The Takeaway: Set above the Missouri River on Lake Sakakawea, The Links of North Dakota enjoys some nice views and a comfortable routing in a remote setting. It is certainly worth playing if in the area, but not necessarily worth going more than an hour or two out of your way. Grade B-
Designer: Stephen Kay in 1995
Cost: $50 - $75 Click for current rates
Phone Number: (701) 568-2600
Course Website: Official Website - Visit The Links of North Dakota's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 5153 109th Ave NW, Ray, North Dakota 58849 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: The Links of North Dakota is located on the north side of the Missouri River in the northwest portion of the Flickertail State. For a course that has found itself in the Top 50 of Golfweek's Top 100 Public Courses in America list, one might expect a less humble setup. Players pull into a gravel parking lot and are greeted by a modest clubhouse, fleet of old golf carts, and dirt cart paths. For good and bad, the entire operation feels "small town" which can be expected considering the nearest city of any decent population is Williston which has less than 30,000 people and is 30 miles to the west. The course enjoys a nice routing with holes running a variety of different directions and fairways that are wider than normal which is particularly appealing in locations where the wind is often a factor. The pseudo links layout features fescue lining the fairways and the Missouri River creating a water backdrop which is common at true links courses, but the grass type and softer fairways don’t lend to playing like the traditional links courses found on the other side of the pond. As is the case with most links courses, you won't find any water hazards on the interior of the layout but the bunkering is strong and plentiful. The views of Lake Sakakawea, which is part of the Missouri River, highlight the visuals at the course with the front nine featuring softer movement in the property while the back nine features more aggressive and engaging terrain. Wild Horse in Nebraska is a natural comparison since it attempts to be an interior links course in a low populated area of the Midwest. I would say Wild Horse has better architecture overall but the setting at The Links of North Dakota offers superior visuals. While by all accounts the course is generally maintained in great condition, 2022 was a different story with irrigation issues that didn't allow for the normal water dispensing schedule for the tees and fairways, but the greens were well maintained. With the remote location reducing the number of potential rounds played at the course, one has to assume that there isn't a plethora of funds to dip into in order to upgrade the bunker and turf conditions. Ultimately, The Links of North Dakota doesn’t stack up with other Top 100 courses and is tough to justify going too far out of your way to go play, but hopefully the course can resurrect its former glory and become a destination again.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 15th Hole – 457 Yard Par 4 – No hole at the Links of North Dakota can be considered the signature offering without views of Lake Sakakawea of the Missouri River creating the backdrop, and the 15th puts it on full display. Staying right of the fairway bunker on the left will provide a generous amount of fairway to hit before the hole bends to the left with a green protected by a bunker at the front left. The infinity edge green with the water in the background delivers an inspiring view.
Best Par 3: 8th Hole – 185 Yards – An attractive one-shotter with the Lake Sakakawea of the Missouri River in the distance, the 8th plays downhill and downwind. A trio of bunkers lace across the front of the green which features a bowl in the front center portion of the putting surface and creates the most interesting hole location.
Best Par 4: 12th Hole – 473 Yards – The back nine is what captures player's hearts at the Links of North Dakota and this hole is the first reason why. Lake Sakakawea dominates the backdrop of this two-shotter that plays downhill and downwind with a pair of fairway bunkers creating the uprights to send your tee ball through. The approach shot plays into a green with a false front defending a putting surface that crests and slopes back. The trio of bunkers on the left play well below the putting surface and makes par saves extra difficult when short sided. It is a beautiful hole that will punish players that lose focus.
Best Par 5: 18th Hole – 572 Yards – Players get one more chance to play downwind which is just what you may need in order to get home in two. The hole plays mostly straight away for a majority of the trip to the green but takes a late turn right 70 yards from the putting surface. In the final 120 yards there are five bunkers that come into play; two contending with layups and three around the green. Two well struck shots should open the door to finish with a birdie.
Birdie Time: 9th Hole – 346 Yard Par 4 – The closing hole on the front nine gives players a chance to pick up a birdie to build momentum heading into the back nine. The tee shot plays 35 feet downhill and follows a fairway that bends left towards the green. A tee shot that carries the bunker on the left is a perfect line towards the green and will leave a flip wedge second shot, or for long hitters, the potential for an eagle putt.
Bogey Beware: 6th Hole – 465 Yard Par 4 – Not only is the 6th the longest par four on the front nine, it plays dead into the prevailing wind which makes it much harder than the scorecard would indicate. The trio of bunkers on the right side of the fairway should be carried without much trouble and find the widest part of the fairway, but the fairway tightens from that point forward. The approach shot plays 15 feet uphill to a green with a narrow opening and a trio of bunkers on the left side. This is a tough green in regulation, and when the wind is up, bogey is a good score.