Tucked in the cool shadows of old, forest oak trees, St. Croix Valley Golf Course's nine-hole layout invites golfers to swing across 133 acres of rolling topography. Originally sculpted into the woods in 1925, the 3,060-yard course eschews sand traps and favors natural obstacles including ponds, trees, elevation changes, and indigenous photographers who snap their shutters during players' backswings. The golf experts that preside over the pro shop can sharpen swings with lessons, ensure trustworthy equipment with club regripping services, and offer rental clubs so players don't have to hit with the oversized gavel normally used to settle remote control disputes at home.
Course at a Glance: * 9-hole, par 36 course * Length of 3,060 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 34.7 from the farthest tees * Slope rating of 122 from the farthest tees * Four tee options
At dawn, just as the sun breaks the horizon and a layer of dew reveals a path of fresh footprints, fairways open up through the morning fog to reveal a challenging circuit of golf holes. Chisago Lakes Golf Course's relatively open, par 72 layout features forgiving tree-lines and multiple ponds, which come into play on 12 holes to supply the bulk of the course's difficulty and relief for caddies with dry-mouth. Runaway swings gain traction at the club's driving range, which features a grass hitting area that measures 40 yards by 60 yards to ensure a natural lie for each swing rehearsal.
At the pro shop, golfers stock their Scottish quivers with new equipment and accessories from Titleist, Cobra, Cleveland, and other top brands. Chisago Lakes also encompasses The Gallery Bar & Grill, which serves up an eclectic menu that includes classic burgers, steaks, and seafood.
Course at a Glance:
Gordon Franks and Pat Worley are more than black belts. They’re ninth-degree black belts who share their chosen martial art with youngsters and adults alike through USA Karate, the school they cofounded. The school - which opened in 1973 and has been operating for more than 40 years - was featured on the local CBS station and teaches self-defense techniques that help students graduate to higher-level belts and translate into increased agility, coordination, and self-confidence.
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
Backed by a lifetime of horse-riding and driving experience, Broken Tree Horse & Harness owners Lois and Vance guide their fleet of steeds on scenic strolls through the Minnesota countryside. The horses—which include an Arabian mare, a Quarab, and numerous Norwegian Fjord breeds—pull a range of wheeled and bladed transports to fit the seasons. In warmer weather, riders hop on a wagon to enjoy a 10-mile trip around a lake or a three-hour ride out to a historic 1880s schoolhouse, built in a time when horses still weren't allowed to learn math. During the autumn and winter, riders sip hot chocolate on brisk sleigh rides over freshly fallen snow.