By R.J. Smiley
What do you think of when you hear Bismarck, North Dakota? As your mind searches for an answer. any answer; let me give you one word that you had not thought of – GOLF.
Bismarck (North Dakota’s capitol city is it’s second largest city with a population of 132,000 and growing) is the home of Hawktree Golf Course. Hawktree is one of North Dakota’s “Triple Golf Challenge.” The three courses are: The Links of North Dakota, Bully Pulpit and Hawktree.
After a quick survey of a group of Minnesota golf nomads, who play everywhere, I learned that Hawktree is the favorite. (More about these courses later.)
Regular Hawktree players refer to the course as the “Mini Zoo.” In addition to a great golf course and black sand bunkers, Hawktree is known for the infinite variety of wildlife that make this prairie oasis their home. Michael Herzog, a transplanted Twin Cities resident, is the Golf Professional and General Manger. When discussing this story about Michael’s encounter with a Bull Snake he called Hawktree a mini zoo. “We have beaver, rabbits, quail, pheasants, deer, ducks, geese, rattlesnakes and bull snakes. About the only thing we don’t have are elephants and llamas,” Herzog chuckled. “We even have goats at the maintenance building. When the rough gets thick we let them loose and they clean up the mess.”
Herzog himself became a temporary member of the mini zoo earlier this spring. “At Hawktree Wednesdays are “Game Day,” Herzog stated. “Many golf courses refer to these days as Men’s day, but we don’t discriminate, women are welcome to join us.”
It was on a game day this spring that Michael was enjoying a round with a great five-some including Dave Nelson, Skylar Marquart, Dave Wailer and the North Dakota golf legend, who shoots his age almost every day, Bill Wood.
Michael had hit a smooth 7-iron onto the 17th green, a 167 yard par-3. Riding in a cart alone, Michael was the first player to reach the green. As he approached he noticed what he thought was a black and brown towel lying near the flagstick. Michael thought, “Someone in the group ahead must have left their towel on the green, I will pick it up and deliver it to them at the clubhouse.”
As Michael approach the towel it moved. Michael froze as the towel extended itself to its full 6½ foot length. By this time, the entire group was watching and the cell phones went into action. Dave Nelson kept the snake at bay with his putter, while he shot the video. Skyler Marquart took the still pictures from several angles. The wise old Bill Wood calmly sat in his cart and safely watched the action. After the film crew had shot enough video footage and still photos, Dave Nelson escorted the huge reptile off of the green with his putter.
Like a true Pro, Michael Herzog calmly two putted from 30’ for another par.
Hawktree is celebrating its 20 anniversary this year.
I have always been a believer that all things happen for a reason. Herzog is a good friend of Steve Wetzler and Kim Benjamin, Publisher and Editor of Tee Times. Kim saw the golf pro and snake picture on Michael’s FaceBook page, and now you are reading the critters story about Hawktree.
If you are traveling west on I-94, stop in for a round of golf on this great Jim Engh design. Just mention “20” and play this course for $69. It may be the only golf course that uses crushed coal in the bunkers and contains a mini zoo. Black sand, now that is unique!
There is a special punch card available for the North Dakota “Triple Golf Challenge.” The price is $165 for one round at each of these wonderful courses. Each is highly rated by many of the golf publications and each offer a truly unique golf experience.