Construction complete at Kevin Norby’s new Fox Hills design

  • Fox Hills

    Construction of the new Kevin Norby-designed Fox Hills golf course is complete

  • Fox Hills

    The course is expected to open in July 2020

  • Fox Hills

    The course is expected to open in July 2020

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Construction work has been completed on the new Fox Hills golf course in Watford City, North Dakota, designed by Kevin Norby.

The project is part of a nearly 700-acre residential development - master planned by Norby - and is located, in part, on the site of the former Watford City golf course.

“Technically, the project is a nine-hole expansion to the existing golf course but there isn’t one square foot of the existing golf course that remains,” said Norby.

“Fourteen holes, including the entire front nine and holes 12-16, are routed over some 100 acres of land donated by the city and local developers. Those holes play among rolling North Dakota prairie hills and along the banks of Cherry Creek.

“Maybe the most memorable of holes on the front nine is the 625-yard par-five fourth, which plays along the western bank of the creek. There’s a lot of width but some strategically placed fairway bunkers and water down the entire right side provide for a strategic hole with a good chance of making par or triple bogey.”

Another hole that Norby highlights is the 530-yard par-five eighteenth, which has deep bunkers guarding the landing areas and the green. The green sits in a deep bowl that leaves all but a front pin partially obscured to the approach. “It’s a long finishing hole that requires the golfer to hit a draw from the right side of the fairway to get to a back pin,” he said.

In some areas, such as the sixth hole, Norby was able to till the fairway and rough and then seed the turf without any grading. “The secondary rough is made up of 4-6-inch-tall native grasses and wildflowers which makes for a very playable golf course even if you miss the fairway or first cut of rough,” he said. “The average annual precipitation in western North Dakota is only 14 inches. As a result of the limited precipitation and short growing season, the native plants are unusually short. I was told by a biologist that the native prairie here is unique because the plants have to mature and set seed quickly because of the short growing season.”

Construction work, by Landscapes Unlimited, began in 2016 and was completed in two phases. The final project cost was $8.4 million, which included mass grading for home sites and roads; demolition of existing buildings and cart paths; and construction of the course, driving range, practice greens and short game area.

Read more: 12 holes opened for preview play in September 2018

The course can be played from between 4,720 and 7,050 yards.

“Wind is a big concern out here on the prairie” said Norby. “The superintendent actually told me at one point that we probably shouldn’t have any bunkers because they can’t keep sand in the them. That got me thinking about making the bunkers deeper but then we were concerned about how to ensure that the bunkers would be visible. It’s really the same problem one has in Ireland and Scotland and many coastal areas.

“Rather than stacked sod bunkers, we opted to use wood sleepers on many of the bunkers. One of the added benefits to that treatment was that we significantly reduced bunker maintenance because there are no washouts, no string trimming and no mowing of bunker faces.

“The wood sleepers also fit well with the club’s plan for branding the new course,” continued Norby. “The plan is to use salvaged barn wood, aged timbers and rusty Cortin steel for signage and to reinforce a ‘western’ theme.”

The course is expected to open in July 2020.