If the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine National has tickled your interest in golf in
Minnesota, then it’s time to plan your trip to the North Star State, where
a selection of stunning courses and all-American hospitality awaits
While some members of Europe’s Ryder Cup team may not wish to return to Minnesota any time soon, following the mauling they received at the hands of the US team at October’s Ryder Cup, there’s no reason why travelling British golfers should ignore this beautiful, yet significantly underrated golfing destination, which boasts a stunning array of great value championship courses and a whole lot more besides.
While Minnesota’s status as a golfing state couldn’t be higher, following Hazeltine’s star billing at the 41st Ryder Cup, the thousands of European fans who descended on the area will also have discovered that the ‘land of 10,000 lakes’ – many of which are just large water hazards – has plenty more to offer the visiting golfer.
Sandwiched between the Great Lakes and the Great Plains on the Canadian border, Minnesota boasts an impressively rich golfing pedigree, having the honour of being the only one of America’s 50 states to have hosted all 13 USGA-sanctioned tournaments.
Hazeltine is clearly its most famous venue, having twice hosted both the US Open (’70, ’91) and the US PGA Championship (’02, ’09), but Minnesota is much more than just a one-course state, in fact there are more than 450 layouts to choose from. While it is often futile to generalise, one common theme that joins Minnesota’s golf courses is that they are all set in beautiful, natural terrain and are always presented in superb condition. On top of that, they offer extremely good value for money, with green fees starting from as a little as $30 (£22) at public courses, and rising to no more than $100 (£80) for top championship courses at semi-private venues. With so much choice, it’s easy to plan a trip to suit all budgets.
The nearest course to Hazeltine National is Chaska Town Course, which jointly staged the 2006 US Amateur with the Ryder Cup venue. Designed by legendary US architect Arthur Hills, the 6,800-yard layout is a superb test, with water coming into play on no fewer than 12 holes, and numerous changes in elevation to contend with. Always presented in pristine condition, the $50 green fee represents something of a steal for what GolfWeek ranks inside the top 35 public course in America.
The ‘twin cities’ of Minneapolis and St Paul are ringed by superb courses, many of them offering the traditional American country club experience. Take your pick form Braemar in Edina; Rush Creek in Maple Grove; Prestwick in Woodbury; Stonebrooke in Shakopee, and StoneRidge in Stillwater, while just a short trip outside the city limits brings the delights of the Legends Club and The Wilds Golf Club in Prior Lake; Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan; Territory Golf Club in St Cloud; The Jewel Golf Club in Lake City; and Willingers Golf Course in Northfield.
The Central Lakes area of the state is home to some of the most honoured courses in Minnesota, with The Pines at Grandview Lodge, The Classic at Maddens, Deacon’s Lodge of Breezy Point Resort, or either of the courses at Cragun’s Legacy Courses. There are plenty of birdies waiting — and also a lot of native walleye fish to catch, if you are interested in wetting a line in one of those 10,000 lakes.
Even Tom Lehman, the Minnesota-born former Ryder Cup player and captain, hasn’t managed to play all the courses to be found in his native state, with Giants Ridge at Biwabik in the breathtaking Iron Range, and Dacotah Ridge amid the prairie skylines of the southwest, yet to be ticked off the 57-year-old Champions Tour player’s bucket list.
And while it would take the first-time visitor over 18 months of daily golfing to get through the entire list of courses in the state, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Minnesota for those who want to enjoy off-course activities at a superb range of family-friendly resorts, where outdoor activities such as nature walks and water sports can be combined with pampering sessions in luxury spas.
If shopping’s your thing, you’ll love the Mall of America in Bloomington, which is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in the US, with more than 520 stores, an amusement park, cinemas, aquarium, and more than 50 restaurants. Those looking for a more boutique experience should head to Grand Avenue in St Paul, where a wide selection of independent shops, craft markets and restaurants will see you happily browse away a few hours between rounds. With no sales tax on clothing and shoes in Minnesota, shopping is economical too!
Foodies should be sure to track down a Juicy Lucy Burger – a Minneapolis culinary staple that is essentially a cheeseburger where the cheese goes inside the meat (go with it), while beer lovers can slake their thirst on craft ales created by over 100 microbreweries registered in the state.
As the large and sizeable crowds at Hazeltine showed with their choice of eye-catching headwear, the Minnesota Vikings are treated as legends in this neck of the woods, and a trip to the NFL team’s new US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis to catch a game of American Football should also be on every visitor’s ‘to do’ list.
Staying in Minneapolis, Tom Lehman has probably yet to enjoy a game of golf on the Skyline Mini course located on the roof of the Walker Art Center – although he has more than likely seen inside this iconic venue, which houses a stunning collection of contemporary art. Other cultural attractions include an active theatre scene, with the Minneapolis St. Paul Area boasting more theatre seats per capita than anywhere else in America outside of New York, and where everything from the latest Broadway musical to classical theatre is offered.
And, of course, there’s music. The distinctive Minneapolis Sound was created by Prince, arguably the city’s most famous son, and the late star’s Paisley Park private estate and production complex will soon be open for tours. Visitors can catch a gig at First Avenue, where the album version of Purple Rain was recorded, and the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant, where Prince was almost part of the furniture. And don’t miss the Bayfront Blues Festival in Bob Dylan’s birthplace of Duluth, set on the shores of Lake Superior.
So whatever tune you dance to, Minnesota has a beat to suit your mood. Whether it be catching fish in the lakes, catching birdies on its golf courses, catching a show in town, or simply enjoying the great outdoors, the North Star state has it all.
Just don’t mention the Ryder Cup, or you’ll never get them to shut up.
For more details visit www.exploreminnesota.com