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Golf Course Review: Golf Club at Red Rock, Rapid City, South Dakota

The drive to Rapid City includes, gasp, forests.

We’d never been to South Dakota before. So driving east from Wyoming, my expectation was that the views from the Jeep would be nothing but prairie lands throughout this portion of our journey.

However, shortly after crossing the border from Wyoming, we entered the Black Hills region of South Dakota.

The Black Hills got its name from the local Lakota tribe. The tribe so named it since from a distance the hills look black because they are covered with conifer trees.

There are two main attractions in the Black Hills based on the multitude of road signs and billboards: Mount Rushmore and Lt. Col. George A. Custer-themed towns.

The apparent Custer fetish was a bit shocking. And I do mean fetish: we’re talking full on Custer in this region. There are Custer bars, hotels, restaurants, antique shops, you name it. It’s almost like a real life Bubba-Gump duo got together and literally figured out all the ways that one could pair Custer with some way to make a buck.

Historically, the reason for all this Custer mania stems from the fact that Custer led the Black Hills expedition in 1874 that resulted in finding gold in the region. And as a result, the quick settlement boom in the area is credited to him.

The Lakota, on the other hand, probably weren’t too thrilled — although promised this land in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, the feds kicked them out because, well, you know, gold. But the Lakota could take solice in the fact that Custer got his in the end. Custer, of course, met his maker just a couple years later at the infamous Battle of the Little Bighorn in southeastern Montana.

Besides Custer stuff, there is also Deadwood.

After you get past all the Custer-related insanity and make the obligatory stop at Mount Rushmore — which, by the way, is much, much more impressive in person than one might expect — if you choose the right road you can cruise through the historic Old West town of Deadwood.

For the uninitiated, Deadwood attracted all sorts of characters back in the gold rush days and was the town in which Wild Bill Hickok was murdered while playing poker at a local saloon.

You can get a taste of Old West life and the prominence that whiskey and beer had in that day just by the number of saloons that lined the street (and still do today) in Deadwood.

The Golf Club at Red Rock was built on rolling hills.

After sightseeing a bit and getting the hell out of Deadwood, it is about a 45 minute drive to Rapid City.

Located on the eastern edge of the Black Hills, Rapid City is the second largest city in South Dakota weighing in at approximately 73,000 people.

The hills out here are rolling as the geography transitions back to vast prairies. It is on these rolling hills that the Golf Club at Red Rock was built. And let me tell you, the result is spectacular!

As you can see from the pictures above, it feels as though that when this course was built in the early 2000s, golf architect Ron Farris just dropped grass right onto the natural landscape. The course features dramatic elevation changes, undulating greens, dramatic elevation changes, fescue, dramatic elevation changes, blind tee shots, and did we say dramatic elevation changes?

This course was truly a pleasure to play. From the downhill first hole all the way through the sweeping, dogleg right eighteenth hole, each hole presents its own unique challenge. But the course is fair and good scores can be posted.

Favorite Holes

Hole 1 – Par 4 (329/329/340)

A beautiful opening hole over the tall grass and down the hill. Still, it’s manageable making it one of the better opening holes in America.

Hole 4 – Par 4 (361/368/376)

A sweeping, steep downhill tee shot where if you hit the downslope, your ball will travel for miles. The green slopes severely from back to front.

Hole 5 – Par 3 (185/212/217)

This par 3 illustrates the huge elevation changes on this course. Take a minute here and enjoy the vista.

Hole 10 – Par 4 (354/385/434)

The back nine begins with a downhill-sloping fairway. The approach is into an undulating green guarded by water on the left and sand on the right.

Hole 13 – Par 4 (336/385/405)

Elevation changes continue here and on the next hole with continuous uphill sloping to the greens. This one has the additional element of driving through the trees which is always fun.

Hole 18 – Par 4 (344/408/455)

A sweeping left to right hole with everything visible to finish.

Final thoughts on the Golf Club at Red Rock

The Golf Club at Red Rock is rated as the number one public course in South Dakota. And it’s easy to see why. The variety of challenges from blind tee shots to sweeping elevation changes to undulating greens engage your mind and require sharp play.

But nothing on this course is unfair. Plan your shots and excute, and you can post a good score. And have a great time doing it.

For the Bars & Pars Quest, the Golf Club at Red Rock is the perfect choice for golf in South Dakota.