Fox Hills Golf Course

No. 12 may be the most difficult hole at Fox Hills Golf Course, Watford City, where the course melds into the western landscape. Photo by Peter Wong

This is not prairie golf. That becomes obvious with the first hole of Watford City’s Fox Hills Golf Course, which hugs the rugged western North Dakota landscape like a well-worn golf glove.

The par 72 course, with 6,980 yards from the back tees, recently expanded to an 18-hole municipal course and is served by McKenzie Electric Cooperative.

Expect to use every club in your bag on this course, which dates back to 1930.

“A lot of the influences of links golf entered into the design,” says Tony Carmichael, the course’s general manager and golf pro. “Because it’s windy, the landing areas are very generous, but with the unique design and change of elevation and lies, the ball can be above or below your feet, which leads to demanding approach shots to the greens.”

“But, it is designed so all levels of play can enjoy it,” he says.

“One of my primary goals was to create a golf course that would be playable, affordable and fun for golfers with a wide range of abilities and thereby aid in growing the game of golf in western North Dakota,” designer Kevin Norby describes on the course’s website.

The traditional colored tee markers for each skill level are replaced with five symbols reflecting regional landmarks and historic elements, including the Long X Ox-Cart Trail, Badlands, Wild Cow, Cherry Creek and the Lewis and Clark Trail.

Most challenging is the 225-yard 12th hole, a par 3, where golfers will find it difficult to chose the right club when the prevailing winds are blowing.

“It’s completely exposed to the elements,” Carmichael says. “It’s a very demanding tee shot.”

The course recently underwent an entire redesign, opening in 2020 with 18 holes on nearly 500 acres.

“The added land allowed us to work with the natural features and existing topography of the site to create some really stunning golf holes. This is a unique golf course and something most golfers in the region have never experienced,” Norby says.

“The golf course meanders through native prairie and along the banks of Cherry Creek. Water comes into play on seven holes and there is a good variety of uphill and downhill holes. Fairways are wide to emphasize strategic angles and to provide some measure of forgiveness from the ever-present winds. Greens are large and have contours that reward the golfer who can find the right quadrant,” Norby describes.

In the redesign, the greens were built to U.S. Golf Association specifications.

“The greens now have complexes that are designed to play in today’s game,” Carmichael says. “The green speeds are quicker.”

The course is only 2 miles east of downtown Watford City, and The Foxhole, a restaurant with full food and beverage services, is located in the clubhouse, which also has a fully stocked golf shop. The course offers lessons, leads a robust junior program and will host a local qualifier for the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals.

Fox Hills Golf Course has also drawn national attention, named a 2022 runner-up for best golf redevelopment in the world by Golf Inc. and best new public course runner-up by Golf Digest in 2022.

Luann Dart is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the Elgin area.

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