I had the chance this week to enjoy a round of golf at Tatanka Golf Club at Feather Hill located near Niobrara, Nebraska next to Ohiya Casino & Resort. It’s a course that I have been wanting to try but it just hasn’t worked out, until now.
They called it “media day” and invited different media members to play a round of golf. The real complaint of the day was mother nature. No rain, but the eve of a heat warning and temperatures in the 90’s with humidity upwards of 70% made hydrating extremely important.
I’m not a golf expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I do enjoy playing the game so taking advantage of this chance was really fun. When I arrived I learned I would be riding with Derek Bursheim, the father of the golf pro and grouped with Brian Bursheim, the golf pro at the course and Steve Donahue, a course rater with Golf Digest.
Beautiful! From the time you arrive on site to the time you leave you will love the views. It’s located along Highway 12 a few miles east of Niobrara. At the first tee box you can immediately see the challenges the course has to offer. You can’t really see the green as the hole goes downhill and turns to the right. The course is very deceiving. At times you think a bunker is closer than it is and on one hole there are bunkers that looked stacked when in reality 50 yards separate the beaches.
The challenge at this course isn’t always the bunker down the fairway or the dog leg built in the fairway, it’s the uneven lie that you will deal with throughout your round. The course is constant rolling hills so you will take shots with the ball above your feet and other shots with it sitting below you. It will challenge your ability to execute those difficult shots. Those who can will find this course to be a lot of fun.
The fairways are large and on some holes they join with the neighboring hole, but you don’t want to miss the open space or you are going into the deep, deep stuff. There isn’t much for an “in-between”, but they are working on creating a rough that will attempt to slow the ball before it gets into the deep stuff. The problem with it right now is mother nature hasn’t helped with the growing process, but it will be a nice addition next season.
So you aren’t a golfer? Go rent a cart and drive around the course. The views are incredible and from some greens and fairways – I think holes 4-6 or so – you can see for miles to the south. Buffalo roam in the pasture just off the 12th fairway, adding to the experience. Take my advice though and rent a cart. This isn’t a course too many people are going to want to walk. The goal of the course was to keep it as natural as possible and they were very successful.
The folks at the course were extremely welcoming. Derek – who not only plays at the course, but also takes care of the carts – was very helpful to me pointing out different things on the course or ways to play it. He also has a vision of not making the course extremely difficult but to be known for fun golf that brings people back again and again. With the start they have and the hospitality of the folks working in the clubhouse people will return time and time again.
And by the way, they have food. I like food. The Philly and fries was excellent.
When I go to a new course I always try to identify different things that set the course apart, or make it different. One of the things you will notice is the wood flag sticks instead of the standard slim fiberglass stick. The signs that point you to the next tee box are really cool. They are made of wood with the number of the next hole and an arrow engraved in it. It, of course, was something small, yet captivating as you appreciate the beauty of the course. They also have a yardage guide (see below) with a strategy on every hole helping you plan your shot from tee to green.
I mentioned earlier they did a good job of keeping things natural. My dad used to ask me when I started playing golf, “why do you want to chase a little white ball around a cow pasture?” I’ve always laughed at that because obviously that’s where some courses are built. This one, at times, will make you feel like you are cruising through a pasture surrounded by weeds and wild flowers. That’s not a bad thing. It’s simply a feature they wanted to keep when building the course and I’m glad they did. It feels like a place where you can just go to escape the world for a few hours.
How I did
I’ve never claimed to be a great golfer but if I’m in the low-mid 80’s it’s been a decent day. If I break 80 it’s been a really good day. One of these days I will break 70…….maybe. Anyway, when I play a new course that I know nothing about I give myself a little leeway. There will always be the chance of making a shot you normally wouldn’t if you knew the course a little better. When all was said and done I made par on six of the 18 holes, four of which were on the back nine. I failed to birdie a hole, but had some chances and misread the challenging greens. Outside of that I pretty much played bogey golf.
I had a blow up hole on the front and the back, which kept me from the mid-80’s score on my first visit there. The first one was the third hole of the day – when you four putt you don’t get a good score. The back nine struggle came on Hole 13. They told me where to aim for the blind tee shot and I went a little right.When I got to the top of the hill I realized there wasn’t much room on the right and found my ball in the deep fescue. My 2nd shot dribbled into the fairway, but I felt like I still had a chance to recover the hole. I would have been happy with bogey on the hole. However, I pushed my 3rd shot right and it found the bunker. After two shots to get out and then the ball rolling back down to the tall grass surrounding the bunker it was a disaster. I finally holed out (no, I didn’t just set the ball in the cup to get out of there) and moved on to the next hole. I made par on the next two holes so I was happy with the recovery.
At the end of the round, through the struggles and learning a new course, my score read 90 with a 45 on both sides. Obviously it’s not a great score, but I was two bad holes from turning in an 85, which I would have been happy with for my first time there. The other thing worth noting was on the 18th hole Derek commented on the ball I was using was the same ball I started with. That in itself, was a win!
I had a blast and am already planning a time to go back to redeem myself for the round and a couple of the holes. If you enjoy golf and playing a new course you will enjoy this one. Make a trip to Northeast Nebraska for a round of golf. Heck, make it a weekend, with stay & play options at the casino located on the same grounds as the golf course. Bring the wife or girlfriend, even if she doesn’t golf, because she will enjoy the views and the ride around the course.
Can’t find a friend to go? Give me a call or shoot me a message and I will see if I can join you for a round. I’m decent company, most of the time.