A Wee Bit Of Scotland At The Links At NorthFork
By Rhett Arens
This golf course is the rare combination of a quality-minded set of course conditions with an attitude that is more akin to casual play. Think about it. Many of the courses that target an upper echelon client also take themselves a wee bit too seriously. Mike Tozier, the Owner/Managing Partner has set this tone for The Links at NorthFork. Mike has many thoughts on the game of golf and luckily for the players who frequent this modified, links style course, he puts them into practice.
The course has been in operation for 25 years in Ramsey, Minnesota and has continuously upgraded and fine-tuned the playing surface. In fact, Mike insists on consistency of quality. He recognizes that with a 30-minute drive from Minneapolis/St. Paul, he needs to deliver on consistent conditions and a ‘ton of value.’ Golfers tend to remember a good experience and this generates repeat visits. The secret is in the details… precise green edges, well defined collars, the roughs are maintained just right, extra tee boxes to accommodate alternate distances, rangers who are there to assist, not scold. In total, Mike knows the average golfer has a limited amount of discretionary income and time, so he intends to make this entertainment option top-notch. The recent U.S. Open at Erin Hills echo’s a few similarities to The Links at NorthFork where wind and fescue reign supreme.
The round kicks off with a par 5 that is not overly long but is typical of the course where the wind direction will dictate if you have a birdy opportunity or will have to set your sights on a par. The par 4 hole #2 sucks you into cheating the corner, beware that any spin and fade will likely result in chopping your way out of that fescue. Classic links design. The first par 3 is a 180-yard shot that can be intimidating with a protective bunker out front left and a pond that runs up the entire right side of the green. The green is large but you will need to have that iron dialed in to par this. Hole 6 is a par 4 named ‘Changing Wind.’ This is perfectly named and could be a theme for the overall course where you will find it helpful to have your knock-down irons, woods and driver game going in order to stay on the short grass. Absolutely fun stuff, pure golf. Keep in mind that it’s not a bad thing to let that low shot roll out. After all, that is how the game of golf got started on the windswept meadows of Scotland. The front nine closes with a beautiful, almost peninsula style green that gives you an opportunity to get home in two and birdie but beware that many before you have thought the same and ended up with a double bogey. Water hazards have a way of doing that.
The back nine changes things up a bit. You will see some mature trees at times and might even find yourself punching out below the canopy. This variation on a predominately links type course makes for an interesting round. But what did you expect from a course whose advertising spokesperson is the Most Interesting Golfer in the World? Something tells me even Dos Equis would approve. However, I would not recommend putting the ball off the green so you can chip it in for par. Leave that to the World’s Most Interesting Golfer.
The last five holes taken as a group could be considered the signature hole. Maybe we need some new terminology; perhaps we call it the ‘signature series.’ The par 5, #14 is tough, I’m not going to sugar coat it. It’s long and you need to hit the ball on line. If you do manage to hit the green in two, know that it is two-tiered so keep your fingers crossed you are on the pin tier. No letting up on the par 4, #15. This is the toughest hole on the course. Keep in mind you are playing a game, you are outside in the glorious weather and you are likely with good friends. So do not snap that putter over your knee. The Most Interesting Man in the World would not approve, besides he once snapped a putter using it for a back scratcher. The back nine closes out with a long par 4 that has a little of everything. Bunkers and berms up the left, tall fescue down the right and a sizeable water hazard on the right as you approach. It’s a great hole to test your will and your skill.
Mike and his team are always mindful that golf is meant to be fun. They have set up a course and clubhouse atmosphere that delivers on that promise. That promise includes a consistent level of playing conditions and more than enough value to make that short commute northwest out of the Twin Cities well worth your time and money. It’s not Scotland, but it’s darn close.