The Dismal River Club, Doak Course Rankings:
Golf Digest: #2 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #23 US modern
Designer: Tom Doak (2013)
The Tom Doak course at Dismal River Golf Club in Mullen, Nebraska opened this past year to tremendous national acclaim.
The newest of the world-class courses in the Sand Hills region was named by Golf Digest as one of the best new courses of the year, along with the Blue and Red courses at Streamsong (one of which was also designed by Doak, and the other by Coore/Crenshaw), Gamble Sands in Washington, Sewailo Golf Club in Arizona, and a number of other impressive new builds around the country. Dismal’s new course was named the third best new track in the country, just behind the two at Streamsong which opened this year as both top 25 overall courses in the United States.
Minimalistic golf is all the rage, and there is no better topography in the United States for minimalistic golf than in the rugged Sand Hills.
Simply put, the Sand Hills is home to the richest golf terrain in the entire country with beyond-drastic elevation changes, beautiful natural grasslands and prairies, and massive sand blowouts.
With the vast Ogallala Aquifer underlying 174,000 square miles of land in this golf-rich region, hundreds of feet of rich sand lies beneath the terrain where some of the nation’s best golf courses have recently been designed: The Dismal River Club and the number one rated modern course in the country, Sand Hills Golf Club (both in Mullen), The Prairie Club’s Dunes course and Pines course in nearby Valentine (nearby is relevant in this area), Wild Horse in Gothenberg and others that are quintessential examples of natural golf done right in the heart of our country.
Some say that Sand Hills golf is a renaissance of golf course architecture in North America – Renaissance Golf Design being the name of Doak’s design firm, of course – and they are right. The great boom of new golf courses in the United States has died off almost completely since the 1990’s when everyone with a few bucks felt like putting up a new track, but the quality of what is being put forth now is unlike anything that has been seen before… The Red Course at Dismal River is a prime example.
The Doak course features wonderful lines and bunkering, fantastic conditions and course strategy that is second to none. There are blind shots, of course, but terrific back-drops to provide aiming cues. The greens are perfect and well-contoured, and risk/reward opportunities abound throughout the back nine.
Doak’s “Red Course” at Dismal River provides an unprecedented throw-back golfing experience: The tee boxes have no tee boxes – rather, they imply an area where tee shots should be taken near; the gigantic bluffs running along the course’s borderline frame tee shots and target areas, and the back nine features the Dismal River, itself, playing alongside the playing surface.
The course sprawls, and is touted as a walking course that provides shuttles to get players from side to side. The drive to ten from the pro shop took about ten minutes, but the gorgeous natural scenery left my friend, Brian, and I happy to be driving the grounds and marveling at the beauty of the Sand Hills that is evident everywhere.
During our drive to ten, we were met up with by co-owner and CEO of the Dismal River Club, Chris Johnston, who is one of the top private club owners in the country and renowned as a true golf visionary.
We were teeing off earlier than we originally expected to, though, and he was unfortunately not able to join us that early for the round. In our defense, we had a 15-plus hour drive ahead of us back to Wisconsin and I had to work the following morning. At a property like this, there was no way in the world we were going to miss out on seeing everything we could before that kind of drive, even if it meant getting less than an hour of sleep before heading in to the office the next day!
With time limited, we were only able to play the back nine of the Doak course (along with the Jack Nicklaus course, which is reviewed here). The back nine of the Doak course, to say the least, is spectacular. To be totally honest, and I am guessing Brian would agree with me on this one, I wish we would have played the entire Doak course and I would have been happy to drive straight from Nebraska in to the office. Hopefully there will be an opportunity to see the rest of it in the near future.
Without further ado, I present to you the ninth hole, as well as the back nine of the Tom Doak “Red Course” at the Dismal River Club:
Brian and I both tidied up our approaches on 14…
Location: Mullen, NE