Might’ve been the last round of 2020Originally published by DK on October 17, 2020 at 5:32 pm
Flurries to sunshine @ The WildsOriginally published by DK on October 16, 2020 at 5:44 pm
…and Joyce (Lost Spur #6, Eagan)Originally published by DK on October 14, 2020 at 2:19 pm
Patrick’s list of his top 10 Minnesota golf courses got me thinking. People often ask me my favorite courses in the state, but I’ve never really wanted to rank them. I’ve also never joined a club, so there are a number of great private courses that I’ve only played a handful of times (and some key ones I’ve still yet to play). Throw in the recent Minnesota public and private rankings from Golfweek and I guess it’s time to finally come up with my list. But since this is 7 Minute Miles, we only do “Top 7” lists around here, OK?
Before we start, a few general comments. Golf has been insanely popular in Minnesota during COVID, which has made it harder to get tee times all over this season. This is a complete reversal of the downward slide the industry took since the “Tiger Boom,” which lead to the closing of so many courses in the state (Joe Bissen documents this history extremely well in his two books on the topic). It’s been a really long time since Minnesota had any courses listed in national “best new course” rankings, but we definitely punch above our weight class nationally, with a wide range of great courses that are typically much less expensive to play than other parts of the country.
Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Donald Ross and local architects Paul Miller and Garrett Gill are friends of mine. Minnesota has many great Ross courses that don’t make my list, but are truly great courses. Northland and White Bear Yacht Club, in particular, would likely make the list if I got to play them more often (and I’ve never played Woodhill or Minikahda). I’m curious to play Minneapolis again after the big redo, but the layout wasn’t one of my favorites before that work was done. Gill and/or Miller worked on many of my favorite public courses around here, including two that aren’t in my top seven, but are very close to the cut: Legends Club and Meadows at Mystic Lake.
I should also talk briefly about the Brainerd lakes area. There are a concentration of spectacular courses there, but most of them get canceled out for me by the Jeffrey Brauer trio of courses farther north. So I while I think courses like The Classic and The Preserve are wonderful, I’d still rather play at Fortune Bay and Giants Ridge. Deacon’s Lodge is the only course on the Golfweek public list that I haven’t played, so I may have to revisit my thinking about this at some point (I also haven’t played Golden Eagle in Fifty Lakes).
Lists like this are always subjective (and ultimately political), but this is my take for 2020. With all of that out of the way, let’s get started.
#7 – Willingers Golf Club, Northfield
I’ve played this Gill/Miller course 45 times and keep my handicap here. I love that the plans for the housing development fell through, leaving the nature vibe intact. I wish they could find a few more yards on the card to get the white tees to 6000 yards so more people would play the correct set of tees, but otherwise this is such a fun layout. It never seems overly crowded and I don’t think we’ve ever had a slow round here in 25 years of venturing down to Northfield. RIP the tree on number 12.
#6 – Ridges at Sand Creek, Jordan
My regular Saturday group used to alternate between here and Willingers on a regular basis, but this really has become our mainstay the past few years. We started playing here in 2000 and had a brief boycott after owner Mike Malone and crew regularly allowed fivesomes on weekend mornings. We had one terribly slow round here this year (a common problem for many courses), but management now is very proactive about keeping things moving. The holes “on top” aren’t all that memorable (aka the farmland holes), but the 11 holes along the Sand Creek would not be out of place in Brainerd. Sand Creek hosts the state high school class AA boys and girls championships (if and when those ever return) and always seems to be in tournament condition. Probably the best Joel Goldstrand course ever. Sad COVID casualty: the free shuttles up the hill for us walkers.
#5 – Hazeltine National Golf Club, Chaska
My mentor has been a member here as long as I can remember, so I’ve had the honor of playing Hazeltine several times over the years. The new clubhouse is a big improvement over the old the one, but I guess it’s not really that new any more. It was great fun volunteering at the 2002 PGA Championship, playing reporter at the 2009 PGA and attending the 2016 Ryder Cup as a fan. The staff here are top notch, from my friend (and course superintendent) Chris Tritabaugh to past Tapemark participants Mike Barge and Chandler Withington. The history is building for this “modern” course and it’s super fun to play where the pros play. HNGC would likely be ranked higher for me if I were a better player – it’s an extremely difficult golf course, with lightning fast greens and nearly impossible rough when they get it ready for the big tournaments.
#4 – The Quarry at Giants Ridge, Biwabik
When I worked in northern Minnesota, Giants Ridge was the competition. The original golf course, now called The Legend, was the first resort course to open in the area. It wasn’t walkable and conditioning could be a little hit or miss, but it was a fun course. The Quarry opened next, followed closely by The Wilderness. It instantly became a dog fight between us and The Quarry for the top public course in the state. Initially, I thought it was a bit too much target golf, but it has really grown on me over time. It is quirky, stunningly beautiful, well-conditioned, walkable and a joy to play. The clubhouse is small, but has a solid pro shop and a good kitchen. Wasn’t a fan of the closing hole at either Giants Ridge course, but I now appreciate 18 at The Quarry much more than I used to. Eagled number 10 last time I was there – good times, good times…
#3 – Windsong Farm Golf Club, Independence
Back when I worked for an airline, I played Pumpkin Ridge in Oregon and learned about architect Bob Cupp. That lead me to Rush Creek in Maple Grove, which was a Bob Cupp/John Fought collaboration. Mr. Fought started working with Tom Lehman, which brought us the gem that is Windsong Farm (and also the splendid Somerby outside of Rochester). I had taken pictures of the Minnesota Junior Girl’s State Championship at Windsong in 2007, but had never played the course until last year. They recently completed a number of improvements and a second round there this year confirmed my opinion that “the Farm” is becoming a big, big deal in the Minnesota golf scene.
#2 – The Wilderness at Fortune Bay, Tower
Spoiler alert: I worked for the Bois Forte Band of Chippewa for five years, so I’ve played more golf on The Wilderness than any other course. I will always have a bias for it over Giants Ridge, but Fortune Bay generally has a more playable course than either The Quarry or The Legend. It’s just more fun to me, with fewer chances to lose a million golf balls. The stretch of 12-13-14 are still the only holes I’ve ever birdied back to back to back. I love walking this course, even though everyone to this day thinks I’m crazy for doing that. Stellar set of par threes. The biarritz green on the par four fifth hole is the only one I know of in Minnesota.
#1 – Interlachen Country Club, Edina
Hard to disagree with Patrick here – Interlachen is the full real deal of Minnesota golf. I love everything about this club: the history with Bobby Jones and the lily pad shot in the 1930 U.S. Open, watching Annika at the 2002 Solheim Cup, photographing the 2008 Women’s U.S. Open, the beautiful English Tudor clubhouse, the tight fairways, the elevated greens. Willie Watson, Donald Ross, Robert Trent Jones, Willie Kidd, Patty Berg, Jock Olson. Always envisioned this as the ultimate Minnesota country club lifestyle: golf with all the other perks thrown in. Only played the course a handful of times (two charity tournaments and one solo round to play and photograph). Only negative is that it’s too short now for the PGA Tour to ever return. Their loss.
So that wraps up my first edition of Top 7 Minnesota Courses. I hope to play the remaining three courses from the Golfweek rankings that I’ve not visited and make this an annual post (or maybe every other year, like a certain golf publication). Would also like to give a big shout-out to Dave Tentis across the border at Troy Burne (another great Tom Lehman course) that we might have to give honorary Minnesota citizenship to at some point. Oh, and be sure to check out the excellent golf course photography that Patrick has posted on his beautiful website.Originally published by DK on October 9, 2020 at 11:43 pm
Love the subtle jab at NYOriginally published by DK on October 9, 2020 at 2:51 pm
http://www.pjkoenig.com/golf-blog/2020/10/5/the-minnesota-top-tenOriginally published by DK on October 9, 2020 at 2:36 pm
Don’t see that every dayOriginally published by DK on October 1, 2020 at 11:12 pm
Beautiful afternoon at Highland NationalOriginally published by DK on September 29, 2020 at 8:09 pm
Approach to nine green, peak color, The Wilderness at Fortune Bay #nofilterOriginally published by DK on September 25, 2020 at 10:53 pm
River Oaks in Cottage GroveOriginally published by DK on September 19, 2020 at 1:51 pm
Miracle in your pocketOriginally published by DK on September 18, 2020 at 10:03 pm
Still a nemesis (but getting better)Originally published by DK on September 17, 2020 at 5:24 pm
Waited on every shot (and the holes are worse than I remembered)Originally published by DK on September 15, 2020 at 10:46 pm
Don’t know what those are, but great to have late season flowersOriginally published by DK on September 5, 2020 at 2:51 pm
Nice to see Steve Whillock againOriginally published by DK on September 4, 2020 at 1:30 pm
Congratulations (again) to Leo @ HazeltineOriginally published by DK on September 2, 2020 at 10:04 pm
Originally published by DK on August 26, 2020 at 10:24 am
…and Craig (Ridges at Sand Creek #2)Originally published by DK on August 22, 2020 at 2:08 pm
Has it always been this hilly?Originally published by DK on August 21, 2020 at 9:25 pm
Another beautiful morning with Mr. Cody in BloomingtonOriginally published by DK on August 20, 2020 at 9:51 pm
Phalen with Curtis (plus Craig and Jeff)Originally published by DK on August 15, 2020 at 11:14 am
Becker is lucky to have such a nice layoutOriginally published by DK on August 13, 2020 at 9:59 pm
Wild Marsh was very niceOriginally published by DK on August 13, 2020 at 9:57 pm
Broke 80* @ Gross National (with two generous gimmes)Originally published by DK on August 8, 2020 at 5:32 pm
Troy Burne, Hudson, WisconsinOriginally published by DK on August 2, 2020 at 7:20 pm
https://www.mydigitalpublication.com/publication/?m=11863&i=667845&p=54Originally published by DK on August 1, 2020 at 1:19 pm
The Baker National red barn on #1Originally published by DK on August 1, 2020 at 12:52 pm
Ridges at Sand Creek, Jordan, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on July 31, 2020 at 4:08 pm
Les Bolstad with John and MikeOriginally published by DK on July 31, 2020 at 12:14 pm
2.5 pounds of Montana craftsmanshipOriginally published by DK on July 28, 2020 at 5:34 pm
Summer in full swing at BrookviewOriginally published by DK on July 25, 2020 at 2:49 pm
They added nine holes and changed the name to Stones Throw Golf CourseOriginally published by DK on July 25, 2020 at 2:44 pm
As I started reading through Joe Bissen’s new book, More! Gone. Minnesota’s Lost Golf Courses Part II, I realized that not only are there a lot of closed courses I actually played, there are also a large percentage of the courses I included in my Minnesota Golden Links CD-ROM back in 1999 that are no longer here (43 by my initial count). Joe was kind enough to include a chapter with a list of all the closed courses he knows about, so I thought it would be fun to go back to my original Photoshop files and post the screens for the ones that are no longer open for play (pics after the jump – please excuse the ancient Photoshop techniques and poor color corrections).
Joe says in the introduction to the new book that he isn’t as interested in the courses that have closed recently, but it’s amazing how many of the entries in my 1999 guide are gone (including a few that opened after my guide and are already closed). There are a number of inconsistencies between his list and my guide, as I only included public courses that were members of the Minnesota Golf Association (MGA). Make sure and check out his original book Fore! Gone: Minnesota’s Lost Golf Courses, 1897-1999, as well as his website. Fun stuff.
Albert Lea Golf Club, RIP 1912 – 2006
Birch Bay Golf Course, RIP 1965 – 2015
The Bridges of Mounds View, RIP 1995 – 2006
Brockway Golf Course, RIP 1935 – 2004
Carriage Hills Country Club, RIP 1967 – 2005
Elm Creek Golf Links, RIP 1960 – 2013
Fort Ridgely State Park Golf Course, RIP 1927 – 2017
French Lake Open Golf Club, RIP 1985 – 2015
The Greens at Howard Lake, RIP 1995 – 2013
Greenwood Golf Links, RIP 1985 – 2006
Hampton Hills Golf Course, RIP 1960 – 2003
Hayden Hills Golf Club, RIP 1972 – 2018
Hidden Creek Golf Club, RIP 1996 – 2009
Hollydale Golf Club, RIP 1965 – 2019
Irish Hills Golf Course, RIP 1985 – 2009
Ironman Golf Course, RIP 1960 – 2017
KateHaven Golf Course, RIP 1981 – 2014
Lakeview Golf, RIP 1956 – 2013
Links of Byron, RIP 1994 – 2013
Lone Pine Country Club, RIP 1967 – 2002
Maplebrook Executive Golf Club, RIP 1974 – ???
Meadow Lakes Golf Club, RIP 1998 – 2012
Meadowbrook Country Club, RIP 1984 – 2008
Meadowwoods Golf Course, RIP 1991 – 2004
Mississippi Dunes Golf Links, RIP 1995 – 2017
Orchard Gardens Golf Course, RIP 1967 – 2004
Parkview Golf Club, RIP 1969 – 2013
Pine Meadows Golf Course, RIP 1921 – 2004
Pine River Country Club, RIP 1981 – 2010
Prairie View Golf Links, RIP 1983 – 2013
Red Rock Golf Course, RIP 1932 – 2016
Rich Acres Golf Course, RIP 1980 – 1999
Ridgewood Country Club, RIP 1987 – 2016
Rolling Green Fairways Golf Course, RIP 1977 – 2003
Rolling Hills Golf Course, RIP 1970 – 2016
Root River Country Club, RIP 1962 – 2014
Sauk Centre Country Club, RIP 1921 – 2013
Silver Springs Golf Course, RIP 1974 – 2009
Thompson Oaks Golf Course, RIP 1997 – 2017
Valley View Golf Club, RIP 1992 – 2015
Wendigo Golf Club, RIP 1995 – 2011
Wilderness Hills Golf Course, RIP 1995 – ???
Woodland Creek Golf Course, RIP 1989 – 2010
Originally published by DK on July 21, 2020 at 8:02 pm
Bluff Creek appears to be under some sort of alien attackOriginally published by DK on July 18, 2020 at 12:59 pm
Curtis on 7 tee, Stonebrooke Golf ClubOriginally published by DK on July 17, 2020 at 1:46 pm
Applewood Hills with John and CathyOriginally published by DK on July 12, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Approximately 127 turtles are hiding in this photoOriginally published by DK on July 11, 2020 at 1:46 pm
I don’t think that’s the real reasonOriginally published by DK on July 7, 2020 at 6:23 pm
Golf courses I’ve played that are no longer open:
- Valley View, Belle Plaine
- Carriage Hills, Eagan
- Rich Acres, Richfield
- Hudson GC, Hudson
- Wendigo, Grand Rapids
- Brockway, Rosemount
- Parkview, Eagan
Can’t remember the last new one that opened around here…Originally published by DK on July 7, 2020 at 9:46 am
I’ve been fortunate to continue working through the pandemic, but it’s been tough to take time away (especially since I’m the only IT person left). Thanks to the support of my boss and one of our awesome game day staffers, I was able to take a week off without looking at work email once. We originally intended to spend the week on Isle Royale National Park, but the ferry and Rock Harbor Lodge decided to scrap the whole 2020 season and our reservations were cancelled.
Plan B was to stay the first half of the week at Lutsen Resort and the Fourth of July weekend on Lake Vermilion (at Fortune Bay). Those plans changed as the temperatures kept rising – it was even hot along the usually cool shoreline of Lake Superior and we discovered upon check-in that Lutsen Resort does not have air conditioning. They were accommodating by offering us a full refund, but there were really no other options in Lutsen or the surrounding spots (Grand Marais, Tofte, Grand Portage). Fortune Bay could get us in early, so we set off on highway 1 through Ely and decided to spend the whole week on Vermilion.
Fortune Bay has done a nice job with COVID safety and procedures. They had temperature checks set up on the entry road, mandatory face masks and lots of signage, plexiglass and hand sanitizer. The casino floor had basically every other machine turned off, but they kindly turned on my favorite game for the week (big thanks to EJ). I think I made it worth their hassle, though, while still getting a lot of quality playing time. They had Frozen-themed giveaways on Thursday and Friday for 100 points earned (an Olaf waffle maker on day one and an Olaf snow cone maker on day two), so I spread my playing time out accordingly. Marisa really, really wanted these, so I was happy for the solid play-through.
Food options during the week were a little limited, but what was open was solid. We stopped at the Ely Steakhouse on the way over from Lutsen and they were following all of the state orders for in-person dining. On the other end of the spectrum, the Vermilion Club was following just about none of the rules, which blew us away (maybe “VC” really stands for Virus Central). We still ate there twice in-person and had take-out a third day, because Poor Gary’s pizza and the bleu cheese and chicken wings are Northland classics (hopefully we were personally careful enough).
Back at Fortune Bay, I hit the Wilderness Grill four times, having great experiences each time. The new chef used to work at Alma in Minneapolis and I really liked all of the sandwiches I tried (pulled chicken, walleye, porchetta and cheeseburger). Their new fries are reminiscent of the state fair classics. In the casino proper, we had a wonderful dinner at the Sunset Steakhouse and stopped several times at the Gold Mine Grill, which is getting better with service and staffing (they’ve always had great coffeeshop-style food options). The Tamarack Buffet was closed for service, but was the room was being used for socially-distanced overflow seating.
Thought I would play a lot of golf during the week, but the temperatures were warm and I just didn’t feel like going every day. I did drive down to Coleraine to play Eagle Ridge with the Millers and got in a twilight round on The Wilderness with John, Cathy and Bonnie. The whole region needs rain badly, so there were some near-dead areas on both courses (especially in the roughs). The Wilderness also has a lot of behind the scenes changes: the contract with KemperSports was not renewed and former golf GM Tom Beaudry and superintendent Vince Dodge have both moved on to the state of cheese. Still love that course, though, and it continues to be the one I’ve played the most.
It was also great to hang out at Dacha Batinich on Birch Point again with Mary and the crew. Big thanks to John and Cathy for taking us out on the boat for a pizza picnic (and for taking Sasha and Marisa out again later in the week). Skip-Bo games and great conversations make that little cabin a very special place indeed.Originally published by DK on July 5, 2020 at 5:09 pm
Wilderness Grill: chicken, walleye, cheeseburger and porchettaOriginally published by DK on July 4, 2020 at 7:07 pm
The Wilderness at Fortune BayOriginally published by DK on July 3, 2020 at 12:14 am
Such a shame – it was a really nice course beforeOriginally published by DK on June 20, 2020 at 3:33 pm
12th green, Ridges at Sand CreekOriginally published by DK on June 13, 2020 at 8:36 pm
https://magazine.golfcourseindustry.com/article/june-2020/rethinking-golf-carts.aspxOriginally published by DK on June 13, 2020 at 6:41 pm
Hole 8 @ Hidden Greens Golf Course, Hastings, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 12, 2020 at 12:31 pm
Post-round Angry OrchardOriginally published by DK on June 12, 2020 at 12:27 pm
Will I ever get another ace?Originally published by DK on June 11, 2020 at 4:23 pm
Grand Marais mini golfOriginally published by DK on June 8, 2020 at 8:00 pm
I’ve loved Shadow Creek since the first time I played it and I’ve played it over 100 times but can’t say I’ve mastered it…Originally published by DK on June 4, 2020 at 10:55 pm
Windsong Farm, Independence, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on June 4, 2020 at 9:18 pm
Troy Burne, Hudson, WisconsinOriginally published by DK on May 27, 2020 at 4:19 pm
Faribault Golf & Country ClubOriginally published by DK on May 16, 2020 at 2:03 pm
Valleywood #8, Apple Valley, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on May 15, 2020 at 6:36 pm
COVID cups @ Boulder Pointe, Elko, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on May 12, 2020 at 8:37 pm
River Oaks in Cottage Grove, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on May 7, 2020 at 4:23 pm
Cannon Golf Club, Cannon Falls, MinnesotaOriginally published by DK on May 6, 2020 at 3:37 pm
Great to see the Schusters, thoughOriginally published by DK on May 3, 2020 at 8:31 pm
Well-earned retirementOriginally published by DK on May 1, 2020 at 9:48 am
Rolled right by the pinOriginally published by DK on April 27, 2020 at 9:02 pm
Well, mostlyOriginally published by DK on April 23, 2020 at 7:42 pm
https://www.golf.com/tour-news/photo/2017/04/02/new-masters-media-centerOriginally published by DK on April 6, 2020 at 5:57 pm
Old shot of the Banff Springs courseOriginally published by DK on January 13, 2020 at 8:27 pm
https://www.golf.com/best-golf-courses-top-100-courses-world-2020-2021/Originally published by DK on November 26, 2019 at 1:26 pm
Kapalua Plantation – closed for remodelingOriginally published by DK on October 30, 2019 at 9:55 pm
My new golf gloveOriginally published by DK on October 27, 2019 at 7:18 pm
Rush Creek is still first classOriginally published by DK on October 3, 2019 at 8:27 pm
The tee markers at the newly reopened Braemar Golf CourseOriginally published by DK on September 27, 2019 at 5:51 pm
Different, but great to see Phil and MikeyOriginally published by DK on September 21, 2019 at 2:05 pm
Phalen Park is probably off the list for another 11 yearsOriginally published by DK on September 7, 2019 at 4:32 pm