Unique Badlands Mini Golf is Popular Attraction at Tourist Town

(Traverse City, Michigan) Medora, North Dakota is a popular tourist town, steeped in history and situated at the entrance to the Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Last year, when the Theodore Roosevelt Medora Foundation decided to replace their 1970’s era “Little Bully Pulpit” 18-hole miniature golf concrete course with a new one, they called on Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS – formerly Adventure Golf Services) to expand the course by having the new front 9 holes encompass the entire space of the original mini-golf area, and building the back 9 holes into a Badlands hill across the street from the original mini-golf location. The new “Little Bully Pulpit” mini-golf course is twice the size of the former one.

Back nine of the Little Bully Pulpit concrete miniature golf course in Medora, ND is built on a Badlands hill
The back 9 of the new “Little Bully Pulpit” miniature golf course in Medora, ND is built into a Badlands hill. Designed and installed by Adventure Golf & Sports (AGS), it’s a popular family-friendly activity for the tourist town.

“One of our objectives was to make the course feel more like it belonged in Medora – to have some of that Badlands topography,” says Kinley Slauter, the Burning Hills Amphitheatre Manager for the Medora Foundation who was also tasked with overseeing the design and construction of the new miniature golf course.

The course theme is built around the history of the region and, through the support of local businesses and organizations, includes a variety of unique obstacles and elements along the course furnished by local groups or Adventure Golf. Sponsored panels at each tee state the name of the hole and help tell the story of the area. For example, players must putt through a large stone chimney structure on hole 8. The chimney represents the Medora Meat Packing Plant built in 1883 by the Marquis de Morés. Through the use of refrigerated railroad cars, de Morés was able to dress and ship beef directly to the east coast, effectively cutting out the previously required Slauterhouses in Chicago – a revolutionary concept in 1883.

Other hole elements pay tribute to the pre-Ice Age forest of the area, the Wind Canyon of the Theodore Roosevelt National Park, native Indian tipis, bison, early wagon and railroad transportation, generating energy using windmills, drilling for oil and other characteristics of the region. There’s even a hole paying tribute to the “Bully Pulpit” Golf Course – the full-sized “big brother” 18-hole golf course just south of Medora. The name “Bully Pulpit” was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt who used the moniker to describe the U.S. Presidency.

“The course turned out really well,” says Slauter. “It was a great collaboration with Adventure Golf to get some of the custom items and fit it around the pool and on the hillside, including the ‘slant house.’” The “slant house” refers to its posture on the hillside and is a separate attraction from the mini golf course. Other aspects of the project included a Zipline above the mini golf course, along with a proposed lazy river and walking trail above the back 9 holes.

“We were very pleased to be part of this project,” says Scott Lundmark, President of Adventure Golf & Sports. “Medora is a special place in this country and, while it was challenging to build a course on a hillside with a number of soil, water drainage and concrete build issues, our team made it happen. In fact, since we were working during the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a period where our crew never left the construction site or the nearby motel rooms where they boarded. Food was brought to them.”

According to Slauter, prior to the “Little Bully Pulpit” project, the hillside for the back 9 holes was very rough land. During the design process, “There was a lot of back and forth with Adventure Golf,” says Slauter, “particularly related to fitting the course at the bottom of that hill and making sure we had what we were looking for – both a good flow of the course, but also getting some of the holes higher to change the viewpoint around the top.”

While the front nine holes replaced the original course site on virtually flat ground next to the Bad Lands Motel Pool, the Medora Foundation had a general contractor excavate the hillside site for the back nine holes according to Adventure Golf’s initial design and install a retaining wall. Adventure Golf then handled the final grading to add contours, inclines and some significant downslopes for the concreate construction of various holes. “Probably the hardest thing was, because of that retaining wall where it has different heights, Adventure Golf had to layout holes and build it in certain ways in order to get materials in to install the holes and make the holes fit the terrain,” says Slauter.

“Our goal was to have it look like the miniature golf holes were just dropped into the natural badlands terrain of the hill,” adds Slauter. “It was important to manage the water that was coming down the hill, keeping it off the golf holes and moving it around the course into the water draining system.” Lundmark of AGS points out that no pipes or other manmade materials were used for water drainage.  The sub base of crushed stone serves as the water runoff control.

“We didn’t get much rain this summer,” says Slauter, “but last fall we had a tremendous amount of rain and it made construction very difficult. We started this course last fall and they (AGS) finished up this spring.

“Early in the pandemic, from Mid-March into early summer, North Dakota was in a really good place in terms of a minimal number of cases and not a lot of community transmission. The town was quiet because visitors and activities are very seasonal. So, we were able to have the crew out and everything went smoothly. The construction site was a quarantined area for a time, but they (AGS) were able to do their work. We had an unusual situation where the hotel rooms for the crew were adjacent to the work site. So they were able to live in one pod for a few days. Fortunately, that was only for a few days and then regulations changed and no longer required a quarantine of workers.

“We did have a bit of schedule adjustment related to COVID-19 and to align with weather and so forth. But once the crew arrived on site, they progressed very quickly and completed the course.

“We opened the course June 20. It was well received and well played all summer. It was a good collaboration with Adventure Golf early on in the design process and I believe the most enjoyable part was working with their construction crew this spring. They were great.”

For more information about custom designed miniature golf courses that can be installed indoors, outdoors, on hillsides or rooftops, email info@adventureandfun.com, call (231) 922-8166 or visit www.AGSGolfandSports.com.