About 10 minutes east of Omaha on I-80 is an exit for Iowa’s Highway 6. Just east of that exit is the Westfair Ampitheater and just a bit east still is Bent Tree Golf Club. Opened in August of 2000, Bent Tree is the best choice for golfers in Western Iowa and a very good choice for people in the Eastern part of Nebraska. A links-style course is hard to find in these parts, but Bent Tree is as close to links golf as Omaha has to offer.
The clubhouse: Located just south of the highway and visible from it, the clubhouse is perched above a small parking lot. Inside, a small snack bar, seating areas and a fairly well-stocked pro shop makes up the majority of the clubhouse. Upon the day of review, a large golf outing was wrapping up- everyone was gathered in the seating areas which seemed to house anyone who wanted in. Many of those same people were buying merchandise from the shop, so I assume the prices are reasonable and there are items for sale which people want. This is a sign of good management.
The staff: Everyone was friendly and accommodating at Bent Tree. The young man operating the front desk was very professional and the beverage cart operator was equally as professional and good at his job. The only complaint would concern the “player’s assistants” who let the course get a bit stacked up at times. I ran into a “six-some” at one point, but I would guess that this is an oddity. Bent Tree is rarely super busy and the pace of play is generally fine.
The course: Bent Tree offers five sets of tees, one of which fits your game: Click here for the numbers.
The wind will always play a big part in selecting which tees to play, but the course doesn’t generally play as long as the yardages might suggest. There are plenty of opportunites to hit less than driver and still make greens in regulation. For example, No. 2 is a short, downhill Par 4 with water protecting the green. A 200-225 yard shot from the tee leaves a short-to-mid iron in. Par 5s, like Nos. 4 and 9, are reachable with the right wind. The Par 5s on the back, however, are three shot holes which are difficult and wind around hazards, bunkers, out of bounds, and other nasty stuff.
The course plays a bit shorter than the yardages on the card because of the links layout. Wind, hard ground, elevation changes and rolling fairways will give golfers a little more roll, typically, off the tee. Many greens, however, are elevated and require a shot to carry nearly the entire distance to the hole. The tees, fairways and greens are of bent grass and are very nice. The large greens are a little bit beat up (especially the shorter holes), but the lush fairways make Indian Creek and other public bent grass tracks look bad. Bent Tree is grown up and fits the landscape of the Loess Hills nicely.
The value: Click here for rates. During the week, 18 holes with a cart costs just over $40- a little higher than the average public 18 hole course around. The weekend rates are a little more than that, topping out at $50 before 2 p.m. on the weekends. This is a bit expensive for an 18-hole public course in the area, but the value is about right. Bent Tree is a little nicer than, for example, Omaha courses like Goodman or Benson, and prices indicate that. Bent Tree is also not quite as nice as Iron Horse or Quarry Oaks, but prices reflect that as well. Overall, Bent Tree is a once or twice a year experience, in my opinion, as the price is a little steep, but the experience makes it worth it. Without travelling to Gothenburg, Mullen or somewhere else like that in Nebraska, links golf is unattainable. Bent Tree isn’t a true links course per se (no water, many trees, pretty lush), but it is about as close as we get around here. Bent Tree often offers discount through various companies like Living Social, so keep an eye out for those deals.
I wish this site would allow a rating based upon a 10 point scale rather than a 5. Bent Tree is nicer than a lot of 3-star courses I’ve reviewed, but a four-star rating sounds a little too favorable. It is closer to 4 than 3, however.