The Jewel Golf Club – Make Your Day
By E. Nolan
There’s a golf course that I consider to be in the Top 5 Courses in the Twin Cities, in the Top 3 Courses in La Crosse, Wisconsin and the #1 Course in Rochester, Minnesota and it’s not (technically) in any one of those metro areas. 60 miles from the Twin Cities, 75 miles from La Crosse and 40 miles from Rochester, that course is the main attraction near the intersection of Highway 61 and Highway 63 – off a quiet little driveway I like to call “Highway 62.” That place is The Jewel Golf Club in Lake City.
Before you suggest I work on my geography, take this insight into consideration: By suggesting a course is “The Best Of” an area, I’m telling you it’s worth whatever drive you have to take from that area. A course that’s worth a 45-minute, hour, or hour-and-a-half drive to play (any day of the week) bears mention and consideration as such. Right? (Of course it does.)
Lake City is a beautiful place to live, a beautiful place to visit, and a beautiful place to play golf. Surrounded by the colorful bluffs of the Mississippi River Valley, on the banks of said mighty river, you can rest assured that the golf won’t be the only memorable part of your day. And you can easily make a full day of your visit, by getting out on the river, strolling around town or even squeezing in two rounds of golf. Each option is worth exploring. Especially the golf.
Three-time U.S. Open winner, Hale Irwin, was blessed with a stunning piece of land on which to build his greatest-ever design. Odds are he wouldn’t have taken on the challenge if he wasn’t so absolutely inspired by the topographical possibilities. He had to be smitten with the absurd opportunity to construct a links, woodland, wetland, prairie and mountain course on the same piece of land. The Jewel impressively afforded him that. Hale’s portfolio isn’t deep in quantity, but his pension for perfection, lifetime of golf play and personal PGA experiences have made his work deep in quality. Ownership spared no expense in building The Jewel, and Mr. Irwin came through on his end in delivering a (Golfweek 2017) “Top 5 in Minnesota Course” down to the last detail. I’ve contended for my ten years as a golf writer and rater that the only thing missing from this property is a lodge, but thousands of golfers have proven (over the same decade) that they don’t need one. Minnesota and Wisconsin golfers are willing to make the same day scenic drive in (and out) from all over, and rewarded with a round (or two) they can’t forget.
The front nine is mostly Links-style, with a straightforward duo to kick the round off. The challenging greens at #3 and #8 bookend a scenic foray through forest corridors, with the short Par 4 at #6 one of the most enjoyable risk/reward holes in Minnesota. Nine brings you back to the clubhouse where the steaks appease many a local patron for dinner, and the stakes on the golf course get set to double-up.
The Jewel’s back nine is a dramatic romp blitzed with bold scenery and demanding shots. Signature hole after hole await, from the lake-pinched drop on #10, to the all-carry stunner, Par 3, 11th, nestled under the bluffs. Hale maximized the “mountain effect” over the next four holes and then got a beautiful slice of wetlands for an awesome Par 5, where you’d better not slice (or hook). The variety of these 18 holes produces a “little bit of everything” compilation that most will appreciate because you get to use every club, and the green speeds are typically ramped up, demanding good control of the flat stick. Newly partnered up with the fabulous KemperSports Golf Management Company, you can be assured of finding great course conditions and a professional staff ready to accommodate you, your playing partners and even large golf groups. (The Jewel is a popular host for group events.) As a golf writer and rater for eight national/regional publications I receive hundreds of invitations to visit courses around the country each year, and The Jewel is one I never pass on. Easily the best public course in southeast Minnesota, consider that my ultimate endorsement.
Among the other things I never pass on, the Jewel Chicken Salad sandwich is phenomenal, and the Bar & Grille is a great place to hang out post-round. As I said at the beginning… you might as well make a day of your Jewel experience because it will certainly reciprocate. The Jewel will definitely make your day.