Gopher Hills – Beyond Expectations
By Brad Parrott
When looking at “About the Course” on the Gopher Hills website it starts out: “With 27 holes on three distinctive nines….”. That couldn’t be truer and the variety of each nine (The Heath, The Glen, and Executive Nine) is one of the reasons golfers return to Gopher Hills. I would also recommend that they consider adding another adjective, “great conditions”! This was my first visit to Gopher Hills. After driving through the countryside south of Hastings, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I didn’t realize at the time, but I was about to be pleasantly surprised.
Where the pavement ends on Nicolai Avenue between Hastings and Red Wing you are greeted by a large beautiful clubhouse waiting for your arrival. As you pull into the parking lot adjacent to the driving range; you can pick out some of the holes amongst the rolling hills that give you an idea of what’s in store for you on the front nine.
Take a scorecard and notice that each hole is uniquely named. You will also notice that from the tips; Gopher Hills measures a modest 6,355 yards, and from the white tees it is just less than 6,000 yards. With today’s focus on longer courses, some would consider that short. Don’t let “short” fool you, short doesn’t necessarily make it easy, and Gopher Hills can put many golfers in situations they are not normally comfortable with.
On the first tee you’re able to take a good look at most of the front nine holes. The theme for the front nine (The Heath), you will quickly figure out, is rolling hills, long native grasses in the rough, and above of all – wind. Just one of those three can cause havoc, let alone all three. Those conditions are also a reason to not take the yardage lightly; play smart!
The open rolling holes start to tighten up when you hit hole #7, creatively named “Ichabod’. This is not a terribly long par 5, but don’t get too excited yet. “Ichabod’ bends slightly to the right with woods, water, and long grass on the right and out of bounds on the left. Accuracy continues to be a priority over distance, especially on this hole.
Heading to the back nine (The Glen) almost seems to bring you to another golf course. Remember the three distinct nines? The rolling hills and long grass continue although there are notable changes. Thankfully the tree lined fairways help keep the wind under control and but you will also notice greater changes in elevation.
Hole #10 (named Hook) is a short dogleg left to make sure your game is still in check, and then it is time to start experiencing the elevation changes. It’s decision time with two fairways on #11 (Vale); right is safe or aim left down “The Chute” for a chance to be on the green in two. An accurate shot down “The Chute” settles at the bottom of the hill short of the water that is just 25 yards in front of the green. The inward nine continues with the “protective” trees helping block some of the wind, long native grasses in the rough, and the ever-present undulations.
If you don’t have time to play a full 18 holes of golf or if you are looking to practice your short game, Gopher Hills also has a very challenging Executive Nine hole track, the third nine. Keeping with the same theme as their regulation course, don’t let the length fool you. The Executive Nine is laid out next to the front nine and has much of the same characteristics. You will experience the rolling hills, long native grass, and of course the challenging wind.
Gopher Hills also has a full driving range and offers lessons with PGA Professional Nate Petric. Nate has been in the golf industry for 12 years and studied at Arizona State University’s Professional Golf Management Program. He started his career in Arizona, and then moved back to Minnesota in 2010.
Gopher Hills is the home of McArthur’s Wood Grill And Banquet Facility. McArthur’s has a full menu and is open from 11 am to sunset. Whether you have to fuel back up or celebrate your first hole in one (as I did on hole #2), you will find something for everyone in the grill.
I was surprised by the banquet facility. I didn’t expect the causal luxury that I found out in the country. The setting is beautiful with a large stone fireplace and incredible views of the golf course. The dÃ©cor is comfortable making it perfect for business meetings, golf events, weddings and parties.
When you are looking for an affordable and nice place to hit the links, Gopher Hills Golf Course is one to consider. Gopher Hills offers everything a golfer could want from a challenging 18 hole course that offers plenty of “risk-reward” shots, to a quick nine hole game, to working on improving your scoring clubs, to fine casual dining and unexpected incredible banquet facilities.