Out in the lonely western reaches of North Dakota, great golf has made a surprising stand. The least visited state in the union is home to three world-class layouts, making it arguably the best golf value in the nation.
For $140 -- less than the price of a single round at many upscale, daily-fee courses in metro areas -- one can play all three courses that make up the "Triple Challenge": Hawktree Golf Club in Bismarck, Bully Pulpit Golf Course in Medora and The Links of North Dakota near Williston. Each appears on a variety of best-in-America lists.
Not only are they remote, they are distant from each other: From Bismarck, it's roughly a 500-mile driving loop to play the courses. The closest pair, Hawktree and Bully Pulpit, are a good two hours apart, and the Links of North Dakota is at least three hours from either of the other two, often via winding, undivided highways.
Even with gas prices what they are, it's an amazing bargain. Breathtaking scenery and friendly hospitality come at no extra charge. This is a place where virtually everyone asks (and is genuinely interested about) where you're from.Bismarck is the logical place to begin this expedition, and that's where you'll find Hawktree Golf Club, a modern Jim Engh design that plays up and down hills and depressions blanketed by fescue grasses.
The wide, bowled fairways here tend to contain errant shots, so if you like to swing your driver with reckless abandon (and who doesn't?), this is the place to do it. Hawktree's bunkers, often shaped like sinewy troughs, are filled not with sand, but black slag -- another unique feature that's both a nod to the area's coal-producing past and a practical solution to the strong winds that would blow finer material away.
Beginning with the first hole, you'll have tee shots from elevated perches and approach shots that must dodge ponds, wetlands and creeks. Rounds are filled with memorable and exhilarating holes.