The second hole at Superior National
Looking uphill at the par 3 second hole

SUPERIOR NATIONAL
Breaks toward the lake

by Rob Levine

There is a genre of Minnesota golf course not many people may be familiar with: The Lake Superior Course. Granted, few courses fit into this small category, but they’re all important to us. Duluth is home to two of these: Lester Park, a fine pubic course, and Northland Country Club, a beguiling, exclusive and difficult track in eastern Duluth. Now you can add Superior National, a fine course in Lutsen, MN that is truly cut out of the northwoods, and overlooks the old Gitchy Goomy with some fabulously picturesque views.

At Superior National, golf course designer Don Herfort (Pebble Creek) has skillfully woven the great Minnesota northwoods conifers with the incredibly beautiful Poplar River, and a good degree of up and down (note: Don’t try to walk this course). Lester Park and Northland both derive a degree of their difficulty by having their greens break toward the lake, even when it appears physically impossible! Superior National is no different. Virtually every lateral putt has to be assumed to break towards the lake. Golfers must especially weigh the tempo of lag putts away from or towards the lake. Putts away from the lake, even if the putt is downhill, must be given a little extra juice. Unlike other northern courses, Superior National has larger fairway landing areas, even though some of the fairways are quite narrow. Extra difficulty is achieved on a number of holes through clover-shaped greens with difficult pin placements.

Superior National, now in its fifth full year, essentially has no rough on the fairways; in other words, if you hit the ball out of the fairway, you’re probably not going to find it. To help the speed of play, the course has no out of bounds, meaning you can play shot + distance when you slam that beautiful new Balata into the pines.

A good argument could be made that Superior National is the most beautiful public course in Minnesota. In particular, the second hole, a par 3 130-yarder, crosses over the largest waterfall we’ve ever seen on a course. The course’s signature hole, the par 3 133 yard number 17, looks over a 130-foot cliff down to the flat green, which is half-framed by the Poplar River. Although this hole looks intimidating, it actually plays pretty easy. Many tee boxes, greens and fairways have beautiful views of Lake Superior, and the course is framed from behind by an ancient mountain range along the shores of the lake.

Playing at 6009 yards from the white tees, you couldn’t really call Superior National a long course, although many holes play uphill, making it seem longer that it actually is. Of the par fives, none play longer than 480 yards from the white tees. One hole, the 480 yard number eight, is different than almost any hole we’ve seen. A dogleg left with water on the left and woods on the right, it presents the golfer with the ultimate question: go for it or play it safe on the drive. A well-struck six iron gets you to the flats, but prevents you from reaching in two; on the other hand, if you can get your driver out there relatively straight, the fairway opens up at about 200 yards, presenting a relatively easy approach to the clover-shaped green, which is protected by a front bunker. Of the par fours, none is longer than 400 yards. You could conceivably make it through Superior National never hitting your driver, although I personally wouldn’t want to play it that way, especially with the local rules in play.

We noticed very few rough spots on Superior National’s fairways and greens, and the pace of play was relatively fast. On those spots where there was fairway damage, the grounds crew was busily planting grass. The greens themselves were soft and held quite well. The course has a small driving range, and a well appointed clubhouse that serves the usual golf course fare (including beer).

As a destination course, or a stopping off point on a northland trip, Superior National really fills the bill. Its rugged beauty, classic course layout, picturesque views and uncanny breaks make it a very exciting and fun course to play. Highly recommended.

Superior National Golf Course

5731 Highway 61, Lutsen,Mn, 55612
(218) 663-7195
Green Fees:
$72.00;
Difficulty: Difficult

  Blue White Red

Distance

6323 6009 5174
Rating 70.9 69.3 70.4
Slope 130 127 123