The sails of the 31-foot sloop Messenger wave in the wind during Sail Pepin’s outings. The staff and crew man the vessel for fun family outings, romantic cruises, sailing lessons, and team-building programs. At their location in the historic Breakwater Building on Lake Pepin’s waterfront, they also entertain guests with a wine bar, coffee shop, and live music.
Formerly farmland for five generations of the Schmidt family, Lake Pepin Golf Course now boasts 18 holes that span across rugged links-style topography flanked by the bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley. The course plays to 6,752 yards, with 12 holes showcasing panoramic views of the lake and the remaining six holes providing access to an underground miniature golf course. Those who prefer manmade scenery can gawk at Joe "Snowball" Schmidt's 1869 two-story stone house, nestled between the 17th green and 18th tee.
The two courses at Mississippi National Golf Links?the Highlands and the Lowlands?do share a few things in common. Both are 18-hole layouts with a par of 71, they boast beginner-friendly lengths of less than 6,500 yards, and they offer players sweeping panoramas of the Red Wing Bluffs.
But that's where the similarities end. For one, the Highlands is named for its position atop those bluffs, so golfers can peer down into the Hiawatha Valley and the Mississippi River below them. This unique terrain creates some interesting shots, most notably the tee shot at the 17th hole, a par 3 that boasts a staggering 150-foot drop from tee to green. The Lowlands course, as might be expected, resides at the valley basin, keeping everyone from beginners to pros guessing which holes are just a hole and which one might actually be the valley's drain.
Lowlands Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 71 course * Total length of 6,489 yards from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole * View the scorecard
Highlands Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 71 course * Total length of 6,282 yards from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole * View the scorecard
Sculpted into the sandstone bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley in 1915, the course at Red Wing Golf Club has challenged golfers? accuracy and consistency for nearly a century. As they line up tee shots down tight fairways bordered by towering oaks and pines, players soon realize that the layout rewards accuracy and positioning as opposed to brute strength or double-jointedness. Upon finishing their rounds on the 6,190-yard gauntlet, golfers can head inside to The Brassie Spoon Bar & Grill for sandwiches, salads, and drinks in front of a big-screen television.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par-72 course * Total length of 6,190 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 70.7 from the back tees * Course slope of 133 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole
The fluctuating distances from hole-to-hole at Zumbrota Golf Club make the course a challenge for players of all levels, no matter which of the four tees they choose to swing from. For instance, some holes slink down to 146 yards from the back tees. But others, such as the 10th hole, stretch to more than 500 yards, giving players a chance to let it fly or finally load their ball into a potato cannon. Once rounds are finished, groups can retire to the Zumbrota Golf Club Grill for food and drinks.
Skiers and snowboarders gently rise over the St. Croix River Valley in one of 18 chairlifts that grant them access to Afton Alps’ 300 acres of skiing terrain. With 48 trails—80% of which are manageable for beginner and intermediate alpinists—and an average annual snowfall of 48 inches, guests can carve their way down Afton Alps’ 350-foot vertical drop in a variety of ways, from slowly snaking down a 3,000-foot run to tucking into a cannonball at the peak and landing with a white splash at the base. Three rental shops provide guests with high-quality gear, and a snowtubing park offers a more leisurely way to enjoy the tender romance between snow and gravity.
In the spring, the melting snow gives way to the fairways and greens of Afton Alps’ 18-hole golf course, where golfers hunt pars over a combination of flat and hilly terrain. Guests can take in scenic views of the St. Croix River and its attendant wildlife aboard a peppy golf cart or while cruising down trails on a mountain bike or runaway wheelbarrow.