Friday, December 17, 2010

Sand Hills Golf Club

Sand Hills Golf Club
Mullen, Nebraska, USA


7089 YARDS (PAR 71)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: Not Rated
COURSE ARCHITECT: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (1995)
ACCESSIBILITY: Private
COURSE WEBSITE: N/A
ROUNDS PLAYED: 6
LAST PLAYED: June 15, 2010.
LOW SCORE: 75 (+4)

ACCOLADES -
- Golf Digest Best New Private Course 1995
- Golf Digest World's 100 Greatest Golf Courses 2016: #17
- Golf Digest Top 100 in America 2015: #11
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Golf Courses in the World 2015: #13
- Golf Magazine Top 100 Golf Courses in the U.S. 2015: #9
- Golfweek Best Modern Courses 2016: #1


"At the Sand Hills, we had the greatest of canvases with a masterpiece hidden within. It was our task to uncover it. The challenge there was to create a course equal to the potential of the land, a daunting task to say the least! To have constructed anything less than an extraordinary golf course on that site would have been a failure."
- Bill Coore, Golf Course Architect, Coore & Crenshaw Design

I can't tell you how hard it has been to put my thoughts into words about my experience at the absolutely exquisite Sand Hills Golf Club, the Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed masterpiece located near Mullen, Nebraska.

That is because it might be the most important post I'll ever write on this blog, simply due to the fact that it is likely the best course in the world that you've never heard of.

Now, that statement may not be true for those who frequent my blog, many of whom are golf course architecture aficionados like myself, but it is most definitely the case for the general golfing population. I was asked countless times about my vacation plans by friends and other members at my home club, St. Catharines G&CC and every time I replied that I'd be playing golf at Sand Hills and Ballyneal, I would get blank stares.

There wasn't a single person I encountered who had ever heard of these two world-class golf courses, something I'm quite sure would elicit a chuckle from Sand Hills owner and visionary Dick Youngscap.

First of all, Sand Hills is a very exclusive private club with perhaps 170 members or so, most of whom live outside of Nebraska and only visit a few times a year. This is mostly due to the fact that the club's location is very remote, with the nearest major airport being in Denver, Colorado, approximately five hours away by car.

Famously, the club has a policy where unaccompanied invited guests can only play that way one time in their life and a database is kept to ensure this isn't compromised. Therefore, an invitation to visit Sand Hills, especially with another member, is one of the most coveted in golf.

The fact that the club has never hosted, nor will it likely ever host a major professional or amateur event only adds to its mystique and reinforces exactly why most haven't heard about this rugged oasis in rural Nebraska.

The story of Sand Hills begins in August 1990, when Dick Youngscap secured an option on 8,000 acres of ranch land. The next month, Youngscap brought in Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw to visit the site and shortly thereafter retained them as course architects for the project. Over the next two years, Bill and Ben made numerous visits and by the spring of 1993, they had discovered over 130 golf holes, from which 18 were selected and a routing plan finalized. Construction of the golf course began in April 1993 - by that time, fifteen investors had contributed equity capital and the Sand Hills Golf Company was created.

Many wondered if a private club "in the middle of nowhere" could possibly succeed and a great number of Mr. Youngscap's friends and potential investors were extremely skeptical.

The one thing that can't be underestimated is how suitable this "poor ranch land" was for golf. The natural contours in the valley where the golf course was eventually laid down are absolutely ideal for the game and the abundance of pure water and superior sand in the region would ensure almost perfect growing conditions, allowing the course to be built at a fraction of the cost of most courses at the time.

To give you an example, a normal USGA-spec green would cost close to $40,000 to build while Sand Hills greens, sitting high atop the Ogallala aquifer and featuring their perfectly round sand particles, cost a mere $300 each!

Famously, very little land was moved to build the golf course, with most of the rough grading done with a power rake and shovels as opposed to bulldozers. Coore and Crenshaw had already shown great promise with their inspired design at Kapalua's Plantation Course earlier in the decade but the "minimalist" approach undertaken at Sand Hills would vault them into superstardom and ultimately, it proved to be the most influential development in golf course architecture over the past twenty years.

Sand Hills sits among the elite in the course architecture rankings game, with Golf Magazine listing it as the 11th best course in the world in 2009 and recently named it as the best golf course built in the past 50 years.

It wasn't long after accepting the gracious invitation to play Ballyneal that I started thinking about the possibility of visiting Sand Hills on the same trip. I knew the chances of playing such a private club were remote but I received some encouragement, advice and a key referral from an acquaintance of mine, which set the wheels in motion in early January 2010.

It took a hell of a lot of patience but almost four months later, while on the way home from a Buffalo Sabres game in late March, I opened my Blackberry to see the magical email extending an invitation for me and Harris to visit Sand Hills at a mutually convenient time in June.

The screams of joy likely startled my buddy who was driving us home from the hockey game but no matter - with Ballyneal and now Sand Hills all set, I had the trip of a lifetime to finalize!

The original plan was for us to make the three hour drive from Ballyneal late Sunday afternoon, hopefully after a wonderful 36 hole day. However, a driving rain storm and bitterly cold temperatures kept us off the course entirely, enabling us to say our goodbyes and head out on the road just after lunch.

The two hour or so drive from Holyoke, Colorado into North Platte, Nebraska was pretty nondescript. With a population of about 24,000, this would be the largest city we'd encounter on this trip.

"Say goodbye to civilization", I joked to Harris.

We'd soon turn onto highway #97 for the hour-long last leg of the drive and I can't tell you how exhilarating this stretch of land is. Huge dunes and blowouts dot the landscape and you don't need an awful lot of imagination to see how ideal this land is for great natural golf.

It was very hard to concentrate on the road with all of this visual stimulation but I definitely had two hands on the wheel after almost belting a deer, which basically just stood in the middle of the road looking at our car after we passed. I didn't even see it until looking in my rear view mirror and seeing it about a couple hundred feet behind us. Really scary stuff!

We had detailed instructions from the club telling us how to get there and we were so excited that we were literally counting down the mile markers as we approached our turn.

Once off the 97, we spent another five minutes or so navigating west before seeing what I figure must be the gates to heaven.



It wasn't long before we finally arrived at the quaint clubhouse, which sits in a little valley overlooking the Dismal River.


I was a bit surprised by the amount of trees in the area but I wouldn't find out until the next day just how far away the golf course is from the clubhouse!




We parked our car and made our way into the clubhouse, where we signed in and were given keys to a cart, which would be our method of transportation from the clubhouse or parking lot to our cabin. We also were introduced to the clubhouse manager, who asked us what time we wanted to play the next morning.

"As early as you'll let us out!", we exclaimed.

He said he'd put us in for around 8am, saying that there was one group that would likely be hooking up with us for the first round. He also indicated that we'd be assigned a forecaddy before heading out, something that is mandatory for first-time visitors.

It was getting close to dinner time so we decided to grab our stuff from the car and head to the cabin to relax for a bit before eating.

The cabins are dotted all around the base of the clubhouse, with a winding cartpath branching off in a few different directions. The path also features some lighting on the wood rails to allow guests to navigate at night and the carts had headlights as well to help in that regard.

We were given cabin #7 and it didn't take more than a minute to find our way there.



The accommodations at Sand Hills have a rustic quality that fits in very well with the entire property. They are certainly nowhere near as luxurious as those found at Ballyneal but they are functional and very comfortable.






The two beds were in different corners of the room, with separate night tables, drawers and tube televisions. The washroom was very basic, with a toilet, sink and shower but much to my dismay, there was no hairdryer.

The horror!!!!!

I'm sure I could have asked someone in the clubhouse to see if one was available but I ended up accepting the fact that a couple of bad hair days was an unobjectionable compromise for being on such hallowed ground!

There was also a pretty awesome hardcover booklet in the room (shown above) with lodging information, club history and other useful tidbits that offered great reading material. It would have made for a wonderful souvenir and they did offer the booklets for sale in the office but I forgot to buy one on my way out the last day. Sigh.


We also had a nice little deck area out the back, offering a nice view of the Dismal River below and a great place to relax after our day was done.

We chilled out for about a half hour or so, got cleaned up then headed back to the clubhouse to grab some dinner. We left our cart out front with all the others and ventured inside, finally getting the chance to explore a bit.

There is a little coffee area just off to the right as you walk in and there is a quaint little sitting area out front as well, with a bunch of magazines and other golf architecture books also hanging around.

The pro shop sits just off to the left and it was very well-stocked - I did a little pre-scouting for later, knowing I'd want to bring a few things home for myself and some loved ones but did make sure to grab a scorecard right away to look at over dinner.

The main dining room is just down the hallway and off to the right. I believe the club reserves a table for all guests for both breakfast and dinner but we decided to head down to the bar area for something a little more casual.

As we walked down the stairs, a chatty group of about six guys walked past us on their way up. They all said hello to us as they made their way to the dining room. Harris immediately noticed the logos on their shirts.

Every single one of them had Augusta National logo-ed polos and jackets.

"Do you think those guys actually went to see the Masters this year", Harris asked.

Noticing their southern accents, I told Harris that I thought there was a good chance that they were actually Augusta members.

We could only laugh. We knew we were in a special place.

The bar sits right in front of you once you reach the bottom of the stairs and there is a nice selection of wines off to the left.



There is also a nice little reading and sitting area opposite the bar, with high-back chairs and some magazines and books available while you eat or drink. There's also a doorway that leads outside to a deck (shown below) where guys can talk about their rounds over a glass of wine and a cigar.

On the opposite side of the bar, there was a separate room with a card table, internet access and a decent sized library of golf books.




There were about five tables in the bar area and it was relatively busy at this time. There were two guys, maybe in their early 30's sitting at a table just beside us and they were really into the NBA Finals game going on.

In the far corner, under the big TV, were a relatively boisterous group of four middle aged gentlemen with one main guy holding court for the most part. He must have been the twin brother of PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem - the resemblance was that strong!

Beside them were another pair of younger guys and there was also a married couple (presumably), sipping on wine over in the little secluded area opposite the bar.

Everything on the menu looked terrific. I had been given a strong recommendation by a frequent visitor to Sand Hills to order the dry aged steak, with him saying "it's expensive but worth it!"

I decided to hold off on that until the next night in favour of the pasta dish, since I had just eaten steak the night before at Ballyneal. The dinner was unbelievably good, perhaps one of the tastiest pastas I've ever had but the highlight of the night for us was the interaction with the other guests and members in the bar.

Tim Finchem's clone and his guests were discussing their thoughts on the top-ranked golf courses in the US, with the favourite line of the night for me being "I'm so done with Pebble", referring of course to Pebble Beach. I almost laughed out loud hearing that one!

They were very entertaining to listen to and even asked us where we were from to start a conversation.

The rain was teeming down again by this point in the night and the forecast for Monday looked kind of gloomy. Finchem asked someone in his group to find out how far they'd have to travel to find a place where it would be sunny and 70 degrees the next day.

A quick internet search came up with some city in Idaho.

"Well, how about we head out and go play Coeur d'Alene tomorrow?", Finchem asked.

After sharing a laugh, one of the guys jumped up and said, "Well, you're the pilot so I guess we're coming with you!"

Who in the HELL were these guys!?!?

With that, they said their goodbyes and were presumably off to the airport.

ROCK STARS!

Things got even more entertaining later. We started chatting up the two guys who were sitting watching the basketball game. Both were in television news, with one being a head news anchor in Omaha and the other was a sportscaster in Kansas.

These guys were world champion drinkers, starting with wine then moving to the hard stuff. They started buying us rounds and Harris was desperately trying to keep up with them but to no avail. Even the two quiet guys over at the other end of the room came over and got into the act with us - they challenged Harris and myself to a game the next day and were trying to negotiate for some extra shots, throwing in a bunch of awesome trash talk for good measure.

At around midnight, the poor girls left in the bar were trying to get us out so they could make their 40+ minute drive back to Mullen through the heavy rains, so we signed our chits and got ready to head out. Another hilarious moment ensued when the Omaha anchor, who was drinking Dewar's scotch for the majority of the evening, went looking for a nightcap. He was able to talk the waitress into pouring a triple Dewar's into a large foam cup for the ride back to his cabin.

Priceless!

We said our goodbyes to the news anchors, told the other two we'd see them in the morning and headed back to our cabin. We'd be on the tee in less than 8 hours!

We woke up around 6:45am or so and Harry was a bit of a mess to start, with a touch of a hangover from my recollection. I got showered and dressed and we headed over to the clubhouse to grab some breakfast. We had a reserved table in the dining room and sat right beside the group with the Augusta logos. I was tempted to ask where they were from but decided to give them privacy.

I ordered some incredibly good french toast while Harris could barely eat half his breakfast after all the food we consumed the night before. We signed our chit, checked in with the pro shop then were directed to a new cart with our clubs on the back.

It was time to head out to the course!

It was a bit chilly to start the day and overcast but there wasn't any rain at the moment, a definite plus.

I had been told that it was a pretty long drive from the clubhouse to the golf course but I had no idea we were looking at about a five minute cart ride and close to a mile of distance! The practice range sits to the left of the path about halfway to the course but we pressed on, wanting to get in as much golf as humanly possible.

A little further up the path we made a hard left and soon saw the oasis known as Ben's Porch, the Sand Hills halfway house.

We parked the cart and stretched our legs as the starter made his way over to us from the porch.

Jim Colton's excellent book One Divot at a Time... had a chapter dedicated to Sand Hills and in it, he made reference to the starter's distinctive moustache and its resemblance to the facial hair worn by famous cartoon character Yosemite Sam.

Well, I can back up that assessment! Mike, the Sand Hills starter who also doubles as a coach on the local high school's football team, has a moustache that makes Lanny McDonald look like a prepubescent teenager! The handles on his 'fu' hang down about 8 inches below his jawline and blow back and forth in the wind. I can't imagine how long he's been growing that thing!

Anyway, Mike was awesome to us the entire time we were there, telling us a bunch of stories about the place and the town of Mullen.

We were told that the twosome originally paired with us teed off early and we also noticed that the two young trash talkers from the night before who wanted to play a match against us weren't around either. We weren't going to wait around for them, as we planned to play as much as Mike and the club would allow.

Mike asked us what we wanted for lunch and said that the club's famous grill man, Tom Simonson would have it ready for us when we were done our first round.

Awesome!

We confirmed with Mike that we'd be taking a cart for our round as opposed to walking. We had walked up to 54 holes a day at Ballyneal earlier that weekend by necessity but knew if we wanted to get in the same amount of golf at Sand Hills without our legs falling off, we'd need to cart it.

We hit a few putts on the expansive practice green that sits opposite from Ben's Porch then drove down to the first tee with our forecaddy, a strapping 17 year old who played for Mike on the football team.

We decided to play the back tees right out of the gates, which measured 7089 yards and played to a par of 71. I'm not sure if he was nervous but Harry topped his first tee ball into the junk and then pulled his breakfast ball left of the fairway into more long grass.

I'm sure our forecaddy was wondering what he got himself into at that point but thankfully, I was able to nail a perfect drive right down the pipe on my first attempt.

However, it didn't take me long to feel the wrath of Sand Hills. I'd hit a nice layup to about 90 yards on the par five opener then with the pin at the front of the elevated green, I hit what I thought was a perfect wedge. I watched with horror as the ball started to spin back toward me, eventually rolling all the way down the hill and finishing about 40 yards away.

Even Harris got into the act, hitting a chip shot from behind the green that ended up going past the pin and down the hill, finishing mere inches away from my ball!

Welcome to Sand Hills!

I'd have my fourth shot come back to me as well (!), eventually making a double bogey seven and Harris would make the old equitable stroke control seven as well to steal away a halve from me.

It would be an ugly front nine for both of us: I'd make two lousy pars and Harry made *none* as we shot 44 and 47 respectively on the par 35 outgoing side.

We decided to play for lunch instead of dinners at that point and I was 2up through the first nine but Harry started to play much better on the back. He'd make the only birdie in our group in round one, making a four on the par five 16th and go -1 on his last four holes to come back from a 3 down deficit to halve me after 18 holes. I ended up shooting 85 while Harris came in with an 87.

I paid off the caddy and we all headed up to Ben's Porch for lunch. In my 37 years, I can honestly say I've never had a hamburger that tasted better than the one Cowboy Tom Simonson prepared for me that day.

Mr. Simonson was an institution at Sand Hills and the special blend of seasonings he used on the grill are so popular, the club packages them up and sells them in the pro shop to members and guests alike!

You'll notice I used some past tense in that paragraph - I'm very sad to say that Mr. Simonson passed away in his sleep only 12 days after serving us.

He was a hard-working and modest man, someone who grew up in the area and even worked on this land as a child, well before it would become a golf course. When he started working on the grill at Sand Hills, he'd always shrug off the accolades he'd receive on his grilling prowess, instead crediting the "great beef in this area".

Starter Mike told us there was only one thing that would really upset Tom.

"The only time you'll see old Tom get mad is if someone has the nerve to ask him to grill up a chicken sandwich for lunch. Those are fighting words here in cattle country!"

Sand Hills lost a great man and I'm very sorry for their loss.

We went out immediately after lunch and blew through another 18 holes in less than three hours. There weren't many people playing that day, even though the weather was warming up quickly - we finally started to see some sun and warm temperatures during this round and our games bounced back as well.

We decided to play the remaining holes for a beer that night at dinner and I finally got off the schneid with a birdie on the 1st hole. Harris would birdie the driveable par four 7th on his way to a front nine 40 while I came in with a scintillating 38 but we were all square in match play due to Harry's double on the 1st hole.

We *really* heated up on the back - I'd birdie the par four 12th to go 1up again and I'd hold that advantage through 15. Both of us were feeling it at this point, playing fast and loose golf in paradise, with no one in front of us and no one behind us. We'd both birdie the par five 16th then both stiff great short irons into the picturesque par 3 17th. Shouts of encouragement and high-fives soon followed, as we'd both make our putts for dual consecutive birdies, something you simply don't see every day!

Awesome!

I'd par the 18th to shoot 75 (+4) and Harry finished with a bogey for 80, giving me a 2up lead in our match. We'd grab a few Powerades for the road at Ben's Porch and headed right back to the 1st tee for our third round of the day.

Harris started to pummel me on the card, getting into quite a groove with pars and only needed four holes to completely erase my lead and take one of his own. I'd birdie the 7th hole and Harris birdied the par three 9th, giving him a 37 on the outgoing nine versus my 40 and he held onto his slim 1up lead going into our final nine holes.

The back nine was pretty uneventful and Harris would close me out with a routine par on what was becoming his favourite hole on the course, the par five 16th, winning 3&2 to take bragging rights for day one. He'd shoot a solid 78 for the round while I doubled the tough final hole for an 83.

So 54 holes in a little more than 9 hours, including a lunch break. You just can't do much better than that!

We made the long drive from the golf course back to our cabin and cleaned up before heading back to the clubhouse for dinner.

On the way downstairs, I finally noticed a framed copy of the course routing, with all 130 potential holes in their draft form. The club could make a killing with the architecture geeks if they decided to print more up and sell them in the pro shop. I know I'd definitely buy one!

It was much quieter on Monday night than it was the previous evening, with only one other group eating in the bar lounge at dinner. Harris was gracious enough to pay for dinner as thanks for bringing him out and we dined like kings. We got the world-famous Sand Hills nacho platter, filled with huge pieces of steak as an appetizer and I ended up getting the same pasta dish I had the night before for dinner.

Yeah, it was that good!

Thankfully, Harris helped me out by ordering the dry-aged steak and cut me a nice piece to try - boy was it incredible! I had a couple of Grolsch beers and finished the night with three scoops of home-made ice cream for dessert.

The staff and service at Sand Hills was absolutely wonderful and I can honestly say I've never had two better meals at a golf club than I did at Sand Hills. In fact, the next day, I made sure to pick up all the Sand Hills spices and the club's cookbook as souvenirs, along with hats, polos, T-shirts and other clothing items!

We headed back to our room much earlier than the previous night to rest up for one more great day of golf. We decided to skip breakfast entirely on Tuesday, instead heading out immediately to the course, as we were able to grab the first time of the day at about 7:30am.

The weather was absolutely perfect, with temperatures in the high-70s and glorious sunshine. Our first match was for lunch that day and it was a back-and-forth affair. I'd start strong once again on what was quickly becoming my favourite hole, making birdie on the first to go 1up. Unfortunately, my nemesis holes were #2 and #3 over the course of the trip and I'd lose both to go down one. We'd go back and forth almost every hole on the front, with Harris making birdie on the awesome short par four 8th and me making birdie on the 9th to stay one down in the match.

I'd birdie the 16th to knot things up but Harry went into crazy Ballyneal mode again, finishing birdie-par to beat me 2up in the match even though I shot 79 versus his 80.

Damnit, lunch was on me I guess! It would turn out to be a very interesting one...

We sat down at a table overlooking the golf course and there was another foursome sitting beside us. After about five minutes, one of the gentlemen asked us where we were from.

Upon finding out we were from Canada, he asked if we were big hockey fans.

"Huge fans", Harris replied.

"Not the Maple Leafs though", he made sure to add. "We're Buffalo Sabres fans."

After hearing we were both season ticket holders, some more conversation followed before we hit perhaps the highlight of the week from an entertainment standpoint. Now, for those that don't know him, my lovable friend Harris is an extraordinary trash talker and doesn't really possess a 'filter' - he'll say what's on his mind, at times with reckless abandon.

For the sake of anonymity, we'll just call our new friend JB...

JB - "Oh, you're both season ticket holders? Excellent! I actually hold season tickets for the Phoenix Coyotes."

Harris - "The Phoenix Coyotes? Really? So, you're one of the three people who show up for their games?"

JB - "Well, I kind of had to show up since I used to own the team."

HAHAHA! I've never heard Harris speechless before this moment.

Absolutely priceless!

JB was one of the first members at Sand Hills and he was given a chance to be one of the initial investors in the club but turned it down.

JB - "I thought the idea of building a private club out here was absolutely crazy and didn't think there was anyway it could be sustainable so I told Dick that I didn't want to invest but I'd be more than happy to sign up as a member if he got it off the ground."

Then, with a laugh, he admitted what a huge mistake it was to not invest in what would eventually become one of the greatest golf courses in the world.

We heard a couple of pretty awesome stories from JB about his time with the Coyotes, including some anecdotes about his good friend Wayne Gretzky and a really cool story about goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov's crazy first day with the team.

We also talked quite a bit about the recent Canada vs. USA Olympic Gold Medal game, which Canada would ultimately win in overtime on a Sidney Crosby goal.

JB: "Even though I'm American, I was really happy that Canada won...it's just more important for your country than it is for us."

Now that's a hockey fan!

He'd ask about Ryan Miller's contract status as well, with me replying:

"Keep your hands off our goaltender!"

That got some good laughs - he said his wife was a huge fan of Miller's and they loved watching him perform at the Olympics (which they attended in person, of course).

JB even told us that some of his associates were meeting with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman that afternoon, as his group was looking at possibly purchasing the club from the league but "I'd rather be here at Sand Hills so I sent them in my place!"

I felt a bit bad for JB's guests, who weren't really hockey fans and had to listen to us puck addicts talk for close to a half hour but they were good sports - I absolutely loved this part of the trip. JB couldn't have been nicer and it was great conversation.

We shook hands with the group, said we might see them at dinner then headed back out to the course. We still had more golf to play!

Our second round of the day was pretty nondescript: I'd birdie the first hole for the third time in five rounds but it turned out to be my only one of the round, as I'd shoot 81. Harry and I went back and forth during our match for a beer but I'd pull away with four consecutive hole wins between the 14th and the 17th to win 3&1.

It was about 3pm and we had a hard choice to make: we still needed to get back to Denver to catch a flight at dawn so we were still looking at about a five hour drive. If we left now, we'd get into Denver in time to grab a late dinner and get a few hours of sleep before heading to the airport.

Or, we could stay at Sand Hills, a place where we'd likely never get to see again in our lifetime.

The golf course looked glorious in the mid-day sun and the answer was an easy one: we had to squeeze in more golf, sleep be damned!

We grabbed a few Powerades and headed right back to the first tee. At this point, I was more interested in just fooling around, hitting some shots but more importantly, getting good photos of the golf course. The sun was setting near the end of our round and shadows were popping up all over the place, offering incredible photo opportunities.

A couple of times, I just stood there admiring the vistas, shaking my head back and forth wondering how we could get so fortunate to spend time at such a magical place.

We were playing fast and loose and having a great time. I made a nice putt for birdie on the short par four 7th and as we were walking off the green, a man and woman drove by in a cart, heading in the opposite direction. Both had smiles on their faces and waved as they drove by.

"Wonder who that is?", Harris pondered.

We'd find out after the round. We stopped at Ben's Porch after we were done our 54 holes, wanting to get one final look at the beautiful vista. The course was positively glowing at this point, as you can see in the photo below.

We noticed JB and his guests were back, all showered and out of their golf clothes and listening intently as Mr. Dick Youngscap himself, along with his wife, were regaling them with the story of how Sand Hills came to be.

JB introduced us to Dick and his wife and we sat transfixed as he continued on, talking about how he directed someone to find him the worst ranch land possible in order to get the best deal for a potential golf course site.

He fell in love immediately with the 500 or so acres of valley land that the golf course currently sits in and inquired about the price.

He was told that it would be $1.2 million dollars, which Mr. Youngscap bristled at.

"Isn't that a bit much for that piece of land?", he'd ask.

The reply was priceless.

"I'm not selling you just that piece of land. It's $1.2 million for all 8000 acres."

Mr. Youngscap didn't want all of that land but it was a package deal so in the end, he'd get 8000 acres of prime golf real estate for only $150 per acre!

Incredible!

We continued to chat for about a half hour and Mr. Youngscap even bought a round for everyone on hand. We chatted about some other great golf courses, Coore and Crenshaw, architect Tom Doak and many other things. It was thrilling!

They asked if we were heading back to the clubhouse for dinner but we said we had to be on our way, as it was close to 8pm and we were looking at just getting into Denver in time to have a one or two hour capnap before heading to the airport.

Mr. Youngcap's wife was nice enough to take the following photograph of us along with her husband just before we headed back from the course.

We thanked Mr. Youngscap for the honour of playing his club, said our goodbyes to everyone and headed back to our car.

It was almost dusk and we had just enough light to get in one final photograph before we headed back down highway #97 on the road back to Denver.

Please continue on and read my full course photo essay and profile in the link just below.

Sand Hills Golf Club: READ PART TWO HERE



4 comments:

  1. Awesome stuff. Feel the exact same way, I can remember every second of the trip. It changed the way I think about golf.

    Also, for the record, I held my own no problem with those guys at the bar.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Matt,

    Great post. Sand Hills truly is a special place. I am glad we were able to meet at Ballyneal this Summer, hope all is well.

    All the best,

    Mark Pritchett

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  3. Matt,
    Tom Simonson was my grandfather and a truly amazing man who's hamburgers were delicious! Thank you for mentioning him here in your blog about Sand Hills. It's a magical place where I spent summers caddying and working. I'm glad you got to experience Sand Hills because it is one of the best creations in golf. Hope you get to go back one day:)
    And thank you again for your kind words about my Papa Tom.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Marci,

    Thank you so much for posting here. We had the great pleasure of meeting Tom and you could easily see how much he loved Sand Hills and how the membership loved him back. He was an important part of the "Sand Hills experience" and he's greatly missed. Best wishes to you and again, my sincere thanks for posting.

    Matt

    ReplyDelete