The Bluffs At Coffee Mill – Value High
By E. Nolan
Golf journalists love it when their subjects have so much going for them that the pieces pretty much write themselves. (My wife wishes the same could be said for grad papers.) Such is definitely the case for The Bluffs at Coffee Mill. Under new ownership (and name) since March of 2012, it was a special property before, with amazing views down to the Mississippi and over the entire river valley but The Bluffs (formerly Coffee Mill) used to be about potential vs. the experience. People spoke of it in terms of what it could be vs. what it actually was. Many intelligent golfers tired of that, lost hope and moved on. And then the new owners, Gregg and June Alper, took the closing windows of opportunity and kicked them wide open.
Today, the Bluffs stands bolder, faster, better, than it was a year ago, and on every hole there is evidence of what is being done to make it even better yet. But as everyone should know, the quantity of renovations means little without quality in those renovations. The Alpers got that, and with all that they’ve already done it’s evident they still get it. Gone is much of the ball magnet brush that once was so frustrating. Gone are the rock and clay bunkers, replaced with just the right texture and amount of real soft sand. Gone are many tee shots that corrupted great drives into terrible results, with so many of the formerly lumpy, sloped and misdirected tee boxes of yore now smoothed, realigned and/or outright replaced.
If you’d ever played Coffee Mill before and said to yourself. “Man this place could be so dang good!” Well…it’s a whole lot better now than it was when you said that, which is more than can be said for many of their local competitors. Yes, while many courses in the area have sat on their hands and economy pinched resources, the Alpers continue to write checks applying generous green to the greens and fairways here, turning potential into reality. Coffee Mill Golf Course was a property. The Bluffs at Coffee Mill is becoming a destination.
And there’s plenty more in the works. The clubhouse has been renovated. It is bright and airy now, open and welcoming. The menu has been revolutionized, so much so that it now has many of the locals leaving the riverside seats in adjacent Wabasha to come up for some bluff view dining. And many other family enrichment opportunities are on the way. (Think volleyball, beanbags, etc…) Beyond the golf season, expect an indoor golf center, with simulators, for the winter, yielding even more lesson opportunities, and more benefits for all.
Where golfers from Minneapolis and St. Paul used to stop 20 minutes north, at The Jewel, they’re now coming further down to check out The Bluffs. “Most of our golf traffic has typically been from Rochester and La Crosse,” June Alper states. “Where we might very well be the best, or favorite, public golf course in reasonable driving range from each. But now the Twin Cities golfers are checking us out, and the feedback has been phenomenal. We know how great the Jewel is (pauses) but we’re thrilled that now people are saying we’re worth the drive as well, and we believe that together we make a highly rewarding 1-2 (one day or weekend) punch for anyone.”
There are several impressive, memorable, holes. Beginning with the innovative salad bowl greens at the consecutive (Par 4) 2nd and (Par 3) 3rd holes, and the always-serene 7th hole. But the best holes on the course are arguably on the back. Signature shots include the approach from the silo to the pond guarded green on #11, and my favorite hole on the course – #14, a “100 mile” panoramic tee shot to another pond guarded green (Par 3).
And that takes us to the 17th hole. Destined to be THE “signature” hole at The Bluffs. With insight as keen as a (Wabasha regular) circling bald eagle’s eyesight, the Alpers purchased a home lot adjacent the green and cut away all the trees, opening up the view to Wabasha’s bridge and the Catholic church steeple miles below. In doing so they also created space for a second green at the edge of the bluff on the 17th hole, allowing this hole, in the future, to play two very different ways. When you see it, you’ll agree…the new tee shot is going to be an incredible one.
A page is not enough to say everything that needs to be said about this course. The Alpers have added length, added heart, and added hope to the golf scene in and around Wabasha. Their generous investment is to everyone’s benefit, as they remain determined to keep their price low and, as a result, their value sky high.