When you hear the words South Dakota, you probably think of Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt, and Lincoln, the presidents with their heads forever memorialized at Mount Rushmore.
But the state is more than just four giant heads. And its even got more than Wall Drug. And Sturgis. And the Badlands. Ok, it turns out there are quite a few famous things about this state that has less than a million people. But for most people, golf courses aren’t one of them.
While South Dakota might not have the same number of championship level golf courses as a Wisconsin or Illinois or even as a Minnesota or Iowa, there are some decent tracks to play. And if you’re going anyway (maybe to pay homage to the four heads or buy some stuff at Wall Drug) you might as well bring your clubs.
To help navigate you through the South Dakotan golf scene, here are five South Dakota golf courses you need to play.
Sutton Bay (Best Overall and Best Private Course)
Located on the shores of Lake Oahe, Sutton Bay Golf Course offers a golf experience unparalleled in the entire state. In fact, some of the views on the course are among the best in the midwest, if not the entire country.
The course features steep elevation changes and has double greens on 1 and 8, and 3 and 6. The course has a distinct links feel and quality to it and comes with the requisite prairie grasses and oddly shaped fairway and green side bunkers.
The course measures 7286 yard long from the tips and is a regulation par 72.
Sutton Bay is a private golf course, though it can be played as a guest if accompanied by a member.
The Golf Club at Red Rock (Best Public Course)
Located in Rapid City, The Club at Red Rock is by far and away the best public golf course in South Dakota. Neatly trimmed fairways are carved into the rugged South Dakotan countryside on this breathtaking course. Red Rock has just about everything you could want in a championship level golf course, from intimidating green side bunkers to towering pine trees.
The front nine beings with a green protected by a slew of deep sand traps. Make sure you don’t hit your approach short or you’ll be hacking your way around the beach. You need to switch gears on 2, however, and make sure you don’t go deep as a sneaky sand trap awaits you if you give your second shot too much muscle.
From there, contoured, rolling fairways and alternating landing areas of short, green grass are contrasted with hostile, deep rough. Anything left, right, or simply the wrong distance is highly penalized at Red Rock as precision is of the utmost importance.
Red Rock measures 7000 yards long and is a regulation par 72.
A round of 18 holes walking at Red Rock costs $89 during the day, though the twilight rate is only $59 and starts at 3 pm.
Southern Hills Golf Course (Most Scenic Course)
Located in the southwest tip of the state in Hot Springs, Southern Hills Golf Course is one of the premier golf courses in South Dakota you can actually play. Southern Hills features expansive fairways, tall pines, rock retaining walls, and majestic views of the South Dakotan countryside. It really is a beautiful golf course.
The sprawling course begins with a couple of very straight forward par fours that allow you the chance to hit the ground running and score well. The breathtaking views and stunning ambiance of the course continue throughout the round and finish with a four hole stretch of three par 4s and a par 5 that are all relatively short.
To be honest, the entire course is quite short, measuring only 5905 yards from the tips and is a par 70. With views this good and golf this manageable, you should be in for a good day at Southern Hills.
The price at Southern Hills is reasonable too. A round of 18 walking is only $45.
Dakota Dunes Country Club (Most Challenging Course)
The most demanding course in the state is most likely Dakota Dunes Country Club. The unmatched layout and unique terrain of the course make a round at this fantastic venue difficult yet exciting.
The front nine begins with a deep, sharp dogleg left littered with fairway bunkers that will eat your ball if you can’t shape your shot accordingly. Things progress from there with a couple of par fours that feature crowded landing areas and then moves on to the par 3 4th and its steep, sloping green.
On the back nine, water and trees line the fairway on the first few holes and put a ton of pressure on your tee shots and approaches to heavily guarded greens.
From the Palmer tees (as they are known at the course) Dakota Dunes plays 7165 yards long and is a regulation par 72. It has a course rating of 74.8 and a slope rating of 137.
Dakota Dunes is a private course and can only be played if you are a member or the guest of one.
Meadowbrook Golf Course (Best Deal)
While there are undoubtedly cheaper courses in South Dakota, there is no better deal than Meadowbrook Golf Course. The Rapid City course offers some of the best golf in the state for a fraction of the cost you normally pay at a premium track.
Meadowbrook features 6900 yards of championship level golf with lush, green fairways and quick, sloping greens. The mature trees and babbling brooks found throughout the course are a golfer’s dream (as long as you admire them from a distance) and really create a splendid golfing atmosphere.
The cost to play Meadowbrook is $48 for 18 walking.
Play South Dakota
While you might not plan a trip to South Dakota just to golf, because there is so much to do in the state, there is a good chance you’re already going there anyway. If that is the case, you might as well know the best courses to play while you are there and these five beauties are a great place to start. Enjoy your round.
Did we miss a course? In the comments section, share your South Dakota golfing experience.