Wonderful Whitefish

Whitefish Golf Club, Pequot Lakes, Minnesota

by Rob Levine

Normally when one thinks of Central Minnesota resort golf courses, the mind inevitably turn to courses close to Brainerd—The Pines, The Preserve, The Classic, Maddens, etc. Many resort-style golfers, however, may find it advantageous to continue up highway 371 another 30 miles to Pequot Lakes/Pine River where they’ll find the Whitefish Golf Club, 18 holes of challenging and fun golf.

Cut out of the proverbial ‘north woods’, Whitefish is a predominantly flat track (although decidedly more hilly on the back nine) where, for a resort course, it is surprisingly difficult to lose golf balls. The front nine was built not far from the shores of Lower Whitefish lake in 1968. Seventeen years later the back nine was added, completing the course as it exists today. Though only 12 years old, one couldn’t characterize the new nine as ‘young.’

Though not an exceedingly difficult (or long—it plays at 6172 yards from the white tees) course, Whitefish nevertheless demands accuracy on many holes. None of the par fours plays longer than 400 yards, and many are in the 350-yard range. Analyzing this fact after our round, one of our golfers wondered why he had hit his errant driver off so many tees. Miss a fairway, and you’re often under, beside or behind a tree. Thanks to the good grooming skills of greenskeepers, most trees (conifer and deciduous) are well trimmed close to the ground. You’ll rarely lose a ball under a tree at Whitefish.

Whitefish is also known for its good grooming skills. Most fairways were in excellent condition for this early in the year, with very little winter kill. The greens, however, were a different matter. Course General Manager Steve Bengston explained that they’re starting to cut the greens down right now. The greens were left longer in the fall and spring, since longer grass withstands bad weather better. In any event, on some long putts it seemed virtually impossible to get the ball all the way to the hole without taking out the pitching wedge. This is a somewhat trivial complaint, however, since greens always vary from course to course, and, after a few holes, we adapted our putting strokes to the slower greens.

Among our favorite holes was the 376-yard number 16. An uphill, dogleg left par four, it requires a long and accurate tee shot to setup an uphill second shot to the elevated green. Though there is not a lot of water on the course (particularly on the front nine), this hole brings it into play both from the tee and the fairway.

Another fun hole is the adjoining number 12, a 151-yard par three that carries over a lovely little pond to a slightly elevated green. One other par three, the 142-yard number four, offers good scoring opportunities. The other two par threes are both considerably longer, playing at 179 yards (number 17) and 177 yards (number seven).

The par five number five is perhaps the course’s signature hole. Playing at 501 yards from the white tees, the hole has a slight dogleg right, requiring either a short tee shot, or a slight fade from a longer club. It then plays uphill to an elevated green, guarded by a deep bunker (with nice, light sand) on the front-left.

Apart from the course itself, Whitefish also sports a nice little driving range behind their new clubhouse. The pro shop is well appointed with various putters, clothing, wedges and golf shoes, which you might find necessary this far from civilization. The restaurant serves a tasty breakfast sandwich (and other treats), and has comfortable outdoor seating in the shade.

While Whitefish may not provide some of the amenities of a premium golf course (such as picking up your clubs at the car, or washing them after the game), it nonetheless competes with them on many levels. The course layout, condition, attention to detail and friendly staff all contribute to what amounts to a premium-level course at a mid-range price. Highly recommended.

Course notes
Whitefish was founded by four men including Joe Ruttger, who created the Ideal Development Corporation in 1968. There are currently 930 owners. People who want to buy into the corporation now can do so through either Ideal Development or by contacting the golf course. Stock is selling for around $70/share, in blocks of five.

The course also has a separate member option. Non-owners can purchase a five-day membership that includes unlimited golf for $475 ($415 for owners). A seven-day pass for non-owners is $650 ($560 for owners). Neither option includes a cart.

Whitefish Golf Club
Route 1, Box 111B
Pequot Lakes, MN 56472
(218) 543-4900
Green fee:  Public: Weekday: $26; weekend: $30.
Drive from TC: Approx. three hours.
Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Par: 72
Tee times: Available to public three days in advance.