Tee Up: Minnesota's Top Public Golf Courses
While I myself am not an avid golfer, there are enough people in my life that have passed the brink of obsession that I have gained a new appreciation for it. What has always impressed me is the dedication golfers have, particularly those in Minnesota. We only have so many months that you’re able play, but they make the most out of every one of them. And I understand why—we have some pretty amazing golf courses here. I looked through a number of sources, searching for the best public places to play, and found ones that not only topped statewide lists, but nationwide ones as well. Here are the courses that Golf Digest, Golf.com and Golfweek all deemed as some of the finest. Hit the greens at any one of these and I guarantee you’ll see why golf is more than just a good walk spoiled.
These two award-winning courses are both located at Giants Ridge Golf and Ski Resort in Biwabik, about a three-hour drive north of the Twin Cities. The Quarry challenges golfers with raised tees, deep hazards and wetlands, while The Legends course contains white sand bunkers, lakes, and tall trees. Designed by renowned golf course architect Jeffrey Brauer, The Quarry honors the area’s industrial past by naming holes after local mines. The Legends course, which takes you through north woods terrain, has received a 4.5 star golf rating from Golf Digest five years in a row. Both are par 72, 18-hole courses and offer an on-site pro shop, driving range, and practice green.
Also designed by Jeffrey Brauer, this course is set on the shore of Lake Vermilion at Fortune Bay Resort Casino. Located in Tower, about a four-hour drive north of the Twin Cities, The Wilderness was named Golf Course of the Year by the Midwest Golf Course Owner’s Association. Here you will also find practice areas for golfers of all abilities, a driving range, and PGA and LPGA instructors. In addition, the resort and casino achieved certification in the KemperSports Green to a Tee environmental initiative for its environmentally conscious operations.
One of the newer ones on the list, this course opened at StoneRidge Golf Club in Stillwater in the summer of 2000. Bobby Weed, an award-winning golf architect, designed the grounds, which are intended to give you the feeling of playing across the pond. The course features rolling bentgrass fairways, fescue grass borders, and irregular bunkers, and has been ranked by Golf.com as the No. 6 Best Public Golf Course in Minnesota.
Located at Madden’s, the popular resort on Gull Lake, this 18-hole course contains 56 white sand bunkers, water on 16 holes, and a 60-foot elevation change between high and low points. The course also has five sets of tees, allowing golfers of all skill levels to play. Scott Hoffmann, Madden’s former head golf course superintendent, designed the championship course in the mid-1990s. Of late, it has been voted Best Places to Play by Golf Digest, while also landing a spot on its list of America’s 100 Greatest Public Golf Courses.
Also located on Gull Lake, this 72-par championship course was designed by Arnold Palmer. In fact, he named the course after his father and has said that hole No. 17 is one of his favorites that he’s designed. The course is spread across 500 acres and is surrounded by lakes, wetlands, and forests. This is one of three distinct courses at Grand View Lodge and been listed as one of the Best Courses You Can Play (in Minnesota) by Golfweek.