by Kevin Turnquist
Traveling up highway 371, tense with the anticipation of playing one of our
favorite Minnesota golf courses, a nagging thought crept into mind. "How can you be
objective about the Preserve when you already know you love the course?"
Unfortunately this innocuous little thought soon led to a downward spiral centered on the
question of "How can you be objective about anything anymore?" The rigidity of
age has not been limited to inflexible back muscles and calcified hamstrings. It extends
to limit thought patterns and perceptions of the world so pervasively now that the thought
of seeing anything in a new and different way seems totally impossible. Past the age of 40
our destiny is to seek out all elements of reality which confirm our preexisting biases
and discard the rest. Soon were locked up in nursing homes, our worlds so shrunken
and predictable that any alterations in toileting routine are met with catastrophic
When these sorts of thoughts occur on the way to
the course it is no surprise that the thinkers game can get just a tad erratic. Or
that he tries to persuade his driver to turn back to Brainerd in search of the canned
martinis which eased the pain of another inglorious round. But golf courses can have a
strange and powerful effect upon the psyche. Standing near the clubhouse, looking down
over The Preserves beautiful opening vista, the swirling darkness of these rather
negative thought patterns began to clear. Granted they were not replaced by anything so
valuable as "Swing Thoughts" or the Zen-like tranquility one imagines is in the
minds of the low-handicappers. Yet as the round progressed the shift from the private hell
of thought to the "experience of the now" became increasingly complete.
As the fog lifted the attributes of the course were increasingly appreciated. The
Preserve continues to impress as one of the most beautiful layouts in the state. Lovely
bent grass fairways meander up and down rolling hills with no homes or freeways to disturb
the experience. The holes reveal more of their character with each round that is played
here. Greens were in the best shape weve seen them-fast and true with lots of subtle
break. With a slope of 132 from the 6204 yard white tees there is obviously plenty of
challenge to this course. Good shotmaking -at times even "target golf" - is
demanded and bad shots can quickly lead to disaster.
Predictably, our foursome was soon embroiled in old discussions about whether The
Preserve should be ranked above The Classic (which we had returned to the day before) in
the hierarchy of Minnesotas public golf courses. A player in our group who had
played neither of these courses before gave the nod to The Preserve. As usual, proponents
of the Classic cited the superior sand and more numerous tee boxes of their track while
pro-Preservists focused on beauty and layout. No consensus was reached. No consensus is
ever reached on this issue. Once again, however, there was widespread agreement that The
Preserve clearly rates above its spendier sibling in the Grandview lineup, The Pines.
The SportsPage has always used the same test when ranking golf courses. Where do you
prefer to play on a beautiful day without regard for the cost of the round? When economics
are introduced The Preserve once again emerges as the clear winner of the Brainerd area
premium courses. Green fees have increased a bit to $53.50 on weekends ( $69.50 with cart)
but this is still a genuine golfing value when compared to the C-note it takes to play The
There seems to be no end to the construction of super-premium destination golf courses
in the Gull Lake area. We hope this trend continues indefinitely and are already looking
forward to visiting The Legacy (built by Craguns) and Grandviews new Deacons
Lodge. Debates about the relative rankings of Minnesotas courses will undoubtedly
grow even more heated and complex as these newcomers are added. The Preserve may not
receive the same degree of recognition as its pricier competitors but the true golf
fans will still be appreciating this gem decades from now.
Leaving the course, smug in the belief that previous views of the course turned out to
be so very correct, the thought occurred that "When youre right youre
right." And so the spiral started again, ending up -as it always does- with the fear
that this path of certainty is leading to a life in which examining the contents of
ones bedpan will be of earth-shattering importance.
Read the SportsPage's original
review of The Preserve.