The Preserve

Preserve Redux

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 we’re locked up in nursing homes, our worlds so shrunken and predictable that any alterations in toileting routine are met with catastrophic reaction.

When these sorts of thoughts occur on the way to the course it is no surprise that the thinker’s 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 Preserve’s 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 we’ve 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 Minnesota’s 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 Classic.

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 Grandview’s new Deacon’s Lodge. Debates about the relative rankings of Minnesota’s 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 it’s 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 you’re right you’re 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 one’s bedpan will be of earth-shattering importance.

Read the SportsPage's original review of The Preserve.

Blue White Red

The Preserve
Soft Spikes

Distance 6601 6204 4816
Rating 71.6 69.9 68.8
Slope 135 132 119