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North Dakota Golf

Two things stand out on your first trip to western North Dakota, just as they did for Lewis and Clark 200 years ago: First, the savage, rugged beauty of the Badlands; second, the appalling lack of cell service. (While building Fort Mandan, Lewis is said to have heaved his BlackBerry into Lake Sakakawea.)

This Old West throwback is where Theodore Roosevelt hunted buffalo before becoming the 26th president of the United States. He is celebrated in the town of Medora, just as explorers Lewis and Clark, who camped in the state for 146 nights, are immortalized at the Lewis & Clark Interpretive Center in Washburn.

"NoDak" is also home to some pretty fantastic (and wildly cheap) golf. Whether you're on the 21-course Lewis & Clark Golf Trail (lewisandclarkgolftrail.com) or cherry-picking its best three tracks on the roughly 500-mile Triple Challenge, from Bismarck to Medora to Williston, as detailed here, you'll be doing plenty of driving, so splurge for the XM satellite radio available in rental cars at the new Bismarck airport (direct flights from Denver, Minneapolis and Las Vegas).

A few more tips: Budget at least four days for this Old West adventure. Don't tell your cardiologist about the pitchfork steak fondue dinner. And lay off the Fargo jokes--that's eastern North Dakota.

Where to Play

Crib Sheet
Bully Pulpit
Greens fee: $39-$49 ($15 for cart)
(701)623-4653; medora.com
Hawktree GC
Greens fee: $60 ($15 for cart)
(888) 465-4295; hawktree.com
Heart River Municipal GC
Greens fee: $18 ($10 for cart)
(701)456-2050
The Links of North Dakota
Greens fee: $50 ($15 for cart)
(701)568-2600;
thelinksofnorthdakota.com
Painted Woods GC
Greens fee: $15 ($10 for cart)
(701)462-8480
Prairie West GC
Greens fee: $20 ($10 for cart)
(701)667-3222;
Riverwood GC
Greens fee: $20 ($10 for cart)
(701)222-6462
Souris Valley GC
Greens fee: $19 ($19 for cart)
(701)838-4112;

Hawktree Golf Club, Bismarck
A mere 15 minutes from the airport--that Starbucks just south of Interstate 94 will be the last you'll see for a while--Hawktree is a bucolic track with few trees and wide-open vistas. As at Montana's acclaimed Old Works Golf Course, the bunkers are filled with black coal slag.

You'll see a few historical tokens along the way, giving architect Jim Engh's 7,085-yard, topsy-turvy design a distinct sense of place. A.broken-down wagon has been left to rot in the long grass to the right of the second green, and a pair of tall rusted windmills stand guard over the fourth and 14th holes. Myrtle Beach it's not.

The downhill, 164-yard third hole is one of the prettiest par 3s you'll ever see without water, with a small, recessed sliver of green framed by thick rough.

Hawktree is eminently playable, and you can even make a good score, with a caveat: You'll want to move up a set of tees the first time. Unless you've played the course or have a very helpful playing partner, you won't know where to aim from the back tees. Best bet: Schedule enough time to play it twice.

Bully Pulpit Golf Course, Medora
West of Hawktree on I-94 (take Exit 27). Drive time: Two hours.

When architect Michael Hurdzan heard about Bully Pulpit, he "had no interest in going someplace you can't get to." When he got there and saw the towering buttes, jaw-dropping chasms and bright-orange "burning" rock, he cut his fee to make sure he got the job. The resulting course made our list of the Top 10 You Can Play in 2004.

The back nine gives Bully its true swagger. A mammoth wall of soft, brown rock--a gateway to the Badlands--backdrops the green of the par-4 11th hole. Before long, you're playing through surreal spires and majestic buttes.

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