Bully Pulpit golfers are going to start noticing something new about the course as they make their way around this fall, and next spring. We’re making some big changes at the course, and we’re about as excited as we were 16 years ago when we opened the tee boxes for the first time.
We know that Bully Pulpit offers a world-class golfing experience, and we know that it is likely the most beautiful course in North Dakota, or anywhere in the upper Midwest. We’re not going to change either of those things. We’re just going to make them better.
In The Heart of The Badlands
Back in 2004, when we unveiled a new wonder to the world, built right into the natural North Dakota Badlands, Bully Pulpit quickly became a living legend and international golfing destination. No other course looked or played anything like it, and the golf world was irresistibly drawn to it. The Bully Pulpit experience soon brought in players, the press, and many accolades.
As one of the crown jewels of the Medora experience, Bully Pulpit has served us well, and now it is our turn to return the favor and protect, innovate and preserve its legacy for today, tomorrow and forever.
Bully Pulpit is smack in the middle of North Dakota’s Badlands, and one of the challenges facing us is the Badlands themselves. This is a land of extremes, both in geography and weather, and such a combination takes its toll over time. Weather affects everything, whether it’s a majestic butte, sheer cliff face, or a man-made golf course.
What’s next for Bully Pulpit
Bully Pulpit is also riparian, with both Davis Creek and the Little Missouri River adding to the allure of the golf course, and also adding to its challenges. We’ve experienced several impactful floods since Bully Pulpit’s inception, affecting the play of the Front Nine. Course corrections have been made, but now it’s time for longer-lasting solutions.
“In 2004, Bully Pulpit was the ‘Next Big Thing’ in the golf world,” says Patrick Rominger, head pro at Bully Pulpit. “But it won’t stay the ‘Next Big Thing’ forever. Bully Pulpit is still an unforgettable and beloved golfing experience, but its ‘early glory’ has faded a bit over time. Free press and awards have slowed. Player expectations continue to rise, and new courses continue to be built elsewhere.”
“It’s time to add to the Bully Pulpit experience,” Patrick says. “Quite simply, it is time to act, to bring Bully Pulpit back to its former glory, with a few changes, and to work even more closely with nature, enhance conservation practices and take steps to reduce flooding disruptions.”
“We want to have Bully Pulpit, along with the rest of the Medora experience, be seen as a world-class attraction.”
A re-design in mind
How do you redesign a golf course to meet nature’s challenges? Our Golf Course Superintendent, Kyle Fick, figured it out – combine Google Maps, elevation levels, and consultations with world-renowned, original Bully Pulpit course designer, Dr. Michael Hurdzan, and viola! Kyle, with the endorsement of Dr. Hurdzan, has redesigned much of the front nine holes, and added flood protection to needed areas on the back nine.
Kyle’s been with us since 2006, and knows every square foot of Bully Pulpit. A University of Minnesota graduate with a degree in Environmental Horticulture, Kyle, with his crew, has spent much of the summer of 2020 preparing to tame the devastating flood effects of Davis Creek and the mighty Little Missouri River, to prevent the flooding which has interfered with golfers’ enjoyment of the course in springtime.
They’re not going to build a big dike around the course to keep the water out. Instead, they are redesigning holes three through seven to move them out of the water’s way and then work with the landscape to help redirect some of the water away from greens, fairways, tee boxes, and cart paths. And a redesign to hole eleven on the back nine will keep that fairway from becoming the soggy, unwelcome approach to the green we’ve experienced some springs.
“We’re trying to take a minimalist approach to dealing with the flooding issues,” Kyle says. “We’re going to use the existing landscape to our advantage, not make major changes to it.”
A hole new course !
In the spring of 2021, golfers will begin seeing the changes as they approach the number three tee box—a new hole using an area that has been undeveloped so far. Then holes four through seven are being completely redesigned, moving them away from the Little Missouri flood plain, which will allow the river to do what rivers do in the spring without affecting the golf course.
It’s not an inexpensive undertaking. TRMF’s development staff have produced a four-phase Gift Plan to provide funding for the project, called “Legacy Bully Pulpit: Today, Tomorrow, Forever.”
The four key elements in the plan are:
- Innovation: Restoring riparian ground and developing sustainable energy resources
- Enhancement: New practice areas including a putting and chipping green, sand practice area, clubhouse expansion and new greens on holes 14 and 16 (which will really get golfers cheering!) And we’re adding a 19th hole to be used when other holes are under repair, to really let the ground heal and to always have a fully playable course. The 19th hole may also be used for special events or lessons.
- Repair: Flood mitigation, new golf cart paths, and a new water intake system
- Endowment: A fund to build annual reserves
Development and Fundraising
“Few golf courses are profitable, and many receive money through civic sources,” says TRMF Development Officer Joslyn Tooz, “The only revenue Bully Pulpit normally receives comes from green fees and clubhouse purchases. Since Bully Pulpit isn’t a municipal course, it doesn’t receive annual government funding and isn’t part of a country club. We’ll soon be announcing our plan to raise the funds for this project.”
“We want to get Bully Pulpit back into the Top 100 golf course lists, and keep it there.”