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Omaha Golf

Day One

From Omaha's Eppley Airfield, it's a ten-minute drive to downtown. Boutique hotels have not yet hit these parts, so your choices are limited to the national chains. The best option is Embassy Suites just across the street from the trendy and resurgent Old Market District.

Tee it up the afternoon that you arrive, at the most convenient course in town, the Players Club at Deer Creek. No more than twenty minutes from the Embassy Suites, this linksy Arnold Palmer design has gently sloping fairways and large, though not especially penal, bunkers. The tees, fairways and greens are all bent grass, which, thanks to Omaha's cooler temperatures, grows much better here than in Midwestern cities to the south such as Kansas City and St. Louis. Plenty of mounding lines the holes to contain errant shots—not an ideal feature but certainly a friendly one for the opening round of your trip.

Afterward, swing by the Drover, arguably Omaha's best steak house—no small claim—for a slab of its renowned marinated “whiskey steak.”

Day Two

Get up early and drive forty-five minutes south to Arbor Links Golf Club in Nebraska City. Palmer also designed this walkable course, in conjunction with the National Arbor Day Foundation, paying heed to environmental issues such as soil erosion and wildlife habitats. Apart from the designated conservation areas, here, too, you'll find lush bent grass throughout.

After lunch, if you're up for thirty-six, head to Quarry Oaks Golf Club, twenty-five minutes back toward Omaha on the site of a former limestone quarry beside the Platte River. A rarity in the Great Plains, the course has lots of elevation change. The back nine is the finest stretch of public golf in eastern Nebraska, highlighted by the clifftop tee shot into a quarry at seventeen, where the only sound is the echo of a well-struck shot.

Back in town, with what energy you have left, take a stroll along the cobblestone streets of the Old Market. Once the hub of Omaha's business district, this renovated warehouse area now houses galleries, hipster clothing shops and an appealing collection of restaurants and pubs. Duck into the nearby Flatiron Café, a warm spot that serves excellent fusion fare.

Day Three

It's time to put the pedal to the metal and motor west along Interstate 80 for the most thrilling golf of the trip. But before you get too far, stop in Ashland at the Strategic Air & Space Museum, a trove of historic missiles, airplanes and spacecraft. Then jump back on the highway and drive three hours to Gothenburg to play the tremendous though little-known Wild Horse Golf Club.

Often described as the “poor man's Sand Hills,” Wild Horse is a spectacular linksland, smack in the middle of the Plains. The holes snake along the prairie floor, the football field–wide fairways defined by manes of native fescue. Given how exposed the course is, golfers pay heed to the wind on every shot; the greens are slick as glass.

Afterward, should you be fortunate enough to have an entrée to Sand Hills, make a beeline for Mullen, ninety minutes north. (Those not so lucky can stay at the Pony Express Inn and get in another round at Wild Horse the next day.) At Sand Hills, the only place to stay is the cabins at the club. The accommodations are comfortably spare, the lack of amenities countered by the pristine setting of the Dismal River Valley. Dine in the clubhouse and rest up.

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