It's tough to find hidden gems when it comes to golf destinations these days, but you can still find some shiny options somewhat off-the-beaten track, including these three winners in the Midwest.
The Prairie Club (Valentine, Nebraska)
Location: 277 miles southwest of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and 323 miles northwest of Omaha, Nebraska
What it offers: The rolling ranchland and rustic beauty of Nebraska's Sandhills Region can be mesmerizing. It's also ideal terrain for golf, which is why the Prairie Club was built 20 miles southwest of Valentine (population: 2,760) near the South Dakota border, with two distinct 18-hole courses (public play alternates daily between each) in secluded splendor.
The Dunes Course by Tom Lehman and Chris Brands is a treeless, links-style layout with forever views, large blowout bunkers and massive fairways with extremely generous landing areas. It plays differently every day depending upon wind direction, but shots can be run up and onto most greens.
The Pines Course, designed by Graham Marsh, serves up a completely opposite but equally memorable setting: 100-foot-tall ponderosa pines line most fairways, with some holes skirting the edge of Snake River Canyon. Equally fun is the Horse Course, a par-3 layout designed by Gil Hanse and Geoff Shackelford without formal tees; you call the spot from where you want to begin play on each of the 10 holes.
Insider tip: The huge greens on the Dunes Course average 14,000 square feet in size, so spend some time before the round refining your lag putting skills.
What you'll pay: Both 18-hole courses are the same price, starting at $89 from for on-site guests and nonguests. The Horse Course is complimentary.
Where to stay (splurge): Comfortable accommodations on-site include the Lodge inside the clubhouse, or the Cabins and the Bunkhouse a short walk away. Stay-and-play packages starting at $499 per night ($879 per night for couples) include unlimited golf, cart and daily breakfast.
Where to stay (save): Check into one of several no-frill hotels in Valentine. Choices include Comfort Inn, Harmony Inn & Suites, and Niobrara Lodge.