Much like Wyoming, I still harbor a childlike fascination with South Dakota. A land seemingly so vast and endless, I imagine myself a frontier explorer with endless wonder of what lies over the next hill.
I’ve been fortunate to spend some time in the Mount Rushmore State, but it’s almost all been centered around hunting pheasants and sharptail grouse. By the time hunting season rolls around, golf is pretty much an afterthought this far north.
That was until recently when I found myself on a road trip with my family through the upper plains states. Much to my wife’s chagrin, I brought along my golf clubs. After I got to the point where I’d had just about all I could take of other tourists with fanny packs and ice cream cones, I had to get away and play some golf.
The courses I played were second to none, and our readers have played a fair bit of golf in South Dakota too. Below are our thoughts on the state’s best public tracks.
Southern Hills Golf Course
As its name would suggest, Southern Hills is nestled into the southern region of the Black Hills.
Verdant fairways are framed by magnificent Ponderosa pine trees to create what many golfers call a work of art.
With more than 380 feet of elevation change, proper club selection is paramount if you’re going to play well.
Southern Hills isn’t especially long. In fact, it measures less than 6,000 yards from the back tees.
The panoramas and views of the surrounding landscape have to be seen to be believed. Bring your camera.
Meadowbrook Golf Course
The clear local’s choice in Rapid City is Meadowbrook Golf Course.
Designed by David Gill, this parkland design is an absolute classic. Stately cottonwood, spruce, and fir trees line the fairways and tell you exactly where to place each shot.
Rapid Creek comes into play on many holes so take careful note.
Measuring some 6,900 yards from the back tees, you’ll have to hit everything from your driver to your sand wedge when you play here.
A gem of an old school track, Meadowbrook just might be my personal favorite course in South Dakota.
Hillcrest Golf and Country Club
It’s all about family at Hillcrest Golf and Country Club in Yankton. Your family, absolutely. But it’s their goal to make you feel like family when you come to play.
This is a semi-private facility that has a robust private membership. However, they welcome the public with open arms too.
BestCourses.com called Hillcrest one of the “Top Four Courses in South Dakota” every year from 2004 through 2011.
As you might expect, this is yet another traditional parkland design that’s more than stood the test of time. Length helps on a few holes, but accuracy and precision are a sure-fire bet to play well.
If you want to be treated like a member at a private club for a day, Hillcrest is the place to do it in South Dakota.
Rocky Knolls Golf Course
Always having my eye out for a good nine-holer, there’s no way I was going to leave Rocky Knolls off my list.
Located in the quaint town of Custer, this track affords stunning views of the Black Hills. Don’t get too distracted though, narrow fairways ask for straight shots off the tee.
Having opened in 1965, the course has an air of old school charm that’s reflected the moment you step foot on property. Subtle humps and bumps in the fairways and tricky greens speak to an era long gone.
For a quick and most enjoyable nine, don’t pass up Rocky Knolls.
Boulder Canyon Country Club
Boulder Canyon is the newest golf course in the Black Hills region.
Located just a short drive from the world-famous town of Sturgis, this course winds its way through boulder country and affords unforgettable views in every direction.
Boulder Canyon also prides itself on providing an unforgettable experience at an unbeatable price.
If you’re plan on frequenting the area, you might want to consider buying an annual pass. It only costs $750 for a year for a single. It’s only $1,000 for a family!
Having played here myself, I can say it’s more than worth the trip wherever you’re coming from.
Broadland Creek Golf Course
The finest facility in the city of Huron is Broadland Creek.
This track is right in front of you. No surprises or blind shots. With that being said, penalty areas and well-placed bunkers come into play on a number of holes.
The greens are large and undulating. In the summer, they can be quick as they dry out in the afternoon wind. Staying below the hole is your best bet.
Broadland Creek has everything you need, but none of the frills that you associate with a high-end private club. Come as you are. It’s all about golf here and you’re more than welcome.
Belle Fourche Country Club
There’s a theme in South Dakota with golf courses that have “country” and “club” in their name. While that implies that they’re “member’s only” facilities, that’s usually not the case.
So goes the story at Belle Fourche Country Club.
This place is one of the nine-holers I dream about. The town of Belle Fourche isn’t exactly a thriving metropolis, but this is their golf course, and everyone is welcome.
The layout is short and straightforward. No hidden surprises. But this is golf and it’s good golf at that.
The course is always in tip-top shape, and you have to get the ball in the hole if you’re going to score.
Belle Fourche will always hold a special place in heart. The first time I showed up here, I was welcomed with open arms. The head pro came out to play with me and introduced me to everyone he could find. Since that fateful day, I’ve exchanged Christmas cards with most everyone I met every year.
You won’t forget your time here.
Tomahawk Lake Country Club
Lawrence Hughes might be one of the most understated architects of the Golden Era. We’re talking about the 1930’s, give or take a decade or two. He’s the guy who designed Tomahawk Lake Country Club.
We’ve got another niner on our hands here. That’s a theme in smalltown South Dakota.
This track is ripe with character though. Elevation changes are found throughout. And this course has some teeth too. One par three measures almost 230 yards and the par four ninth stretches to 440 yards.
While the golf course is great, the ten-acre practice area is the best you’ll find in a 100-mile radius.
Don’t miss this place if you’re close.
Hart Ranch Golf Course
Just outside Rapid City, you’ll find Hart Ranch Golf Course.
Elevation change is the prominent feature here. The vistas from the course’s highest points are breathtaking but you’d better stay focused. Club selection will make or break your round.
Locals and visitors alike flock to this facility during the high season to enjoy all the area has to offer, especially the course.
Bent grass greens are glassy quick so be sure and stay below the hole.
The mixture of holes, both long and short, keep you on your toes throughout.
When you’re done with your round, the food and drink in Shipwrecks Bar and Grill can’t be beat.
A total experience and worth the price.
Willow Run Golf Course
Willow Run received a prestigious “Four Star” rating from Golf Digest. And it’s not hard to see why.
This Joel Goldstrand design isn’t just one of the most scenic you’ll find anywhere; it offers a ton of opportunities for risk and reward. Locals say to pick your spots carefully. One bad swing can wreck your entire round. Sounds like fun to me!
Sioux Falls residents rave about this place and I do too. I’ve only played it once but can’t wait to get back for another go.
I’ll be the first to tell you that the pheasant and sharptail grouse hunting in South Dakota is the best in the world. I try to make at least one trip every fall or winter solely for that purpose.
What I recently came to realize though, is that the state is full of real gems in terms of golf. You’re going to face some serious travel time to get from one place to another, but that’s part of the adventure in my book.
I couldn’t have completed this guide without the help of our every loyal South Dakotan readers. They’re passionate about their golf and want nothing more than to share their treasures with the rest of us. My heart goes out to you all.
If you’ve had the privilege to play somewhere in South Dakota that we didn’t mention in this course guide, please tell us about your experience in the comments below.