Central Minnesota boasts some of the most beautiful golf courses in the state. There are more holes of golf in the region than days to play. Some may be surprised that many courses are open six months out of the year. Spring greens transition to brilliant colors in the fall, making these seasons some of the best times to swing your clubs.
The Brainerd Lakes area is a popular destination for numerous reasons, and golf sits near the top of that list. With more than 450 golf holes on dozens of championship courses, the area has been ranked among the top 50 golf destinations in the world by Golf Digest. Be sure to check with area hotels for stay-and-play packages.
At Cragun’s Resort on Gull Lake, golf is king (or queen). One of the crown jewels of the area, Dutch Legacy was one of only 24 public courses in the U.S. rated 5 stars by Golf Digest in 2009. Brilliant design blends with the beauty of an Audubon Signature Sanctuary course, designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. Bobby’s Legacy is a shot-maker’s dream, featuring elevated tees and shorter holes combined with more traditional par-4s and 5s. The Reversible 9 is a unique par-3 golf course that alternates direction daily and is ideal for novice, family and group play.
Along the north shore of Gull Lake, Grand View Lodge offers an all-inclusive resort golf experience. At the award-winning, par-72 Pines, take in the rich forest landscape as you explore 27 holes, designed as three 9-hole courses. The Garden offers nine holes of leisurely play with kids tee boxes to encourage family fun. The Preserve, an 18-hole, par-72 championship course set in some of Minnesota’s best forest and wetlands, will reopen in July 2015.
After your round, be sure to visit the charming town of Nisswa. Near the shore of Gull Lake, it’s a great place to shop for everything from jewels to Paul Bunyan souvenirs. Its central location makes it an easy drive from many golf courses, resorts, campgrounds and hotels. You’ll also find several dining options.
A family-run resort since 1898, Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge welcomes families of all sizes, golfers of all abilities, conference attendees and fishermen alike. The Lakes, the 18-hole championship golf course, was designed by famous architect Joel Goldstrand. In the company of two natural lakes, water is a key factor on 10 holes. Carved from 100 acres of rugged northern woods terrain, each hole combines challenging play with the scenic beauty of northern Minnesota. Sporty Alec’s Nine, built in 1921, was the first resort golf course in Minnesota. As a par 34, it’s designed to challenge golfers of all abilities.
In the Lake Mille Lacs area, you’ll find several golf courses that welcome everyone from novices to pros. Resorts line the shores of the lake, with some offering special golf packages. When you’re done golfing, you can fish the lake, visit historic sites, go shopping, enjoy casino entertainment, and explore two state parks. Visitors to Father Hennepin State Park can relax on the sugar sand beach on a sunny afternoon.
At Sauk Centre, you’ll find two premier golf courses. One is a Tom Lehman Signature Course, located 3 miles north of town along Big Sauk Lake, and is a Scottish links-style course, with five holes that visit the woods. The layout is highlighted by big rolling hills, water features, wide fairways and undulating greens. The other is also a Scottish links-style course, designed by Mike Morley. It features tall prairie grasses and wild flowers in the rough. Add an occasional blustery wind and strategically placed bunkers, and one can sense what it’s like to golf in Scotland.
Just to the south, you find the homey town of Hutchinson, where three 18-hole championship courses open to the public. Enjoy the views surrounding the courses, including scenic Lake Campbell. You’ll find rolling hills and mature trees while challenging your golf skills. Hutchinson is a great place for a weekend getaway and offers many events, arts and historic sites.
The Alexandria Lakes area is home to more than 10 outstanding golf courses, ranging from resort/golf destinations to small town courses. Beyond golf, you’ll find plenty of things to do. Unlock your inner explorer on more than 300 lakes, hundreds of miles of trails, a winery, public beaches, parks and byways. Plan another day casting your luck on Lake Osakis, known for its great fishing year-round and family-friendly resorts.
Explore the Willmar Lakes area, where you’ll find five scenic golf courses. Golf has a long history in the area, and it’s known for its affordable, relaxed pace. The courses are less frantic than others, so your game can be leisurely rather than a race against time. Afterward, try some international fare at the local restaurants. There are many miles of paved bike trails, or take a drive along the Glacial Ridge Scenic Byway.
Set your sights on the 10 challenging and well-kept courses in the Fergus Falls area. You’ll find no waits for tee times and reasonable green fees. The community is rich in arts and culture; plan to attend a performance at the Center for the Arts. There are plenty of lodging options, including hotels, resorts and campgrounds. Cyclists will find 55 miles to ride on the Central Lakes Trail, with an additional 46 miles on the connecting Lake Wobegon Trail.
Designed by Eric Niskanen and carved out of 90,000 red pine trees, Thumper Pond golf course blends natural beauty and challenging play. Each of the 18 holes is designed for players of every level. In addition to the championship golf course, Thumper Pond offers a 350-yard practice range, short game area, two putting greens and golf lessons. Stay at the beautiful lodge, play at the golf course, and look for special lodging packages.
Ottertail Lakes Country is a great gateway for golfers, with many courses nearby. The county is also home to more than 1,000 lakes and streams, making it a popular destination for fishing, swimming, kayaking, wakeboarding, waterskiing and relaxing on the beach. Otter Tail County offers great lodging with many resorts, hotels, bed-and-breakfasts and campgrounds.
A mile north of Perham, you’ll find 27 holes of championship golf and a first-class practice facility. The Maple, Oak and Pine courses boast beautiful fairways, scenic natural wetlands and flowing elevation changes, ending in spectacular approaches to the well-manicured greens. Be sure to bring the family for the weekly summer turtle races, or take a ride on the Perham Express Train. There are several motels and other lodging in the area.
Wadena is home to a championship golf course named after one of Minnesota’s favorite wild animals—the whitetail deer. The 18-hole layout is a challenge for the eager amateur as well as the scratch golfer. Four miles north of Wadena on Highway 71, the course is considered the gateway to the northwoods. Other points of interest include the art deco downtown with great shopping and historic storefronts, public parks and campgrounds, and community celebrations.