First, fly into Bismarck and play Hawktree Golf Club, Enghs second solo design project and his first public effort. Engh, now a Coloradan, was thrilled to create a great course in his one-time home state. I grew up riding on a tractor in my dads lap, so its nice to close the circle so to speak and come back home.
The course is unmistakably Engh and, therefore, looks nothing like either of North Dakotas other two flagship courses, Bully Pulpit in Medora and Links of North Dakota in the states northwest corner. Built-over Hawktree features Enghs now familiar side-walled fairways, bowl-shaped green settings (both of which give player-friendly bounces and help keep play moving) and squiggle-shaped muscle bunkers, this time filled with black slag, a burned coal by-product instead of sand.
Next, drive two hours west to rugged Medora, home to Michael Hurdzans Bully Pulpit. With solid design features, several different types of topography ' from serene meadows to several holes that climb through, around and over Badlands canyons - and holes with plenty of options, the course is particularly well rounded. Part shades and glens, part rugged mountains, the course is eminently natural.
While the minimalism is to be commended, the greatest asset is Hurdzans creation of many lines of charm. Bunkers frequently bisect fairways perpendicularly (most notably at six and thirteen) and meadows filled with native grasses tempt players to try to carry them to gain an advantage for the next shot. The greens have more interesting contours than most other public courses, yet do not have the cloak and dagger terror of a Black Mesa or Pinehurst No. 2.
Finally, a trip to Williston, N.D., two hours north of Medora, to play the Links of North Dakota, is a trip back to the land of the great frontier expansion. Architect Stephen Kay built the Links of North Dakota in a remote but pristine plot of land in the far northwest corner of the state. The course overlooks and meanders along he bluffs a gorgeous corner of Lake Sakagawea among heaving natural grass covered dunes. Its only twenty-eight miles from the nearest town, but the landscape seems as remote and primal as when Lewis and Clark walked there with the Lakes Native American namesake exactly 200 years ago
Best of all, all three courses can be played for $60 or less.
Since launching his first golf writing website in 2004, Jay Flemma's comparative analysis of golf designs and knowledge of golf course architecture and golf travel have garnered wide industry respect. In researching his book on America's great public golf courses (and whether they're worth the money), Jay, an associate editor of Cybergolf, has played over 260 nationally ranked public golf courses in 39 different states. Jay has played about 1,649,000 yards of golf - or roughly 938 miles. His pieces on travel and architecture appear in Golf Observer, Cybergolf and other print magazines. When not researching golf courses for design, value and excitement, Jay is an entertainment, copyright, Internet and trademark lawyer and an Entertainment and Internet Law professor in Manhattan.
Great golf in North Dakota You betcha
OB tee shot, bunker trouble dooms Rahm to MC
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – The key to surviving Carnoustie is avoiding the bunkers.
Jon Rahm found three bunkers to close out the front nine Friday, the start of a triple bogey-double-bogey run that led to a second-round 78 and missed cut at The Open.
“All of them were as bad a lie as they could have been,” he said. “Besides that, things didn’t happen. I can’t give an explanation, really. I don’t know.”
Rahm’s troubles started on the seventh hole, a par 4 with a steady left-to-right wind. Out of bounds loomed left, and Rahm, who primarily plays a cut shot, hadn’t missed left all week. This time, his ball didn’t curve, and the OB tee shot led to a triple.
“Whenever I start missing shots to the left,” he said, “it’s really hard for me to play.”
After a career-best fourth-place finish at the Masters, Rahm has now missed the cut in consecutive majors.
“Right now I’m not in any mental state to think about what happened, to be honest,” he said.
Three of world's top 5 MC; not 60-year-old Langer
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Three of the top five players in the world missed the cut at The Open.
Bernhard Langer did not.
The 60-year-old, who is in the field via his victory in last year’s Senior Open Championship, shot even-par 71 on Friday. At 2 over through 36 holes, he safely made it under the plus-3 cut line.
"You know, I've played the Masters [this year], made the cut. I'm here and made the cut. I think it is an accomplishment," he said. "There's a lot of great players in the field, and I've beaten a lot of very good players that are a lot younger than me."
Langer had three birdies and three bogeys in the second round and said afterwards that he was “fighting myself” with his swing. He’s spent the last few days on the phone with his swing coach, Willy Hoffman, trying to find some comfort.
Despite his score, and his made cut, Langer the perfectionist wasn’t satisfied with the way he went about achieving his results.
"I wasn't happy with my ball-striking. My putting was good, but I was unlucky. I had like four lip-outs, no lip-ins. That part was good. But the ball-striking, I wasn't really comfortable with my swing," he said. "Just, it's always tough trying stuff in the middle of a round."
Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has never won The Open. He does, however, have six top-3 finishes in 30 prior starts.
As for finishing higher than some of the top-ranked players in the world, the World Golf Hall of Famer is taking it in stride.
"I'm not going to look and say, 'Oh, I beat Justin Rose or beat whatever.' But it just shows it's not easy. When some of the top 10 or top 20 in the world don't make the cut, it just shows that the setup is not easy," Langer said. "So I got the better half of the draw maybe, too, right? It wasn't much fun playing in the rain, I guess, this morning for five hours. I had to practice in the rain, but I think once I teed off, we never used umbrellas. So that was a blessing."
Kisner doubles 18, defends not laying up
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It was only fitting that Jean Van de Velde was there working as an on-course reporter on Friday as Kevin Kisner struggled his way up Carnoustie’s 18th fairway.
Rolling along with a two-stroke lead, Kisner’s 8-iron approach shot from an awkward lie in the rough from 160 yards squirted right and bounced into Barry Burn, the winding creek where Van de Velde’s title chances at the 1999 Open Championship began to erode.
Unlike Van de Velde, who made a triple bogey-7 and lost The Open in a playoff, Kisner’s double bogey only cost him the solo lead and he still has 36 holes to make his closing miscue a distant memory. That’s probably why the 34-year-old seemed at ease with his plight.
“It just came out like a high flop shot to the right. It was weird. I don't know if it caught something or what happened,” said Kisner, who was tied with Zach Johnson and Zander Lombard at 6 under par. “You never know out of that grass. It was in a different grass than usual. It was wet, green grass instead of the brown grass. So I hadn't really played from that too much.”
Like most in this week’s field Kisner also understands that rounds on what is widely considered the most difficult major championship venue can quickly unravel even with the most innocent of mistakes.
“To play 35 holes without a double I thought was pretty good,” he said. “I've kept the ball in play, done everything I wanted to do all the way up into that hole. Just one of those things that came out completely different than we expected. I'll live with that more than chipping out and laying up from 20 feet.”
Wind, not rain more a weekend factor at Open
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – After a half-day of rain in Round 2 of the 147th Open Championship, the weekend offers a much drier forecast.
Saturday at Carnoustie is projected to be mostly cloudy with a high of 62 degrees and only a 20 percent chance of rain.
Sunday calls for much warmer conditions, with temperatures rising upwards of 73 degrees under mostly cloudy skies.
Wind might be the only element the players have to factor in over the final 36 holes. While the winds will be relatively calm on Saturday, expected around 10-15 mph, they could increase to 25 mph in the final round.