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Royal McGregor / Forum Communications Co., Published April 09 2012

On the road to recovery: Bully Pulpit gets fixed up, altered after flooding

MEDORA, N.D. – When Bully Pulpit Golf Course general manager Dave Solga left Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort in northern Minnesota to help construct a golf course in the North Dakota Badlands, he knew it was going to be special.

“The course is a diamond in the rough,” Solga said.

However, last year’s flooding from the Little Missouri River left debris on the course and some holes unplayable.

Today, the course is inching back to normal and Solga plans for all 18 holes to be ready by April 26.

“In an effort to deal with this material, we chose to create a feature that borders the river on a few holes,” said Solga, who said there was never a plan to eliminate any chance of the river flooding the course. “Our intention was to minimize the potential the river has to impact us.”

The nine holes that were not in play last year and at the start of this year are holes No. 3, 6, 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 17 and 18. Solga believes minor alterations to select holes should help against future flooding.

“We built it up to an elevation that lessened or reduced future river levels,” he said.

The minor alterations made to the course now allow for better drainage from the rain water and when the Little Missouri River breaches its banks. The river’s main impact was along holes three, six and 11.

“It’s the same design,” Solga said. “On hole six, for example, it used to be a split fairway up closer to the green. We eliminated the left side and put it back into a natural river bottom type vegetation.

“On hole 11, because it’s so low in its elevation and it’s right at the mouth of Davis Creek, we built up on the back side of that hole as well to minimize future river levels.”

The only hole that runs along the river that wasn’t affected by the Little Missouri River was No. 4. The reason why flooding didn’t affect the hole is because it’s at a higher elevation than holes No. 3, 6 and 11.

“This whole process was a race against time,” Solga said.

“Once everything was seeded, there was a very short growing window left in our season.”

After the dirt work was complete, Bully Pulpit assisted in the first seed drop on the damaged holes.

Along with the construction to get the golf course back to standard, Bully Pulpit needed to get golfers back on the course to offset the construction costs.

“In the end, we pulled something off and reduced the severity of that potential financial blow by what was actually done in-house here,” Solga said.

Despite having nine holes closed, Bully Pulpit’s three signature Badlands holes – Nos. 14, 15 and 16 – remained playable. In the original layout, architect Michael Hurdzan coined the phrases on holes 14, 15 and 16, “Oh my goodness corner.”

“He put those holes up in there, because he’s a golf fan,” Solga said. “We know ‘Amen Corner’ at Augusta because it’s Masters weekend.”

Solga, who is originally from Minot and received his turf degree from Penn State, has helped build multiple golf courses around the country. He knew in his efforts to maintain the course, the greens and tee boxes had to be main priorities.

“The greens are more expensive to replace, if you have to rebuild them,” Solga said. “Our first priority was to go out and protect the greens and then the tees, because those features are more fragile when it comes to reconstruction.


McGregor writes for the Dickinson Press