Heritage Links Golf Club – A Links Legacy In Lakeville
By Will Brogan
Harry Vardon contributed many lasting legacies to golf that still exist today: he taught us the grip with interlocking fingers (“Vardon grip”), showed us that more comfortable golf clothing results in better play, and also provided the sport with a superstar – winning seven majors – in the years between the duo of Old Tom and Young Tom Morris and the legendary Bobby Jones.
Still, the most famous man from Jersey left a lesser-known legacy that can be found on golf courses throughout the world – perhaps none more than at Heritage Links Golf Club in Lakeville, Minnesota. Vardon’s official designs stayed in the British Isles, but his belief that golfers of all abilities should be afforded the opportunity to enjoy their round – strategically – has been echoed by the likes of Ross, Dye, and many others.
Vardon, however, was the first to really adhere to the idea of horizontal hazards creating a decision to be made by the golfer. Carry the hazard, or take the cautious route. It seems commonplace today, and it is, but Vardon’s books about this philosophy carried over to the designs seen in this country.
That’s where Heritage Links comes in. The Joel Goldstrand designed track that opened in 1997 is far from a links course, but there are several themes of the course that can be traced quickly back to the game’s heritage, pun somewhat intended.
Take a look on the course’s website or Google Earth them if you have not played. The aforementioned strategic philosophy can be found in some form on more than half the holes. What makes Heritage Links stand out from other courses in the area is that it really makes you think about how you should play your shots to set up the subsequent shots on the hole, more than most courses. Heritage Links is one of those courses that makes you stand on the tee box, see the lay of the hole, and have the following thought run through your head: “let me look at the yardage book one more time.” However…
If you’re right and execute the shot effectively, you’ll be rewarded with a great scoring opportunity, regardless of your skill level. That would make a golf legend like Vardon happy. Heritage Links used to have an aesthetic look similar to the courses Vardon would have won his record half-dozen Open Championships on, but the golden-hued prairie grasses that lined most fairways had even more bite than they did bark.
“We loved that look, but six and a half hour rounds aren’t fun for anyone. No one could find their ball, so we got rid of it. Now, you can find it and play it and still have a chance to score,” explains Club Pro Brett Martinson. Who doesn’t love a scoring opportunity in golf?
As a 6,672 yard, par 71 golf course, you’ll get a little bit of everything in terms of yardage and layout, though there aren’t many “sharp angle” holes. The first four holes are extremely inviting and afford any golfer the chance to get off to a good start – whether it be in scoring or confidence.
From there, visual deception comes into play and becomes the defining characteristic of the course (as you’ll probably hear from word-of-mouth or internet reviews). Pins look like they’re in marshes, bunkers and ponds are hidden, and a dozen or so shots look either longer or shorter than they actually are. All of these aspects present another decision for golfers to make, but this one is economical: do you buy a yardage book to see the lay of the land and get a bearing on the hazards, or do you risk it and lose enough balls to cover the cost of that yardage book? Without the book, you’re looking at a more expensive day, and any veteran or member of this track will tell you that.
However, in no way does that take away from the joy of playing Heritage Links. You really start to feel the Vardon style on the backside, as each of the remaining holes offer a decision to be made the whole way from tee to green. It’s a chess match with the golf course, but you get to deliver checkmate with an iron or wedge in your hand!
Perhaps the most exciting hole on the course is the 270-yard par 4 thirteenth: the ultimate risk/reward golf hole. While waiting to play a nearby hole, I observed a woman completing a birdie after an approach from the fairway, while one of her playing partners two-putted for his own birdie. A neat golf hole with ample options, and a microcosm of what makes Heritage Links a great place to play golf.
If you haven’t recently been to the expanding city of Lakeville for eighteen with your buddies and your clubs, consider Heritage Links Golf Club. The course’s name – Heritage – is appropriate, paying homage to those who left a legacy in this great game…like Harry Vardon.