A row of neatly trimmed trees lines either side of the winding driveway that leads up to the stately clubhouse at Kilkarney Hills Golf Course, welcoming visitors to its verdant grounds. Ever since players began spraying drives and rolling putts over the 18-hole course in 1994, the club has filled the space with similar congenial flourishes, including flower beds and a central lake fountain. After players hole out and exchange secret handshakes on the 18th green, they can head for drinks at the course bar, complete with a veranda where they can watch the sunset.
Though they look tranquil and serene, the water hazards at Amery Golf Club's 18-hole golf course are a menace. A pair of ponds straddle the fairways on both the 9th and 10th holes, leaving a scorecard-thin margin for error on drives. On the par-five sixth, a pond deviously interrupts the trajectory of the fairway, forcing it around to the right before it snakes back to the green?a major reason why this hole has earned the number-one handicap rating. All told, there are water hazards on ten holes, and avoiding them requires constant vigilance and a well-caffeinated driver. Originally built in 1922, the course spans 6,235 yards from the tips.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,235 yards from the tips * Slope rating of 121 from the tips * Course rating of 70.2 from the tips * Four tee options * Scorecard
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.
Mississippi Dunes Golf Links' sophisticated, 18-hole layout blankets 3,000 feet of rolling Mississippi River shoreline with manicured, bent-grass fairways and an inventive, tree-lined design. As golfers cruise over the course atop a cart or a caddy training to be an Olympic power squatter, majestic views of the river appear through groves of trees that shelter native prairie creatures. On their odyssey from tee boxes to speedy, contoured greens, golf balls must split fairways to avoid sidelines riddled with mounds, pot bunkers, and knee-high grasses—a trinity of hazards that imbue the course with a Scottish, links-style vibe. A memorable tee shot awaits at the 399-yard, par-4 fifth hole—the course's most difficult, nicknamed "Humpback" for the large mound in the middle of the fairway as well as its voracious appetite for krill—where golfers must draw or fade drives around a dogleg left.
After hacking their way across the breeze-swept links, guests can unwind at Doc's Landing Pub, where a menu of traditional grill fare, fish, and pizza sates tour-worthy appetites. Patrons can look out on the river on the Pub's patio, catch up on the day's sporting events in the glow of a flat-panel TV, or discuss how greenskeepers maintain the immaculate felt that covers the billiards table.
The par-three 11th at Bristol Ridge Golf Course is a formidable sight from the tee box. Armed with whatever club or curtain rod they can hit roughly 130 yards, golfers peer at a green wreathed by a semi-circular pond, which constitutes a watery grave for any tee shot that strays long, left, or right. And that's the third easiest hole at Bristol Ridge Golf Course's 6,582-yard, par 72 course. Rolling terrain, tree-lined fairways, and intermittent ponds—water comes into play in some form on 10 holes—characterize the layout, anchored by a par-five on each nine that rate as the two most difficult holes. Golf instructor Leif Bjornson roams the course and its practice facilities, offering clinics and private lessons for golfers of all ages and abilities that want to improve their game so they can finally ask their crush to caddy for them.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Length of 6,582 yards from the farthest tees * Course rating of 72.1 from the farthest tees * Slope rating of 133 from the farthest tees * Three tee options