The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Sand Hills Golf Club


Sand Hills Golf Club

Architect: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw
Year: 1995

36410 Sand Hills Road, Mullen, Nebraska 69152
(308) 546-2362

driving range available
motorized golf carts and caddies available
on-site accommodations


I am originally from Nebraska having been born in Omaha and living there until I was 12 years old. Every summer when I was a kid my parents would load my brother and me into the family Chevette and drive west across the state, Clark Griswold style, as we made our way to Fort Robinson for vacation. Along the way we’d stop in small towns and at tourist attractions to see the sites of Nebraska. Many times we passed through portions of the sand hills region so when I started my Top 100 Golf Odyssey I was excited to finally have a reason to return to my roots after more than 25 years away. It was a trip I was anticipating for numerous reasons.

As I sit here writing this, I’ve been physically home from my visit to Sand Hills Golf Club for about five days but I’m not sure my mind ever bothered to leave the property. It’s all I can think about. I’ve called every golf buddy I have just so I can talk about the place. I’m six courses behind with the postings on my website, but I’m so excited to get my thoughts down about Sand Hills that I’m putting all the others on ice for now. I’m not exactly sure what happened to me out there in the middle of Nebraska but there’s something there in those gigantic hills of sand that captivated me and gave me a peaceful sense of euphoria that I’ve never experienced from a golf trip before. To put it shortly it was one of the most amazing times of my golfing life.

I’m not even sure where to start with my notes about Sand Hills Golf Club, so I guess its best to go all the way back to the beginning. When I first started this challenge I evaluated the Golf Digest Top 100 list and began to get familiar with the courses on the list and started planning for when and how I would play each one. My normal modus operandi when I am trying to play a course on the list is to make some phone calls to friends who live in the city where the course is located and see if anyone knows a member at said course. While this works great for areas like New York, Philadelphia or Los Angeles it is not an especially effective method for Sand Hills.

You see, Sand Hills Golf Club is located in Mullen, Nebraska which according to a recent census has a population of 491. Unfortunately, I don’t know a single one of those 491 folks. Even if I did, I’m not sure it would help as nearly all of Sand Hills’ members do not live in Mullen. The club’s membership is mostly national members and therefore spread all over the country (probably the world), which makes meeting a member quite the proverbial needle in the haystack. When you couple the spread out geography with the fact that the club has less than 200 members things really start to get interesting. Suffice it to say, this was a course that I had no idea how I would ever get a chance to meet a member.

As I began plugging away at the list I started to meet all kinds of new people who were interested in helping me with my quest. One of these people is the gentleman in San Francisco, Jim, who helped me to play the courses on the list in Northern California. Back when Jim and I began corresponding via email we were discussing which courses I might struggle with and Sand Hills was one that I mentioned. I casually asked him if he wouldn’t mind keeping his ear to the ground in the event that he happened to meet a member who might be interested in helping me. Based on how difficult I expected playing Sand Hills to be I thought I had better be putting out feelers whenever I could.

That email was the end of our Sand Hills discussion and it didn’t cross my mind again until just about two weeks later when I received an email from Brad. Brad, a native Nebraskan, is a member at Jim’s home club in San Francisco and also happens to be a member at Sand Hills. He explained in his email that he makes several trips with different groups each season and that if I was available August 15-17 that I would be welcome to join him at Sand Hills with a group of guys from his home club in San Francisco. I know, I know . . . If I hadn’t happened to me I wouldn’t even believe this stuff either.

As you can imagine I emailed Brad back IMMEDIATELY and accepted the invitation. With that he gave me some instructions on the best travel plans for getting there and the next day I jumped on the internet to book my plane ticket. I found an itinerary that would work and was about to purchase the ticket when a funny feeling struck me about the dates. They looked oddly familiar for some reason . . . did I have something planned for this time period already? I don’t know, maybe I better look into this. I went to my calendar and opened it to the dates in question. Oops, the reason the dates looked so familiar is because I did have something planned during that time period . . . I was already scheduled to be in Clementon, New Jersey to play Pine Valley Golf Club. Oh man!!! What are the odds of that??? On the bright side I can say that for one day of my life the worst problem I had was conflicting golf games at Sand Hills and Pine Valley. If only that could be my worst problem every day.

Once I realized this I quickly emailed Brad back and let him know that I had jumped the gun in accepting his invitation and that I was previously engaged during the time of his Sand Hills trip. Being the great guy that he is, he said not to worry and that he would let me know the next time he had a spot for me to join him on one of his trips, and we stayed in touch via email over the next year and a half. In May of this year I received an email from him extending an invitation to join him at Sand Hills for three days in July. I checked my calendar FIRST and then emailed him back to accept.

Now that I was confirmed on the trip I got down to the business of figuring out how to get there. There are basically two options for anyone not residing within driving distance of Mullen to get to Sand Hills. The first is fly into Denver, catch a puddle jumper to North Platte, Nebraska and then drive the hour and fifteen minutes to the club. The second option is to fly into Denver rent a car and make a five hour drive to the club. I opted for option one and booked my ticket.

As the time grew near for the trip more details emerged via email from Brad. I learned that there would be two members and ten guests in our group and Brad was the organizing member. Clearly this was something that he had done before and was very good at. There were emails telling us what to bring, what not to bring, what to expect once we were there, what kind of weather was likely . . . pretty much everything we needed to know. Just in case that didn’t get us excited enough there were links to a website with photos and discussion of the course to whet our appetites. My anticipation was building quickly!!

So July 22nd finally arrived and I was up at 3:45AM and out the door to the airport shortly after to catch my 5:50AM flight to Atlanta and then on to Denver. After a long day of flights, waiting around and driving we finally arrived at Sand Hills sometime after 10PM. Once we reached the property we wound our way down the road for a mile or so and finally came to the clubhouse where we parked, signed ourselves in and were directed to the bar to meet Brad.

Brad had already been there for a couple of days hosting another group of golfers and the three of us who had driven in from North Platte together were the early arrivals for his second group. The rest of the guys in “Group Two” were scheduled to arrive the next afternoon. After a quick drink with everyone we retired to our cabins and I was glad to finally get to sleep as I had been awake for well over 20 hours at this point. I was going to need to be well rested for the next day.

Sand Hills Golf Club is the brainchild of one man, Dick Youngscap. Mr. Youngscap is a Lincoln based developer who was presented with an 8,000 acre parcel of land in 1990 that he thought might be ideal for a golf course. To put the enormity of this property into perspective, my home course is built on a piece of land that is roughly 150 acres. Theoretically, a person with 8,000 acres would have enough land to build more than 100 golf courses. The sand hills are an enormous region of Nebraska and undeveloped land is abundant. The photo below is a map that hangs in the clubhouse which has the sand hills region highlighted in brown. This shows exactly how large of an area we are talking about. I would say it must be equal to about 1/5 of the state.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Mr. Youngscap put an option on the 8,000 acres so that Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw could be brought out to determine if a golf course would be plausible on the site. It was quickly determined that the land was ideal for golf and the purchase was made. After spending some more time walking the land Coore and Crenshaw managed to discover 136 natural golf holes on the property. When I say natural golf holes what I mean is that the hole was literally already there. Tee, fairway, bunkers and green. The only thing these holes would need to be playable is some very light finishing work and the planting of grass. Eventually, Coore and Crenshaw narrowed the 136 holes down to the best 18 holes that would also make sense from a routing standpoint. This was minimalism at its absolute finest.

In addition to the natural golf holes waiting to be discovered, another asset of the site is that there was an abundant supply of excellent water available right there on the property. The course is located on top of the Ogallala aquifer which contains water bearing sand down to nearly 1000 feet deep. This would provide all the water necessary for irrigation and the club’s service infrastructure.

Speaking of sand, it turns out that there are more natural assets to this piece of property. Upon close inspection it was discovered that the sand on this piece of land consists of grains that are perfectly round in shape. This tiny detail is important because that round shape keeps the sand from compacting too densely and allows for maximum water drainage. This is a huge benefit to the entire golf course and particularly to the greens. These perfectly round grains of sand are essentially the same thing as the USGA’s greens mix. This USGA greens mix is a special blend of sandy soil that has been identified as the ideal material for building greens that are suited to accept golf shots, grow grass conducive to putting and handle water drainage properly. The average cost to build a green to USGA specifications is $40,000. The average cost to build a green at Sand Hills was $300. Yes, $300. That is not a typo. There are no zeros missing. So, if you extrapolate those numbers across an 18 hole golf course you will quickly find that the Sand Hills Golf Club realized a savings of $714,600 in building their greens alone. Not too shabby. Between the natural golf holes, the readily available water and the ideal sandy soil it appears that Mr. Youngscap has discovered the perfect storm of golf course nirvana.

When it came to building the clubhouse and the sleeping cabins the same minimalist approach that worked for the golf course was put into play again. I’ve been to many a modern club with a 25,000+ square foot clubhouse that probably boasts a ticket price in the upper 7 and maybe even 8 figures. I am of the opinion that this type of expense is unnecessary and costly to the members. Sand Hills got it just right. The clubhouse is a decidedly understated affair that has all the necessities and is nicely appointed but does not smell of anything flashy, gauche or over the top. The photo below is of the entrance to the clubhouse.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The same goes for the cabins. They are clean, well furnished and considerably understated as is the whole club. Here is a photo of one of the cabins.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
And a few of the inside.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Each cabin has a porch overlooking the Dismal River with rocking chairs on it. This is a pretty good place to unwind and enjoy the natural beauty of the club when not playing golf.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
To get from the clubhouse to the course requires a drive of approximately a mile in a golf cart. We walked our morning rounds and took carts in the afternoon, so once we drove over to the course we parked our carts at the first tee and picked them back up after we finished the first 18 holes.

The 1st hole pictured below from the tee is a par 5 playing 549 yards. Which way the wind is blowing determines the best line for the tee shot here. For the most part its pretty safe to aim just left of the bunker on the right side of the fairway or just to the right of the bunker on the left side of the fairway. Big hitters with a little wind behind them can definitely fly the bunker and put themselves in prime position to get home in two.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
For the players who lay up the 3rd shot is straight up the hill. There is a false front on the green so be careful with a front hole location or else you may be hitting your fourth shot from off the green again. The photo below shows the slope of the green, the false front and the uphill climb for the third shot.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
On the right side of the 1st green is the first of what will be many green side natural bunkers. These bunkers define the course and can also define your score. Some of them can be particularly difficult and require perfect shots to escape in a single stroke. The photo below is of the first green taken from another part of the course. The size of the bunker is evident from the photo, but its tough to get a feel for the depth. Its not a place you would want to visit.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 2nd hole is a par 4 that plays 458 yards from the back tees. Its definitely one of the tougher holes on the course from the back tee box. The middle tees play a much more reasonable 368 yards. The photo below was taken from the back tee box.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The approach shot to the 2nd green is all uphill and requires a bit more club than the yardage would indicate. Especially if its into the wind.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 2nd green is a quite the challenge. The upper right portion is essentially a shelf and any shots that don’t reach that shelf are coming back down the false front. When the hole is cut where it is in the photo below there is a better chance to hit it stiff as shots can catch the side slope of that shelf and feed down to the hole.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 3rd hole is a nice par 3 that plays 216 yards from the back tees. I hit everything from a 19 degree hybrid to a 6 iron on this hole. It seemed to be playing either dead into or dead with the wind. The green has a huge mound on the left side which makes back hole locations tough to get close to. A knock down shot that runs on the ground after landing is a pretty good option to play for that hole location.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The photo below was taken from the back tee box on the 4th hole which played 458 yards. The carry to get the ball down to the fairway was not for the faint of heart.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is a little more zoomed in look from that tee box.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Depending on the wind the approach shot on the 4th hole can be of varying distance. I managed to birdie this hole both times we played it the first day . . . both times nearly holing out from the fairway for eagle. The first time I spun the ball backwards and it rolled by the hole missing by less than an inch leaving me a four footer for birdie. The second time I hit to the left side of the green and the ball rolled down to the hole and lipped out leaving a 18″ putt for birdie. This hole is a cinch right? When the wind was against us I had to layup my second shot and hope to get up and down for par. Completely different hole. The photo below is of the green and the enormous bunker that flanks it on the left.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
During my first round here I asked one of the guys who had been to Sand Hills many times if anyone ever hit into that bunker because it didn’t really seem to be in play all that much. He assured me that before the weekend was over I’d see at least one person in the bunker. Here is another view to give an idea of exactly how deep this bunker is.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
So the prediction was correct and before the weekend was out I did see someone in that bunker. Tony who happened to be my partner for this game and also a +1 handicap decided to give the bunker a bit more investigation. After his drive he pulled his second shot and landed in the bunker. Here are some photos to illustrate the difficultly these gigantic bunkers can cause.

Tony is in the blue shirt down below where his ball lay after his second shot. With a person in the bunker you can really get the scale of how huge this thing is. To the right side of the photo you can see the flag he needs to hit his shot close to. This was where his third shot was hit from.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The photo below is of Tony and our caddie contemplating what to do next. His third shot sort of embedded itself high up in the lip of the bunker. There was no way at all to make an actual swing at the ball. The only option was for Tony to take his club and swat at the ball in order to dislodge it and have it roll back down into the bunker. Better make sure you hit it well enough to knock it loose or else the strokes can add up quickly.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Fortunately, Tony knocked it loose with a single stroke so at this point he is laying 4 which is par for the hole. The photo below is where his fifth stroke was played from.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
And this is his sixth stroke.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Finally out of the bunker after six strokes he executes a nice two putt for a smooth 8. That, friends and neighbors, is how a +1 handicap makes quadruple bogey at Sand Hills. Oh the humanity. Being the competitor that he is Tony didn’t let that hole bother him and went on to finish the round up with 8 birdies. Talk about mental fortitude. That quado was enough to bring a lesser man to his knees!

Interestingly, the tee shot on the 5th hole plays directly over the 4th green. This hole is a 412 yard par 4 and the bunker out there in the middle of the fairway is definitely in play. I found the best success keeping my drives to the right of it. Sometimes too far to the right, but the hole is still manageable from far right.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
This might be a good time to mention the caddies since I’m talking about hitting my ball way right. Surely you’ve noticed by now that the course contains an extraordinary amount of native grass. The grass is very playable in most parts, if you can find your ball. That’s where the caddies earn their keep. These guys and girls were absolutely amazing and they could find everything. They found balls of mine that I wished they didn’t find!! All of the caddies that I saw were young high school or college aged kids and they were absolutely there to work, every single one of them. Many of them drove for over an hour for the opportunity to caddie and they attacked their job with gusto. In the mornings we had them carrying our bags and in the afternoons they fore-caddied for us.

Now, don’t think for a minute that fore-caddieing is any kind of slack afternoon loop. Once all four tee shots had been hit, if any of them had flown near the long native grass (in my group there was usually at least one) these kids were off like a rocket running, yes running, to where they expected the ball to be. Usually, by time we drove down the fairway in our carts they were standing there with the wayward ball marked and ready for the next round of shots. They were remarkable young men and women. When I think of a Sand Hills caddie the image the pops into my mind is a young Nebraskan decked out in khaki shorts and a white shirt running down the path on the way to find a ball. Every time I looked these kids were running. They were truly impressive. Anyway, back to the course.

Here is a view of the approach shot for the the 5th hole.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
And another from a little further right where I seemed to like playing the hole from.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Below is a photo showing what you may be faced with for a second shot it when your drive finds that fairway bunker.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Below is a photo of the 5th green and the big bunker on the back right. I never actually saw anyone in that bunker, but I’m sure it gets some use. There is a ridge in this green that is visible in the photo which can make for some difficult putts.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 6th hole is a 198 yard par 3 that seemed like we played into the wind every time. The hole location in the photo below is definitely one of the more difficult ones as it brings the bunker into play. The next day the hole was cut down in the lower left which was much more friendly and yielded three birdies and a par in my group for the morning round.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 7th hole is one of my favorites as I love the short par 4s. This one plays just 283 yards from the tips and allows the option of trying to drive the green for those willing to take the risk. I elected to hit a 5 iron off the tee each day rather than bombing it up the right side to try to get it on or close to the green. If you’re going to drive the green a low draw is probably the ideal shot. If you overcook it the ball is going to end up in the deep bunker on the left and its not an easy out from there. I only saw this green get driven once in the 5 times I played this hole.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
After hitting 5 iron off the tee the shot into the green is a simple little 70-80 yard wedge. Too far to the left and that deep bunker comes into play. Although I never hit into it with my drive, I did have to hit over it with my second shot a couple of times. I also never birdied the hole. I had a tough time making any putts all weekend long.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 8th hole is another short par 4 and runs parallel to the 7th hole. From the back tees this one plays 367 yards. However, from the middle tees is plays 293 yards which makes it a very drivable hole especially if it is playing downwind. I saw at least 3 guys drive this green and a lot of balls right up close to the green. I hit driver every time I played the hole, but never quite got it all the way there. The photo below was taken from the back tee which takes the drivability out of the hole except for exceptionally long hitters playing the hole downwind.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The green at the 8th hole is one of the more famous ones at Sand Hills. It slants from right to left and from back to front. The bunker in the middle is every bit as diabolical as it looks. The photo below was taken from about 100 yards out where I hit my approach from when we played the back tees. The hole location in the photo below is a little tricky and brings the front bunker into play in a big way.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is another angle of the 8th green. This hole location is sneaky tricky too. We had a player in our group who hit a perfect shot and the backspin on the ball gave it just enough momentum that it rolled right off the green and into the bunker. Hitting an approach shot close to the hole on this green is a pretty risky and tough shot. I think the best play here is to the left of the bunker leaving an uphill putt, or bump and running it along the ground to the right of the bunker and letting it feed down. Either way, a great hole.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 9th hole is a 402 yard par 4 and the drive is similar to the drive at the 2nd hole where most of the hole is out of site. For some reason this drive got into my head and I just couldn’t hit a good shot here all weekend. If you take your drive straight up the walking path and hit it well you will be in position A and have a very manageable approach to the green. Apparently I never got that memo and butchered this hole nearly every time I played it.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Below is a photo of the 9th green. This one is very receptive to bump and run shots although there is mounding that needs to be avoided as shots are running up to the green.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is a photo of the 9th green taken from Ben’s Porch.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
After finishing up the 9th hole players walk up to Ben’s Porch which is the modest little halfway hut and porch that overlooks the course. Here you will put in your order with the resident cowboy grill master for what you would like to have for lunch. If you want a burger they’ve got the best there are. If necessary they can rustle up a little yardbird and grill that for you too. Whatever you decide to order, it will be ready for you when you walk off the 18th green.

So after the quick stop at Ben’s Porch its off to the 10th tee. This hole is a monster that plays 472 yards from the back tees and is a par 4. You just want to hit it down the middle and hope that you get out there far enough to have a reasonable approach shot to the green.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 10th green sits slightly below the level of the fairway, so the good news is that shots that come up short at least have a chance of bounding downhill and finding their way onto the green. The 10th green is in the photo below.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 11th hole plays as a 408 yard par 4 and is a fantastic hole. The photo below was taken from the back tee box. If there is one thing you do not want to do here it is go left to that sandy area on the left edge of the fairway. Do NOT go left! There is plenty of room out to the right so just hit it out there and play it safe.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
If you do have the misfortune of going left that sandy area in the photo above is an enormous bunker that will make the approach shot infinitely more difficult. Below is a photo that gives an idea what that approach shot would look like.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
If you play to the right the approach shot is much more friendly. As you can see in the photo below there is no real trouble to be negotiated from the right side of the fairway.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
And here’s a photo from behind the 11th green looking back down the hole.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 12th hole is a fairly straight forward 417 yard par 4. The photo below was taken from the back tee.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
From the middle tees this hole is a much different animal playing only 354 yards which leaves a relatively short shot into the green. There is a nasty bunker next to the green that may have to be negotiated depending on the location of a players drive and where the hole is cut on that particular day. The photo below was taken from where my approach shot was played after a middle tee drive.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Missing the green can mean squaring off with this bunker. Note the island in the middle which I’m sure has caused problems one or two times. Brad was pretty lucky in the photo below and his lie was not too bad.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 13th hole is a par 3 and a serious one at that. From the back tees this hole plays 216 yards all uphill and surrounded by very big bunkers. From this distance it is very difficult to hit a tee shot that will hold the green. Nick Faldo managed to post an ace here. I don’t suspect there are many of those here. The photo below was taken from the back tee.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is a little more zoomed in photo. This hole was much more manageable from the middle tees which played 185 yards. I never hit this green once, but managed to get my ball up and down for a couple of pars here over the weekend. Only once did I find the huge bunker on the right. I did not get that one up and down. It took me three strokes to get out. Not good.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 14th hole is a wonderful par 5 that plays 508 from the back tees and 475 from the middle tees. All you have to do here is pop it out there down the middle and even from the back tees you’ll likely have a chance to get home in two.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
If you find the bunkers on your drive your second shot is likely to look like this.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Twice when playing the middle tees I had just a 5 iron into the green for my second shot. The photo below was taken from where I hit my second shot here in two of the rounds.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is a little closer view of the green. There is all kinds of bunker trouble around that green so shots into the green should be well calculated.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 15th hole is another long par 4 that plays 469 from the back tees. The middle tees don’t get much of a break and are only 16 yards shorter at 453 yards. Hitting it up the middle and avoiding the bunker on the right is the ideal shot here.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The approach for 15 is straight up the hill being certain to avoid the bunker hazards. Its a fairly straight forward approach for the most part.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 16th hole pictured below is a fantastic par 5 that plays 612 yards from the back tees and a little more manageable 563 yards from the middle tees. The tee shot is simply a matter of how much the golfer wants to bite off. For me, since I wasn’t getting home in two, the most sensible play was to be conservative. Using that tactic I managed to avoid the blowout bunker every day. There is a hill down there in the fairway and if you catch it right your ball can roll down to 250 yards or less to the green. However, the second shot will be obscured by the other side of that hill going back up in the middle of the fairway.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Now that you’ve seen a fair number of photos I think that I can comment about the location of the course and have it actually mean something. This golf course is remote in the most absolute sense of the word. As you look at the photos you may have noticed the vast expanse of undeveloped land in the background. When you stand on this golf course with no sign of mankind as far as the eye can see it really puts things into perspective. If you stop and think for a moment about where you are in the context of Nebraska, the U.S. and the Earth its easy to start feeling really small, really fast. I don’t know what it feels like to stand on the moon, but I suspect that looking out over the Sand Hills of Nebraska is about as close as I will ever come.

As I mentioned above, this course was discovered as opposed to being built. Standing on the 16th tee and looking out over the land it’s pretty easy to imagine what this golf course looked like back in 1990 before Coore and Crenshaw sunk their teeth into it. In the photo below you can see the endless hills and the rather large sand formations that look like they are just begging to have golf holes built around them. To be able to look at this raw land and see a golf course was truly a stroke of creative genius on Mr. Youngscap’s part.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 17th hole at Sand Hills Golf Club is probably one of the most famous and most photographed. It plays a scant 150 yards from the tee, but it is about as scary a par 3 that you will find. The photo below was taken from the tee box and as you can see the green is simply surrounded by bunkers. There was more than one story from our group of players ping-ponging back and forth between the bunker on the right and then the bunker on the left and back again. Sadly, I was one of the ones telling this story.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is a closer look at the spectacularly beautiful yet frightening hole. Take a look at that hole location on the left. Absolutely diabolical.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The 18th and final hole here is a fantastic finishing hole. It is a par 4 and plays 467 yards from the back tees. A good line is to drive the ball at the dirt road on the right side of the fairway. The bunker on the left should not really come into play. The photo below was taken from the back tee box.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
Here is Tony in the bunker off the tee. He pulled his drive pretty badly and ended up here. It was the only time I saw anyone in the bunker all weekend. With the perspective of having a person in there you can see that this bunker is no joke. That lip is nothing you want to tangle with.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
The photo below is a look up the 18th fairway towards the green. Its a fairly straight forward shot. There is a small bunker to the left side of the green but for the most part if you play a halfway decent shot you should not be penalized.
 
Sand Hills Golf Club
 
At Sand Hills once the golf is finished for the day the standard operating procedure is cool down on Ben’s Porch, head back to the cabins to clean up and then go to the clubhouse for drinks and dinner. The bar downstairs is a cozy affair with an excellent staff and a mean local drink called the Sand Hills Mule. This tasty beverage is served in a copper cup that keeps it colder than a polar bear’s toenails. After a drink or two its up to the dining room for dinner where the menu is chock full of incredible cuts of meat. There’s Ribeye, Filet, NY Strip and while we were there they had a special on a 28 oz. Porterhouse. I thought about the porterhouse, but in the end decided to go with the Ribeye on the first night. At Brad’s recommendation I ordered it “Tuscan Style” and man was it good. One of the finest steaks I’ve ever had. We are in the heart of beef country so I guess I should have known it would be dynamite. Below is a photo of Jim with his 28 oz. porterhouse. That is a serious steak!
 
 
Here is a photo of our entire group. You can see the size of the steak at the head of the table seat in this photo too. Unbelievable!
 
Sand Hills Golf Club 
Once we finished with our meal they took dessert orders. I never eat dessert but I couldn’t resist so I partook. While ordering dessert I learned another great thing about Sand Hills. Brad has a specific dessert he likes that is not on the menu. When they know that he will be coming they make sure to always have it available. In a lot of ways the service at the bar and restaurant is a lot more like going home to a family members house than it is going to a club.

The very last thing that I’ll mention is the one piece of the puzzle that ties everything together and that is the staff at Sand Hills. I’ve been to a lot of golf clubs and had contact with a lot of staff members over the last couple of years. I have to say that the way the members and the staff at Sand Hills interacted with one another was by far the best I’ve ever seen. As I said above, it felt more like we were visiting a friend or relative’s ranch than it felt like we were at a golf club. In the place of the stiffness and formality of so many clubs was a friendly, easy going, smooth vibe that was so nice and refreshing.

In summary, Sand Hills Golf Club was a wonderful, awe inspiring and incredible golf experience for me. The remote location of the club gives it a real getaway quality which is getting more and more difficult to find these days. The course is simply amazing. It’s one of the most fun and enjoyable courses I’ve had the pleasure of playing and it immediately ranked among my favorites. The club itself is done so well that you just cant help but feel at home. The bottom line is that every piece of what a golf experience should be is done just right at Sand Hills.

In the emails going around among our group after the trip one of the guys made a comment about how things had changed for him in his L.A.S.H., or “Life After Sand Hills”. This really resonated with me. Life before Sand Hills and life after Sand Hills are two completely different things. I walked away from Mullen, Nebraska with a different perspective on a number of things. I hate to make a cliche, but I am a changed man. As a lover of golf, Sand Hills is the kind of place that can’t help but affect you. The beauty of the terrain, the natural aesthetics of the course and the great people who make it all run. Its a special place and I consider myself very, very lucky to have been able to spend a few days there with some great people.