Sad Dunes

by Rob Levine

Every time a new course opens, we’re all tempted to run off and give it a try. So when we heard about Mississippi Dunes, a "Links" style course opened last year on the banks of the Big Muddy in Cottage Grove, we had to pay a visit.

The advance word on the Dunes was good: It’s a Links style course, that, according to its own literature, "Rewards gamblers who carry out the shot successfully." What we found instead was a course under construction. Many holes, along with the clubhouse, range, and putting greens are either presently on the drawing boards, or partially completed. There’s a lot of winter kill on the course, and there are places where exposed dirt has run onto the fairways. This isn’t to say the course isn’t worth playing; just be forewarned that it’s in rough shape.

For those of you not familiar with Links style golf, the basic tenents involve shot golf, i.e. point-to-point. In between the shots you frequently have to carry over long waste areas—unimproved fields of weeds, grass, rocks, etc. If you end up in the waste, you’re in trouble. True links-style golf courses have few trees, and the wind traditionally plays a big role. The classic links course is St. Andrews—a wind-swept island with few trees, long fairways and gently rolling hills.

While it is shot-style golf, the designers seem to have focused mainly on that aspect of the course. Unlike other links courses, the wind is often blocked by large trees. At times we were left wondering whether some of the "waste areas" were there intentionally or if they simply represented immature areas of the course.

It’s got potential
The Dunes is a very scenic course and an enjoyable walk. The par threes seemed the most like a links course to me. They generally have small fairways only around the greens—just as a links course should be. This was also the first course in our experience with six par threes. In fact, when completed it will have six par threes, six par fours and six par fives.

I hate to come down on a course, especially a new one, too much. But there were other things I didn’t like so well. I counted six hidden drives, i.e. your ball (and the fairway) go well out of view before the ball is down. The greens seem almost gimmicky with large ridges built into the middle of some. One hole, the par 5 eleventh, is billed as a reachable-in-two hole. A member of our party hit a tremendous drive, right down the middle of the fairway. Unfortunately, the fairway goes out of view from the tee, and, when we reached the ball, discovered there was a 10 foot strip of deep rough (on a hill, no less) stretching across the fairway about 280 yards out! So much for rewarding golfers who take chances and make a successful shot.

Another par 5, number seventeen, features an almost totally hidden drive. There is a flag to signify the general direction. If you hit a good drive, you’re left with a long, totally hidden second shot to the green that only a fool would try, given the numerous (also totally hidden) bunkers in front of the green, and the woods to the left.

Get some signs
One more minor problem: This course needs to invest in some signage. There were no signs giving directions from highway 61. There were no signs pointing out the way from greens to tees. Distance markers consisted of a single 150-yard stake per hole. I know that this is a new course so a certain amount of slack is in order, but a guy could get lost out there! We’ll definitely be back to check the Dunes out again (providing we can find it again, and assuming they’ll let us back on) but probably not this year. No recommendation.

Mississippi Dunes Golf Course
10351 Grey Cloud Trail
Cottage Grove, MN
(612) 768-7611
Green fee: M-Th $20; Fri, Sat, Sun $25
Drive from TC: 30 minutes
Difficulty: Moderately difficult

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6797 6416 5921
Rating 74.0 72.1 69.7
Slope 135 130 123