Lists are like love stories--subjectively slanted towards one lover's perspective, and no passionate arrangement stands without its fair share of quarrels. "Beauty" and "Greatness" in golf reveal this bias; with their categorical results respectively--though never authoritatively--determined by each club holder. We are blessed with much beauty to swing our clubs at in Minnesota; but, should also concede there exists no specific formula for quantifying the state's greatest golf experiences. There is only one order of truth to which you must subscribe in this particular "Top 10" tribute: alphabetical order.
In both lakes and golf courses, Minnesota is remarkably top heavy when it comes to the "most popular" outdoor playgrounds. If you're of the mind that the state gets prettier the further Up North you go, then the fact that eight of these properties exist north of Brainerd should not surprise you at all.
THE 10 BEST PUBLIC GOLF COURSES IN MINNESOTA
Bobby's Legacy at Cragun's Resort: (Brainerd) One of the most famous names in Golf Architecture--Robert Trent Jones Jr.--designed two championship courses for the Gull Lake resort, weaving 36 holes along the shores of two smaller lakes: Stephens and Legacy. In validation of the "to each his own" mantra, Golf Digest Magazine gives a little more love to the other course--Dutch Legacy. But, while each makes its own case with several stellar holes, the seven "Signatures" (holes deemed a 9 or 10 on a "10 Point Beauty Scale") on Bobby's Legacy--including the precipitous, panoramic tee shot on #17--take the overall cake in greatness.
www.craguns.com (FootGolf: Cragun's offers FootGolf, with 22-inch cups, on their Reversible Par 3 course)
The Classic at Madden's Resort: (Brainerd) The Classic is revered as much for its first-class service as it is for the first-class golf; a correlative truth that impressively translates across every facet of a guest's experience at this Gull Lake resort. Loaded with water hazards and seven "Signature" holes--most notably #2 and #3, adjacent Bass Lake--Scott Hoffman's only career design is both memorable and gaining in acclaim every year. The "pinnacle" moment would have to be the approach shot on #16, adjacent the picturesque wooden bridge, or any time spent dining in The Classic Grill. www.maddens.com (Golf Caddies: The Classic has Minnesota's only public golf player-assistance program)
Deacon's Lodge at Breezy Point Resort: (Breezy Point) Arguably Arnold Palmer's greatest American design, it is great fortune for Minnesota members of "Arnie's Army" that "The King's" most lasting architectural legacy was left here, and appropriate that it was built to honor his own father--Deacon's--legacy. Purposefully plotted around the lush, Loon living areas of Shaffer and Lynch Lakes, Deacon's Lodge has nine "Signature" holes, including the Par 3, 17th towards another lake--Douglas--that Mr. Palmer deemed worthy of being included on his list of the "18 Best Holes" he ever designed. www.breezypointresort.com (Ireland: Most contend Mr. Palmer's greatest worldwide design is Tralee Golf Club in Ireland. www.traleegolfclub.com)
Legend at Giants Ridge: (Biwabik) "Jeff Brauer" is to "most underrated golf architect" as "#17 on Legend" is to "prettiest hole in Minnesota." (If only the truth on achievement tests were so obvious.) Brauer designed both boulder-infused beasts at Giants Ridge--Legend and Quarry--and, while Golf Digest (again) finds more beauty in the opposite direction, there's no question Legend belongs in America's Top 100, too. Legend has seven "Signature" holes, with highlight features like the "giant" foot bunker on #3, the peninsula green on #11, and the state's most sublime setting--the tee boxes of #17, on Sabin Lake. www.giantsridge.com (Green Gate Guest Houses: Stay & Play experiences don't get any more unique, artisan, or awe-inspiring. www.greengateguesthouses.com)
Legends Club: (Prior Lake) With water in play on 13 holes, Garrett Gill's Legends Club is virtually a lake itself. The surrounding master-planned community only marginally interferes with the rampant beauty of the round, and with eight, solid "Signature" holes, Legends Club is solidly in the conversation with Stoneridge (and Troy Burne, just across the Wisconsin State Line) for the honor of the "Twin Cities Best Course." The most anticipated and memorable shot of the round comes at the Par 3, 13th, with an extensive all-water carry to a wall-guarded green. www.legendsgc.com (Tee Times Magazine: The foremost authority on all golf in Minnesota and Wisconsin. www.teetimespress.com)
The Pines at Grand View Lodge: (Nisswa) One of two 27-hole arrangements on this list, and the crown jewel of one of America's greatest family resorts, Joel Goldstrand's Pines Course can claim the fame of having had its "Marquee" hole--#7 on the Lakes nine--prominently featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated's 2016 Golf Calendar. Wedged between the resort's main property, on the north shore of Gull Lake, and the southern edge of Roy Lake, The Pines boasts eight "Signature" holes in all, and an abundance of Northwoods beauty. www.grandviewlodge.com (Miniature Golf: Wildwedge Mini Golf in nearby Pequot Lakes could be Minnesota's best tiny tour.
Quarry at Giants Ridge: (Biwabik) Built just north of Embarrass Lake, Jeff Brauer's Quarry is nothing if not intimidating. Originally slated to be set entirely on the cliffs of the quarry--the eventual design sacrificed none of that projected drama in becoming what Golf Digest claims is Minnesota's best public golf course, and their 25th ranked public course in America overall. The Troon Golf managed Quarry hosts seven "Signature" holes--including the breathtaking quarry launch at #7--and the area's most scenic Friday Night Fish Fry, in the Wacootah Grille overlooking Lake Mine. www.giantsridge.com (Mesabi Trail: This famous 120+ mile biking and snowmobiling trail weaves around the scenic surrounds of Giants Ridge. www.mesabitrail.com)
StoneRidge Golf Club: (Stillwater) Bobby Weed's StoneRidge is undisputedly one of the three best public courses in the Twin Cities metro. The other two "bests" depends on who you ask. Famous for their personable staff, white barn, chocolate chip cookies, and Links-style golf, it is easy to find something new to love on each visit. With seven "Signature" holes, including the gorgeous "Splinter" #10 and "Barn" #11, around the pond, StoneRidge sits just off I-94 but feels (in golf season) like it's in the UK. www.stoneridgegc.com (Danny's: Considered one of the 5 Best Golf Restaurants "19th Holes" in Minnesota. www.dannysbarandgrille.com)
Superior National at Lutsen Resort: (Lutsen) Officially, the spectacular 18-hole River/Canyon course doesn't open until late 2017; but, if you have visited since the River nine reopened, you understand why Jeff Brauer's masterful renovation simply cannot be omitted. (Wait until you see the new #6 on Canyon!) With four "Signature" holes on the River nine alone--including two panoramic tee shots at Lake Superior and the breathtaking swing over the waterfall on #2--and a bonus nine holes, (Mountain) this is easily the premier amenity for one of The Great Lakes' premier resorts: Lutsen Resort. www.lutsenresort.com (Worlds Best Donuts in Grand Marais: The hottest stop in one of Lake Superior's coolest spots.
The Wilderness at Fortune Bay Casino: (Tower) Recently listed on the Golf News Network as the #1 Public Course in America, it seems the media world is finally catching on to the pure, natural splendor of golf experiences in Minnesota (particularly in the Iron Trail region). Another Jeff Brauer creation, this KemperSports managed property features twelve "Signature" holes weaving through the boulder fields above Lake Vermilion. With one of Minnesota's "5 Prettiest" holes at #3, an island green at #12, and stunning views around almost every corner, it is hard to imagine a better place to revel in the awesomeness of golf in our state.
www.golfthewilderness.com (Wilderness Grill: Pair the stellar "19th Hole" staff and food with panoramic "Pure North" patio views for the perfect wrap to a perfect day.)