When you think of golf, do you think of Minnesota? I certainly didn’t until my golfing holiday last summer to the Land of 10,000 Lakes. My mindset totally changed after I played some of the most beautiful and enjoyable golf courses I had ever seen. Golf in Minnesota is lush, green, and with nearly 400 public and resort courses, quite accessible.My first look at Minnesota golf began with a round at The Wilds Golf Club in Shakopee, a short drive from the Twin Cities. Known for its 180 acres of natural wetlands, The Wilds plays from 5,095 to over 7,000 yards from four sets of tees. Its open wide fairways, with water in play on nearly half of the holes, made it an outstanding introduction to Minnesota golf. My next two rounds took me to Northeast Minnesota to play The Legend and The Quarry, two absolutely gorgeous courses at Giants Ridge, just outside Biwabik. The Legend is a 6,930-yard rolling fairway beauty with fairway bunkers galore. Although all the The Legend’s holes are noteworthy, the one that truly got my attention was the Par 3 seventeenth hole.... a 226-yarder with a 200-yard carry over a sparkling blue lake. Spectacular! The Legend’s sister course, The Quarry, is more rugged with outcroppings of excavated bedrock and giant boulders sharing lush green fairways. The Quarry has the distinction of having the longest Par 3 in Minnesota, 269 tough yards from the championship tees. Both The Legend and The Quarry have won numerous awards. In 1999, The Legend was picked by Golf Digest as The Best Public Course in Minnesota, and was selected in the Top Places to Play Golf in 2001 and 2002. The Quarry was named one of the Best New Courses of 2003 by American Airlines Celebrated Living and One of The Midwest’s Top 10 Best New Public Courses in 2003 by GolfChicago Magazine. On day four of my golfing adventure, I participated in the Grand Opening of The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. It included a golf clinic by PGA Touring Pro Notah Begay III, and a scramble golf tournament. The Wilderness, with its ponds, peninsula greens, long waste bunkers, split fairways and a variety of different sized and shaped greens, is sure to become one of the state’s most treasured courses. The highlight of my day at The Wilderness came on the fifteenth hole, a 507-yard par 5, when I witnessed a true golfing rarity. My scramble partner, John Lieser, holed his 217-yard second shot for an Albatross. My next stop was GrandView Lodge located on The Brainerd Golf Trail known as The Midwest’s #1 Golf Destination. GrandView Lodge, with its seventy-year history of Minnesota hospitality, and three outstanding championship courses, The Preserve, The Pines, and Deacon’s Lodge, was named one of the Top 100 Golf Resorts in The World by Conde Nast Traveler in 2003, Playing The Preserve, a 6,601-yard par 72 challenge, will give you the feeling of a walk through the woods to Grandma’s house. Don’t let the peacefulness fool you. The Preserve requires delicate shots, particularly to the fast, manicured bent grass greens. GrandView Lodge’s second championship course, The Pines, is a scenic 27-hole layout made up of the Lakes, Woods and Marsh nines with a slope range of 128 to 145 and a yardage combination of 5100 to 6800 yards. GrandView’s third championship course, Deacon’s Lodge, was designed by Arnold Palmer and named in memory of his father. Described by Palmer as “An Example of Nature and Pure Golf at it’s Best”, its 6,924-yard length garners a 73.1 rating, a 134 slope, and high praise as a tough, yet playable course. Another “must play” championship course on the Brainerd Golf Trail is The Classic at Madden’s Resort. When playing The Classic, which was honored in 2003 as Minnesota’s #1 Public Course by Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golfweek, prepare to be tested with shots to doglegs, alongside lakes, and over ponds, wetlands and fairway bunkers. With five tees on each hole, and yardage ranging from 4,859 to 7,102 yards, playing the tees that match your skills is essential or it could be a very, very long day. Although I had traveled to 45 of our 50 states, prior to my mid-West golfing holiday, I had never been to Minnesota . Wow, what a mistake! It is a beautiful state with absolutely terrific golf courses and friendly people. Consider Minnesota for your next golfing vacation. You’ll be glad you did. For more information on Minnesota golf, log on to www.MinnesotaGOLF.com.
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