Until the mid '90s, a ball hit at River Wilds Golf Club could travel thousands of yards?that is, if it happened to fall into a cockpit at the adjacent Blair Airport. But then the airport moved away, and the course, originally opened in 1944 as a private club, expanded from 9 to 18 holes and became public. The tarmac hazards are no longer there, but the course still challenges players with trees, bunkers, and a meandering creek. The par 72 championship course spreads to a full length of 6,562 yards from the back tees, with an additional two sets to accommodate all skill levels.
To ready themselves for this challenge, players can practice on a range with an 80-yard tee line, the longest in both Nebraska and Iowa. The natural grass tee boxes are rotated daily to keep the sod fresh and prevent emotional attachment with any particular divot.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,562 yards from the back tees * Three sets of tees per hole
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Stalking through the prairie grass, a guide leads his labrador retriever and a hunter into a stretch of foothills. They hear a rustling ahead, prompting them to pause. Peering through the brush, they see a bird with red plumage around its eye, a green head, and a white ring around its neck—the distinguishing marks of a pheasant. The hunter readies his gun, the labrador poises, and both wait for the guide's signal.
The hunting guides at Pheasant Bonanza lead hunters through experiences like these and ready them for similar outings with sport shooting. The sporting-clay course, for example, supplies beginning through advanced shooters with 20 stations whose targets simulate the movements of animals such as quail and rabbits. To further sharpen hunters' aim, the guides also oversee trap, skeet, five-stand, and snooker ranges. This diversity of shooting scenarios prepares clients for guided hunting trips—which include the retrieval and tracking service of trained labradors or german shorthaired pointers—on Pheasant Bonanza's grounds. Spanning hundreds of acres in the Loess Hills, the grounds sustain game such as pheasant, waterfowl, whitetail deer, wild turkey, and rogue Yahtzee dice.
The lodge accommodates guests on extended trips, surrounding them with rustic touches such as a stone fireplace, knotty-pine paneling, and furniture upholstered in hunters' orange. Further services range from expert advice at the pro shop to Pheasant Bonanza's boarding, training, and breeding programs for hunting dogs.
Picturesque prairie vistas welcome visitors to Elkhorn Valley Golf Club, which challenges golfers with a par-70 course designed by Duane Mines. Carts voyage past verdant fairways as golfers send balls soaring over grasping grass traps and pools of water with precise drives and well-practiced telekinesis. Players master their short-game skills upon the practice field's chipping and putting greens, and guests may equip themselves for the field with accessories, clubs, and apparel from the pro shop. After a long day of sending dimpled spheroids sailing toward the horizon, visitors share laughs over delicious meals at the clubhouse.
With six sets of tees per hole, the course at Ashland Golf Club caters equally to new players and polished veterans. Opportunities for scores below par arrive early in the round: holes one and three are relatively short par 5s at 439 yards and 528 yards respectively. Both holes force long hitters to make a choice between accepting a dare to reach the green in two strokes, and telling a truth about an embarrassing date. The difficulty level ramps up from there and tops out at number 16, a 375-yard par 4 and the hardest hole on the course.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole par 71 course * Total length of 6,242 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 70.3 from the back tees * Course slope of 122 from the back tees * Six sets of tees
Elkhorn Ridge Golf Course’s nine-hole, par 3 layout provides a forgiving environment for beginners just taking up the sport and more seasoned players looking to polish their short-game finesse. Holes range from as short as the 95-yard fifth hole to as lengthy as the 173-yard seventh hole, the toughest on the course. Adding up to 1,203 yards overall, the course places a premium on iron accuracy as players bombard the greens and pins from a single set of tees.