While other athletic clubs hibernate, Majestic Oaks welcomes Old Man Winter's frigid embrace with snow-savvy cheer. Played using golf clubs and a fuzzy tennis ball, snow golf provides nine holes of family-spanning fun and takes less than an hour to complete. Traversing the course, most of whose holes are under 100 yards, provides a reason to enjoy a brisk winter afternoon with friends while getting some light exercise. Hot chocolate and coffee (a value of $1.50 each) can keep your foursome of snow-golfers warm or can be used to punish snowmen who overindulge in mulligans.
Under the guidance of new course superintendent David Simeon, who draws on nearly a quarter century of experience and a degree in turf management, the links at Greens of Howard Lake underwent a thorough makeover and renewal in 2011. Course architect Ed Lahr made myriad improvements, such as regrading the fairway on hole 2 and enhancing it with a pond. In addition to rejuvenating the course’s turf and waging a war on weeds, the overhaul led to a renovated clubhouse where players can rent premium clubs for playing the links or carrying knapsacks over their shoulders on contemplative walks through the course. After the last swing is swung, they can also fuel up with pizza and beer onsite or stop at the pro shop to pick up new gear.
Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 36 course * Length of 3,313 yards * Course rating of 35.4 * Slope rating of 115
Designed by prolific course architect Joel Goldstrand, Rum River Hills Golf Club's 18-hole course weaves through 6,308 yards of water-lined fairways and undulating greens. Water hazards present challenges from the very first tee, where aggressive players may choose to lay up or drive balls over a pond to cut the corner off of a fairway that dog-legs right, setting up a favorable approach onto a green 413 yards away. Rum River Hills tests players’ short game with undulating greens that take golf balls through more sharp turns than a golf cart driving through a grocery store.
A full-length driving range allows players to warm up before they take to the course, and the club's PGA instructors offer lessons for those looking to improve their swing mechanics. After a day at the links, course patrons can drop in at McDuff's Restaurant, which serves an expansive menu of salads, burgers, steaks, and pizzas. Inside the sunlit dining room, 11 TVs let guests catch up with live sports, while outdoor patio seating caters to those hoping to reverse engineer the technology of the lawn mowers maintaining the course below.
Course at a Glance: * Designed by Joel Goldstrand * 18-hole, par 71 course * Length of 6,308 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 71.0 from the farthest tees * Slope rating of 117 from the farthest tees * Four tee options
Early in the spring, when the threat of snow still hovers over the state of Minnesota, the golf course at Sundance Golf Banquet Bowl is open. Later in the fall, when the threat of snow once again looms and golf carts begin to go into hibernation, the course remains open. Over the years, the 18-hole, par 72 course has become reliable place for determined golfers to battle for being the first or last of the year to sneak in a round. Recently, Sundance augmented its links with a bowling alley, inviting visitors to escape the elements and pick up some strikes in the process. Away from all the competition, the facility's bar and grill refuels tanks with popular house-made pizzas, half-pound burgers, and plenty of beer and cocktails.
Designed by course architect Kevin Norby, The Refuge Golf Club cleaves through 350 acres of woods and wetlands to frame an 18-hole, par 72 course. Native grasses, wooden cart bridges, and immaculate bluegrass fairways characterize this northern-style course, which challenges golfers with tight tree lines and abundant sunbathing opportunities for losing shirts in sand traps. If golfers haven't spotted much wildlife throughout the course, they might find a gallery of hawks, deer, and feral caddies watching at the 17th, the course's second-most-difficult hole. Clubbers must blast tee shots over a forced carry before safely landing on an open fairway that leads to a green flanked by bunkers on both sides. Players can warm up for rounds at the 20-stall driving range and contoured putting green, and PGA professionals help golfers hone their game during private lessons. Meanwhile, a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse built of rock and cedar beckons for post-round revelry in the facility's restaurant, bar, and pro shop.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,534 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 71.9 from the back tees * Course slope of 139 from the back tees * Five sets of tees per hole
With 27 challenging kentucky-bluegrass fairways in front of lush bentgrass greens, The Ponds challenges golfers to play a trio of nine-hole courses or combine two of them for three unique 18-hole rounds. Water hazards make for an especially difficult approach to the green on the Red Course's signature first hole, whereas the White Course's ninth hole ends with a green flanked by sand traps. Wetlands and sloped greens make up the Blue Course, which players can travel in new electric-power carts.
Before hitting the fairways, golfers can warm up at the driving range, chipping green, putting green, or pleading-with-your-clubs green. After the round, replace any golf balls that got away at the pro shop, which stocks brands such as Nike and Titleist.
Red Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 36 course * Length of 3,380 yards * Four tee options
Blue Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 36 course * Length of 3,453 yards * Four tee options
White Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 36 course * Length of 3,401 yards * Four tee options