What Is A Thumper Pond?
By R.J. Smiley
ANSWER: Thumper Pond is a resort hotel, water park and golf course near Otter Tail Lake with activities for every member of the family, summer or winter!
When the Minnesota Golf Association’s Senior Tour scheduled a two-day event at Thumper Pond and Balmoral, golfers said, “Where the heck are those golf courses? Why would the MGA schedule an event there?” Now, we know the answer.
As we wound through the pine tree laden lane that leads to the massive resort hotel and water park our pulse quickened as we caught a glimpse of the golf course carved through the trees. In one sweeping glance, our eyes traveled from the pro shop past Willy T’s Tavern to the lobby of the hotel. The huge parking lot was almost full and I said to my playing partner, “Wow this is a heck of a lot more than I had expected.” A phrase I would use several times before leaving this well thought out property.
Hotel check-in went normally except when the clerk asked if we wanted our free water park passes. “They are included in the room charge.” She informed us. On our way to the room we made a little detour and checked out the water park. What a pleasant surprise. Though not huge, the water park contained several slides, a hot tub (for lazy adults) and a lazy river. I overheard a mom comment as we walked past, “This place is the perfect size. The kids think they have complete freedom but I can still keep an eye on them.” We had reserved the standard room, but were surprised at the larger than expected size and the little extras that make you feel like someone really cares.
Our next stop was Willy T’s Tavern for lunch before our shotgun start at 1:00. Again the attention to detail was exceptional. The menu contained an interesting variety of all freshly prepared family favorites and the informed wait staff could answer all our menu questions. We chose to sit on the deck overlooking the picturesque, water guarded 18th hole. Our waitress informed us that Thumper Pond hosts up to 50 weddings each year, many overlooking the green. We were drawn to old photographs that dominate the walls at Willy T’s Tavern. The old black and white photos represent a history lesson from Otter Tail County’s interesting recreational past.
The driving range is located some distance from the pro shop so the staff was kept busy shuttling golfers back and forth. Our driver was Dave Sadlowsky, newly appointed head professional, who learned the people pleasing side of the golf business as an assistant at Olympic Hills, the private club in Eden Prairie. Proof that Thumper Pond is striving for a quality golf experience. The golf course is a well maintained blend of open links style holes and typical Minnesota design with elevation change with some holes lined with hardwood and others lined with pines. The approach shots, over the water, on #18 leave a lasting impression in each golfer’s mind.
As we sat around Willy T’s sipping cocktails after dinner, several of the golfer’s wives mentioned that the spa was a perfect place to spend a lazy afternoon, and….there are no bubble bogies. I was surprised how many Senior Tour players had cabins on Otter Tail Lake. These proud owners informed us that the walleye fishing is excellent but that Otter Tail is also known for a variety of Minnesota game fish. Our waitress overheard our fishing conversation and informed us that the staff at Thumper Pond could arrange almost any kind of lake activity from fishing guide to pontoon rental. “Don’t forget the winter fishing,” she said, “It is my husband’s favorite time to fish.” She also informed us that the snowmobile trails are adjacent the hotel with plenty of room for the riders to store their trailers and other gear. She mentioned that the staff maintains over two miles of groomed trails across the golf course for cross-country skiers. “This is a great place to work, we keep busy year-round. We have some corporate parties that come here just for the out-of-the-way location. We have even arranged trips to a nearby hunting preserve where they get their limit.” She said with a smile that said…we know those city boys can’t shoot straight.
The alarm sounded too early the next day as we packed up and headed for Balmoral Golf Course, located only 5 miles from Thumper Pond. Again the entire group was all smiles as we explored the secrets of the 50+ year-old golf course with its huge trees, small quick putting greens and severe elevation changes.
As I reflect back on our trip, I realize that Thumper Pond might be the best kept resort secret in Minnesota, but not for long.