Posted by Rob Rigg
The Prairie Club – The Pines Course, Valentine, NE
Architect: Graham Marsh
Semi-Private – opened in 2010 – Please visit The Prairie Club website for information on Stay and Play packages.
The Prairie Club is an impressive new golf destination in the Sand Hills of western Nebraska. The land at the club is very diverse as the rolling open prairie meets the majestic Snake River Canyon. There are currently three courses at The Prairie Club with a fourth, which will be located on by far the most compelling land on the site, currently under design by Gil Hanse and his team. The Pines Course, The Dunes Course and The Horse Course (a really fun ten hole “dream” pitch and putt) have been completed and are currently open for play. Paul Shock, the founder of The Prairie Club, should be very proud of his creation and it will only get better with time.
The Pines Course is routed over an interesting piece of property that combines the open prairie and land adjacent to the Snake River Canyon that is populated with trees. The site is excellent for golf and Marsh did a good job of creating an interesting course that will be enjoyable to play again and again. The greens deserve mention as they tend to have a lot of subtle movement, larger undulations when appropriate and sizes that changed fit in well with the surrounding landscape.
The Pines Course at The Prairie Club is an enjoyable walk across the prairie and through the woods that line the Snake River Canyon. This is a solid course that will be enjoyable for members to play over and over again. The fairways are generous but not massive which adds some intimacy to the round while not jeopardizing playability if the winds are up. Marsh has created a variety of holes that call for different shots and strategies depending on the wind.
The Walking Golfer would rate the Pines Course a 3.25 out of 4.0 for Walkability. There is some movement to the terrain, a couple of longer green to tee walks past the “snack shack” on the 5th and 16th, from the 9th to 10th and 10th to 11th, and you will probably need a lift out to the 1st tee from the clubhouse, but overall the walk at the Pines Course is very enjoyable and manageable. The club has done a pretty good job of creating walking paths and a few more signs will make it even more walking friendly.
The land made available for The Pines Course is excellent and Marsh did a nice job of creating an interesting routing that keeps the golfer engaged. Some may not enjoy the blind or semi-blind tee shots from the tips or the long forced carries, but three other sets of tees are available. While I do wish there were more views of the canyon from the course, the journey in and out of the trees made for a fun golfing experience. The par fives, aside from the second, are quite long which takes some of the fun out of them, but there was good variety of holes and the architecture tied in well with the environment. I would give the Pines Course a 3.5 out of 4 for Architecture and Aesthetics.
From a Strategic standpoint The Pines Course is fairly straight-forward but it does present options or obfuscations made to challenge the golfer. The four sets of tees make the course very Playable for the higher handicapper while also delivering an interesting venue for the stick. The reachable par fours and short par threes provide some good birdie opportunities, while the longer par fours and par fives – especially if into the wind – are a stern test. The commendable balance at The Pines Course would lead me to rate it a 1.75 out of 2 for Strategy and Playability.
Overall, The Pines Course receives a very solid 8.5 out of 10 from The Walking Golfer. I was pleasantly surprised with the interesting routing that Marsh created on this fabulous piece of property.
TWG Rating for The Pines Course at The Prairie Club:
3.25 / 4 – Walkability
3.5 / 4 – Architecture and Aesthetics
1.75 / 2 – Strategy and Playability
8.5 / 10 – Total
All Photos by Rob Rigg (2010)
Review by Rob Rigg (2010)