by Mark Sculati
A key measure in the retail/food/service world is same store sales: after that particular entity has been open for a year - how are they doing? Are they getting people who have visited their establishment to come back? Golfers are notorious for being repeat visitors - once they find a course they like, they come back time after time because they want more. As I stood on the 17th fairway at Minnesota National Golf Course, I looked over at my playing partner and said, “ I want more.” That said it all.
Located in McGregor, Minnesota National is just two hours north of the Twin Cities. I love the name itself and wondered how the title had not been taken before this course was built. Minnesota National - it has a nice ring to it.
The starting hole is non-traditional in that you open with a par five. At 495 yards from the blues and 465 yards from the whites, it is reachable for both levels of golfers (for this article, we played and reviewed from the whites, and at 6383 plays for both levels).
I would love to regularly play at a course where almost every time I stepped on the first tee, I had a chance to make birdie - it gets your juices flowing. A great way to start. It is also the best chance at birdie compared to the three other par fives you will encounter.
Please read those numbers again and tell me where you are going to make birdie. Number five is a beautiful looking hole from the tee as you wrap around the lake but beware - after two good shots you still need to finish with a crisp wedge as it is a tough approach shot with a steep right hand drop off. The tenth (another nine that starts with a par five) is another great looking hole that provides challenge due to its length and the three shots needed to reach. The last par five, the 13th seems to play a little shorter than the yardage and completes a great stable of par fives that are all pleasing to the eye.
While the par fives tended to be on the long side, the 10 par fours only contained one that measured over 400 yards and that was the ninth at the grand total of 401 yards. I think that makes the course all the more likeable. Who likes getting beat up by 425 yard par fours all day? On both the front and back, you finish with three consecutive par fours - 7,8 and 9 on the front and 16, 17, 18 on the back.
The four par threes average out to a user friendly 167 yards with the longest at 179 and the shortest at 159. There is some minor confusion when groups are teeing off on the third and sixth holes as both groups can be hitting from closely aligned tee boxes - nothing that a small wooden fence couldn’t remedy.
The greens were absolutely mint. If you want to keep golfers coming back - have nice greens. The above is far easier said than done. Minnesota National contains several large multi-tiered greens that could seem to hold 50 different pin placements. They were firm and true and our putts rolled beautifully. The greens here make it fun to reach - even if the result is a three putt - they were that nice.
The course gets better and better with each passing hole and saves the best for last (gets you wanting more). The four finishing holes are fabulous and it all starts with the beautiful par three fifteenth - one of the best looking par threes in the state, and I have played most of them (public, that is). Tall pines and a red barn to the left of the green make this a true beauty. A big knob on the green adds to the aura. It looks like it belongs in a Norman Rockwell painting.
Sixteen, seventeen, and eighteen go 375, 380 and 390 and are a great stretch of finishing holes that make you feel like you have a good chance to score. The holes really flow well from tee to green. The groups in front of us had a four to five group tourney and eight carts were lined up to the right of 18 green watching the last group come in - pretty cool. Speaking of groups - this is the perfect course to play with 12-24 guys and then retire to a lake cabin rental to play poker complete with bonfire. The beverage cart contained large cans of Boddingtons and Murphy’s - when was the last time you saw that at a course? Never - as we have seen most beverage carts around the state as well.
All in all, Minnesota National leaves you “wanting more” - as in more sights, more great greens, more great beverages. Get your group up there for an outing and you will not be disappointed.
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