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Bordered by the states of Wyoming and Montana to the west and Minnesota to the east, South Dakota lies in the midwestern region of the United States. It is the 17th largest but the 5th least populous of all the states. Its largest cities include Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Aberdeen, Brookings, and Watertown, with the capital city of Pierre lying towards the state’s southern edge.
Nicknamed the “Mount Rushmore State”, the presidential granite-rock sculpture lying in the National Memorial Park of the same name is a prominent tourist attraction here. Another famous attraction is the Missouri River, which carves a path straight through the center of South Dakota and effectively divides the state into three distinct topographical areas.
Lying in the western region are the deep canyons and flatlands of the Great Plains, and directly opposite it is the eastern region of low-lying hills, lakes, and large expanses of farmland. To the southwest is the Badlands region, characterized by a range of small, steep hills and deep gullies. With such a diverse topography, it's no wonder that another state nickname for South Dakota is the "Land of Infinite Variety".
Another defining feature of the state is its abundance of recreational facilities and outdoor activities, as tourists often come for the numerous hiking trails, scenic drives, horseback riding tours, and the many great golf courses that the state has to offer. Similar to North Dakota, South Dakota has more golf courses per capita than any other state but is often overlooked as one of the nation’s premier golf destinations despite boasting over a hundred golf courses scattered all throughout the state.
Listed below are our picks for the Top 10 Best Public Golf Courses in South Dakota, along with some semi-private facilities that allow public playing privileges for a daily fee.
Best Golf Courses in South Dakota
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,103 yards
Coming out on top of our list of the best public golf courses in South Dakota is The Golf Club at Red Rock. Widely recognized as not only the leading golf destination in Rapid City but the entire Black Hills region, Red Rock is a name you will surely hear when chatting with other golfing aficionados in South Dakota. It is even recognized as the Best in State by both Golf Digest and Golfweek Magazine for a record-breaking 12 years in a row.
Located only a stone’s throw away from downtown Rapid City, The Golf Club at Red Rock is sculpted from the rich, mountainous terrain of Black Hills in the southwest corner of the state. First unveiled in 2003, this 18-hole public course quickly rose above the ranks and established a good reputation for itself as it consistently garnered favorable reviews year after year from both the playing public and from prestigious golf magazines. Designed by Ron Farris, Red Rock boasts of stunning mountainside vistas and rolling fairways lined with towering Ponderosa Pine trees and swathes of native fescue; an elegantly crafted design that emanates classical golf course architecture at its finest.
The par 72 parkland layout features dramatic elevation changes, uneven lies, and links-style bunkers that are sure to provide a stiff challenge to all golfers from every skill level. Though many of the shots can be considered as straightforward, the large, undulating greens keep things interesting, however, along with the collection areas, pot bunkers, and sand traps that often surround it. Players are given a choice among four sets of tees, to make the game accessible to each player’s preference. The routing provides a secluded atmosphere as each of the 18 holes are fully isolated from one another, have their own distinct layouts, and imbued with their own characters by the unique challenges and visual elements that each provides.
Aside from the excellent layout, players may avail of other amenities such as the putting greens, driving range, teaching pro, golf shop, and a charming clubhouse equipped with its very own bar & grill that serves meals and beverages from lunch to dinner topped with excellent service from their well-trained staff.
The Golf Club at Red Rock definitely deserves to hold the title of South Dakota’s best public golf course for its superb layout, beautiful mountainside scenery, first-class amenities, and excellent service that all make for a world-class golfing experience you won’t want to miss.
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,179 yards
Gracing us at second place is the Sioux Falls City-owned course from the southeast region: the Prairie Green Golf Course. Listed as one of Golf Digest’s “Best New Affordable Courses” in 1996, Prairie Green Golf Course is one of the highest-rated and most sought-out golf destinations in the state. It is one of three public courses operated by Dakota Golf Management (the other two being Elmwood and Kuehn Park).
Launched in 1994, this municipal course was designed by Dick Nugent, the Illinois-based architect responsible for other underrated gems such as the Big Run Golf Club and White Pines Golf Course. As the name hints, the property sports an exquisite prairie links-style course accentuated with contoured bent grass greens and wide bluegrass fairways. The track winds through a marshland and several wetlands that come into play for 14 of the 18 holes. You will be accompanied by picturesque views of the idyllic countryside as you move through your round.
Peppered with about 80 sand bunkers and 14 or so water hazards, the layout at Prairie Green Golf Course manages to remain inviting to novice golfers and beginners yet still successfully keeping the interest of more seasoned players. The large but well-guarded greens and generous fairways that taper from the back tees demand absolute accuracy and precision for efficient shot positioning but are generally more forgiving on approach shots. The signature hole is the 566-yard, par-5 15th hole where you have to carry an awkwardly-placed waste area off the tee while trying to avoid the two huge fairway bunkers at the landing area. Water surrounds about three-quarters of the green so you have to be extra careful with your approach shot or you’ll likely lose your ball to the beguiling waters of the lake. This is an absolutely beautiful hole with an equally challenging layout.
Some of the amenities on offer at the Prairie Green G.C. include the driving range, pitching and putting greens, a teaching pro, a golf shop, and a charming clubhouse. The course and the facilities are kept in tip-top shape and the wide-open spaces, vivid green grass and blue skies that seem to stretch for miles all add to the small-town slice-of-life ambiance of this widely-appreciated course. The Prairie Green Golf Course is a worthy showcase of the rustic beauty of eastern South Dakota and definitely one of its top golf courses.
Location: Vermillion, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,684 yards
Situated only a five-minute drive away from the city with the Missouri River in plain sight, The Bluffs Golf Course is an easily accessible, public course with upscale facilities that are among the best in all of South Dakota. Honored with a top-five spot in Golf Magazine’s “Best Golf Courses” in the state, this is so much more than your typical small-town golf-course.
The layout winds through thickets of trees and several waterways (many of which come into play) and was artfully carved from the natural contours of the surrounding terrain. It flaunts a classical design, with velvety smooth bluegrass fairways and well-contoured, lightning-fast greens. The crystal clear waters of the Missouri River basin are particularly breathtaking from the vantage points of the back nine.
As for the par-72 championship layout, there are four different sets of tees on every hole to accommodate players of all skills, shapes, and sizes. Owing to the scenic surroundings and the subtle elevation changes, the course is a pleasant, leisurely walk at just 6,684 yards from the tips. What it lacks in slopes and uneven lies, it more than makes up for in its fine assortment of diverse holes that come with their own set of unique challenges.
Approximately 30 or so sand bunkers are strategically laid out throughout the course, often guarding the greens, aided by tall native grass and several water features that are occasionally thrown into the mix for good measure. Water is especially prominent in the starting nine as water hazards consecutively come into play from the 2nd until the 6th holes.
The Bluff’s signature hole is the 13th hole, a treacherous 419-yard par-4 perched atop a hundred-foot bluff that thrillingly plunges into a dogleg left fairway before rising again to an elevated green. This, along with the other strong, standout holes of the track, will certainly make your round at The Bluffs a memorable one.
They have an all-grass driving range, a pitching area, and putting greens to warm up or practice in, a teaching pro on site, and a well-stocked golf shop. The superb course conditioning, accommodating and friendly staff, and the overall terrific layout further cements The Bluffs Golf Course’s seat at the table amongst the best public golf courses of South Dakota.
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,933 yards
Another pick hailing from South Dakota’s golf hub, Rapid City, Meadowbrook Golf Course is another must-play course for avid golfers residing in or passing through the state. It is an 18-hole championship course situated at the foot of the magnificent Black Hills mountain range in the western region, straddling the boundary between South Dakota and Wyoming.
Opened in 1976, the course is sculpted from nearly 7,000 yards of gently rolling terrain of forested hills and strikingly green grasslands accented by a handful of strikingly beautiful water features such as lakes and running streams. It’s no wonder that Meadowbrook is widely considered as one of the most scenic golf destinations in the entire state. The bent grass greens are well-manicured and contoured, while the fairways are blanketed with lush bluegrass and bordered by rows of towering Ponderosa Pine trees. The layout shines with its immersive natural scenery and elegantly traditional architecture that make the entire course such a sight to behold.
Scattered all throughout the track are almost 90 sand bunkers and several water features that serve to fortify the large, undulating greens and keeping players honest at all times. In classical parkland fashion, the layout is also surrounded by a variety of attractive Cottonwood, Spruce, Pine, and Apple trees that not only add to the aesthetic qualities of the scenery but also increases the overall course difficulty as well. As an added treat, the 86-mile long Rapid Creek repeatedly traverses through the course and comes into play for five of the eighteen holes.
Overall, Meadowbrook Golf Course is an absolute blast to play due to its friendly layout, while still remaining formidable for some of the most seasoned players if you play from the back tees. It is sure to bring out the best out of every golfer, even as you enjoy the scenic rural landscape that is just perfect for a weekend getaway.
Location: Yankton, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,874 yards
Lying in the state’s southern region is the Hillcrest Golf & Country Club, a family-oriented, semi-private 18-hole golf course that first debuted in 1953. It was honored as one of the top 4 “Best Courses to Play” in South Dakota by BestCourses.com for eight consecutive years (2004-2011).
A hidden gem that will pleasantly surprise you, the course at Hillcrest Golf & Country Club was carefully molded from 6,874 yards of rolling plains with flourishing prairies and steppes along the shores of the state’s longest and largest river, the Missouri River. The fairways are bordered by Evergreen trees and adorned with luxuriant bluegrass, while the greens are carpeted with well-groomed bentgrass. Located mere minutes from the lively Yankton downtown area, a tourist haven popular for its abundance of outdoor recreational activities.
With a slope rating of 130, this par-72 championship layout is sure to keep both amateur golfers and more proficient players happy, as it features a nice variety of easy scoring opportunities and thought-provoking holes that need strategic planning. While elevation changes are minimal and there are only a handful of sand bunkers, much of the challenge at Hillcrest lies in the dogleg fairways, narrow fairways, blind shots, and elevated greens that will prompt players to use all the clubs in their bag and map out a good strategy to consider all available options and angles.
Aside from the fun layout, Hillcrest Golf & Country Club also offers other top-notch amenities such as a driving range, a teaching pro, putting greens, a pro shop, an elegant clubhouse, a private swimming pool, guest’s lounge, dining room, and a bar. All in all, the gorgeous natural setting, interesting layout, and well-maintained facilities leave no doubt that Hillcrest Golf & Country Club belongs on this list, as one of South Dakota’s best public golf courses.
Location: Hot Springs, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 70 Length: 5,905 yards
Next up on our list is a course nestled amidst the Southern Gateway of the Black Hills, the Southern Hills Golf Course. It is an 18-hole municipal course located in the city of Hot Springs, in the southwestern corner of the state. It is widely acknowledged as one of the premier golf destinations in the Black Hills region, prized for its stunning scenery and exciting layout.
Built in 1977, Southern Hills Golf Club is home to lavish bluegrass fairways and fast-rolling greens surrounded by mature Ponderosa Pine trees which perfectly complements the clear blue skies overhead and the rust-red rock canyons of the Spearfish Formation from where the course was carved out of. What was originally intended to be a 9-hole course was eventually expanded to become a full 18-hole layout designed by Colorado Hall of Famer Richard Phelps whose penchant for incorporating natural scenery and local topography into the track shines through with his work here at the Southern Hills Golf Course.
Much of the allure and attractiveness of the course's par-70 layout can be credited to the subtle details and intricacies of its design. Measuring less than 6,000 yards, Phelps maximized the limited area by employing narrow, tree-lined fairways, rolling terrain, and red sandstone ravines to elevate both the course's difficulty and visual aesthetics. With an overall elevation change of 380 feet, many holes along the track feature sloping fairways, elevated tees, and uneven lies, as well as sand bunkers, dogleg fairways, blind shots, and several water hazards.
The short yardage and firm, receptive greens keep things fun and friendly, especially for beginners and high-handicappers, and make for some good scoring opportunities on a few holes. The course is also home to flourishing wildlife that frolic across the grounds, such as some native Mule deer, wild turkey, cottontail rabbits, and the rare red-tail fox.
A well-rounded combination of challenge and playability, the layout offers five sets of tees, as well as a newly added junior tee box, for players of all ages with varying skill sets to choose from. Located less than an hour away from Rapid City, Southern Hills Golf Course is an easily accessible destination offering a rousing round of golf along with wonderful views of that distinct South Dakota scenery.
Don’t miss the chance to play on this track whenever you are in the area. The Southern Hills Golf Course is definitely one of the best golf courses in South Dakota.
Location: Rapid City, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,841 yards
Hailing from the southern corner of the state’s golfing hotbed of Rapid City, Hart Ranch Golf Course lies only 25 miles northeast of Mount Rushmore, roughly an hour’s drive away from the Black Hills area.
While it measures 6,841 yards from the back tees, Hart Ranch Golf Club is best experienced as a walking course due to its rich, immersive natural scenery. Set amidst a densely-wooded Ponderosa pine forest at the foot of the Black Hills mountain range, it's subtly rolling terrain is carpeted by pristine bluegrass fairways and contoured bentgrass greens. The layout is also marked by several water features with several actually coming into play, most notable of which is the Spring Creek that traverses through the track from east to west.
Furnished with four sets of tees, the par-72 layout at the Hart Ranch Golf Club is accessible to a broad spectrum of players, where more seasoned pros can seek maximum challenge from the back tees while beginners and high-handicappers can enjoy a more appropriate playing distance from the shorter tees out front. With a rugged, mountain landscape, the track at Hart Ranch is riddled with dramatic elevation changes, as well as nearly 30 (usually greenside) sand bunkers and more than a dozen ponds, streams, and deep, vast lakes that come into play on many of the holes. The front nine plays very wide and open, with receptive greens that allow you to be creative with your approach shots; whereas the finishing nine taper into tighter fairways that demand strategic and precise approach shots, but are actually quite generous off the tee.
Some of the memorable holes on this track are: the par-5 9th, the course's longest hole rounding out at a daunting 542 yards, compounded by a lateral water hazard to the front-right of the large green which slopes from front to back; and the series of holes from the 14th to the 17th, sculpted into the ridge of the adjoining hills, memorable for their uneven lies, blind landing spots, and dramatically sloped greens.
Plan a golfing getaway with friends and family to the golfing hotbed of South Dakota and include the Hart Ranch Golf Club to your list of must-play courses. It is definitely one of the top golf courses in Rapid City, South Dakota.
Location: Mitchell, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,710 yards
Joining the ranks of South Dakota's best public golf courses is Mitchell's very own 18-hole public golf facility: the Lakeview Municipal Golf Course. Debuting all the way back to 1928, this small town treasure is rooted deep in the city's history and has had a loyal following among locals and out-of-town visitors ever since.
Located 2 and a half hours away from Le Mars, Iowa and South Sioux City, Nebraska as well as being just a few minutes’ walk from Mitchell’s downtown area, Lakeview Municipal Golf Course lies along the west shores of Lake Mitchell, a large man-made water reservoir built on the same year as the course. Rolling fairways of tall, lush fescue and bentgrass greens adorn this expansive 6,710-yard property bordered by mature hardwood trees.
An amazing par-72 parkland layout, Lakeview Municipal Golf Course is designed to be accommodating to golfers across varying skill levels. Despite having only a handful of sand traps, the challenge is put forth by the course’s four large ponds, several blind shots, and elevation changes that make for an enjoyable but rousing round. Over the years, the course has undergone several notable renovations and enhancements such as the double-row irrigation system to keep greens well-groomed and the 300-yard driving range.
The fairways and greens are kept in great shape. The tree-lined fairways are generous but they will punish you if you make an errant shot and end up in the rough. The entire layout is actually a mix of the original, older 9 holes mixed with 9 newer holes. They seamlessly blend together that you wouldn’t know the difference unless you are consciously trying to look for the tell-tale signs of the older holes having smaller, less undulated greens.
My favorite hole was the 8th hole - a short, 142-yard par-3 with a sloping green obscured in the front by a mound, making it somewhat of a blind shot as it challenges you to navigate through the gently rolling fairway and swathes of surrounding trees.
Voted as one of the "Top Golf Courses in South Dakota for Under $50" by USA Today, Lakeview Municipal Golf Course offers an incredible value-for-money package that you have to include it in your to-do list if you happen to pass by Mitchell or the nearby areas.
Location: Harrisburg, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 6,321 yards
First established in 1991, Spring Creek Country Club has been a lucky find for many local and travelling golf enthusiasts throughout the years, a superb but often overlooked golf destination in suburban Sioux Falls, in the westernmost edge of South Dakota. Despite being little-known, this hidden gem deserves to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best courses the state has to offer.
Spring Creek Country Club is a handiwork of architect Marty Johnson, whose artistic flair is on full display here. He seamlessly transformed a rural setting deep in the heart of one of South Dakota's most populous cities into an idyllic 18-hole facility with subtly rolling terrain and generous fairways carpeted with well-manicured bentgrass and contoured greens, all bounded by groves of towering trees. Spring Creek also flaunts scenic views overlooking the city landscape on several holes. The sparkling blue waters of a creek that flows through the property also comes into play on some of the holes.
While there's nothing overly daunting here, the par-72 layout at Spring Creek Country Club still makes for a pleasant round of golf that's most appealing to more traditional players and beginners looking to just enjoy a fun round of golf. The starting nine features six par 4s, two par 3s, and only one par 5, while the finishing nine comprises of four par 4s, two par 3s, and three par 5s, which illustrates that most of the holes here tend to be mid to long irons with the exception of three or so short holes. Water comes into play in the form of a deep, vast lake to the right of the 17th that overlaps into its adjacent hole, the 14th. Meanwhile, the eponymous Spring Creek slices through the fairway on the 12th, the course's most difficult hole, a 358-yard par-4 that demands a solid, precise drive into a narrow landing area off the tee.
Well into its third decade since it first opened, Spring Creek Golf Club remains one of the finest conditioned courses in the entire region and is a convenient 10-minute drive southeast of Sioux Falls, making it one of the most accessible, top-quality, reasonably priced golf facilities in South Dakota.
Location: Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Holes: 18 Par: 72 Length: 7,186 yards
Concluding our list of South Dakota's best public golf courses is another superb course from Sioux Falls, the Elmwood Golf Club. A municipal course under the management of Dakota Golf Mgmt. (the same organization that operates the Prairie Green Golf Course), Elmwood Golf Club is not too far away from its sister courses and lies only an hour due east of Worthington, Minnesota and an hour-and-a-half northeast of Le Mars, Iowa. Dating all the way back to 1960, Elmwood Golf Club is actually home to two professional courses: the 18-hole Championship Course, and the 9-hole East Nine layout.
Open all year round, all 6,321 yards of the Championship Course is in impeccable condition and the facilities are well-maintained by the dedicated staff at Elmwood Golf Club. It was originally designed by famed architect Larry Packard who designed over 250 courses in his illustrious career. Restored by Kevin Norby in 2014, the Championship Course still retains many of Packard's signature elements, such as his slightly elevated sand bunkers, relatively small greens, and usually easy opening five holes lulling you into complacency just before drastically upping the ante on the succeeding holes.
The flagship course of Sioux City, the Championship Course flaunts tree-lined fairways, arched greens, and classical-style bunkers that often guard the greens. In true parkland fashion, the course at Elmwood Golf Club features a densely wooded layout sculpted from subtly rolling riverside terrain with all the natural contours of the rural topography expertly utilized to come into play on most of the holes. A fair share of sand traps and generous green complexes deftly balances playability and challenge, with a handful of water hazards adding intrigue to this fun layout. The signature hole is the 16th, notable for both its scenery and difficulty, brought about by a grove of towering trees fronting the fairway and multiple sand bunkers to the left of an elevated green.
All in all, Elmwood Golf Club is just another addition to the long list of reasons why avid golfers should give serious consideration, pack up their clubs and sample the various exciting course offerings of South Dakota.
The widely varied, naturally rich, rolling landscape of South Dakota make it an ideal location for some of the country's best public golf courses. Many of the names listed below congregate in the region between Spearfish and Rapid City towards Black Hills, a road trip that will surely satiate any golf enthusiast's need for a golfing fix with the area’s amazing natural scenery added as a bonus.
With more than a hundred courses to choose from, South Dakota should be a solid choice for your next golfing holiday as you're sure to find one that suits your taste, preferences, and price range. A downside to the great quantity of golf course choices available here, however, is that some other noteworthy courses had to be left off this list due to time and space constraints. Feel free to let us know which of your favorites we may have missed here. We'd love to hear from you.