About | Contact | Advertising | Email Updates
Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Cragun's 2016

Fairways & Greens
June 25, 2017

The Castle Course At Northern Bay Resort & Marina - Play It Again For The First Time
The Castle Course #10
+ click to enlarge
The Castle Course #10
The Castle Course #11
+ click to enlarge
The Castle Course #11
By Eric N. Hart

What can be said about The Castle Course at Northern Bay Resort and Marina that hasn't already been said? Well, that depends entirely on the audience. Very little need be said if you're one of the fortunate who has already stayed and/or played there. On the other hand, a great deal should be said to all attentive readers who have not yet made the brief trek to the Midwest's most original replica golf course. (To the literate, that contradiction in terms was both intentional and accurate.) Less than 200 miles southeast of the Twin Cities, 30 miles north of Wisconsin Dells, and "A Million Miles From Ordinary" is a destination unlike any in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and/or 40-some other states. (Tour 18 Design also has twin replica courses in Texas.)

Northern Bay Resort and Marina is snugly set on the shoreline of Castle Rock Lake, with fully furnished lakeside and golf-side condos (and homes) available for rent on a nightly, weekly or even monthly basis. (Depending on how many vacation days you have.) Activities beyond golf abound within its expansive perimeter, with playgrounds, tennis, swimming (in the outdoor pool or sandy beach area), boating, hiking and biking trails. There is a state-of-the-art golf practice facility, with putting greens, practice chipping areas and a driving range. (All included with your round.) But the "Signature" attraction is the Castle Course and its "7 Standout Replicas."

Any replica course without a Pete Dye / TPC Sawgrass #17 remake would be an instant failure. The most iconic, and imitated, hole in golf is engrained in the memory bank of any television golf viewer. The Castle Course has that hole as its 10th hole, directly in front of the clubhouse and (appropriately named) Island View Restaurant, where a raucous audience is easily entertained by the plethora of failures to hold the green. I was told on my last visit that over 8,000 balls are pulled from that pond alone each year. Interestingly enough, I believe that's the only pond on the course I have NOT hit into. (Dang it. Announcer jinx.)

A quick run through of the other six replicas will either refresh your memory or give you that many more reasons to move your car wheels two-by-two to Arkdale, WI. Augusta National's 13th and 16th are here. The 13th "Azalea" is the finishing hole on Amen Corner, and the 16th "Redbud" is the famed par 3 over water... where Tiger Woods hit the chip shot he claims was "probably his best shot ever." There's Donald Ross's 5th hole at Oakland Hills and Firestone's 16th (one of the longest holes on the PGA Tour) where Tiger Woods hit his famous "Shot in the Dark." They have the "Church Pews" of Oakmont's 3rd hole and the replicas come to an end on the final hole of the Castle Course, with Arnold Palmer's most famous design, #18 at Bay Hill. Its finish along the water (also adjacent the Castle Course clubhouse) with the nerve-wracking approach to a narrow green will either make or break your round. A marble plaque that gives its background, significance, etc memorializes each replica hole, on the course. The intent is obviously to get each guest to attempt to replicate the listed feat, however unlikely it may be. The replicas are great but, as one golf writer (and Viking fan) told me at the Minnesota Golf Show, "If those were the best holes at the Castle Course it would leave you wanting for more. The fact that several of the other eleven holes are just as good, or better, is what makes the course a can't miss." I don't always agree with Viking fans (ask my wife) but I agree(d) with this one. There are few, if any, holes out here that you won't appreciate. (Depending, of course, on how you're treated by "the Island.")

Northern Bay Golf Resort and Marina, remains, in all fairness, in its infancy. It is still the "New Kid on the Block" in the Wisconsin Dells "Neighborhood." The other powerhouse resorts have their showcase courses, and attract from the thousands of people who weekly visit the "Waterpark Capital of the World." Northern Bay is on the outside looking in, not for lack of class or value, but because so many travelers still don't even know it's there. The General Manager told us, "We get people who come here every day for the first time and tell us they had no idea we were here. They were directed by word of mouth. They are impressed by the rate, impressed by the facilities and rewarded by the entire experience. Easily half of them tell us we have the most entertaining course in the area and that they'll definitely be back. There is a small portion of the public that thinks we're either closed or too far away, but most people know we're close by and open for play every day. The fact that our rounds have risen every consecutive year for four years now tells us that more people than ever know what they'll get here and are telling others to come too."

That certainty, in the numbers, allows management to maintain superior course conditions throughout the year, and to entertain future expansions that wouldn't have been possible just a few short years ago. We do our part to direct traffic to the Castle Course because we remember our first time there and how much of an absolute blast it was. If others had any idea, they'd head over there this weekend to get in on the fun.

As briefly mentioned earlier, Northern Bay does have additional valuable amenities... their Island View Restaurant and associated Tiki Bar. Managing Partner Darrel Malek is proud of their successful food and beverage operations and appreciates that they "successfully rival their competition and exceed each golfer's expectations." He goes further. "Our Island View Restaurant is the perfect post round opportunity to commiserate over on course misfortunes and be entertained by the misfortune of others on the island green and Bay Hill replicas just yards from the outdoor patio. It is an incredible setting." It definitely is. The Tiki Bar is right at their marina on Castle Rock Lake. Many boaters arrive from beyond the resort, honestly from all over the lake, nightly for drink specials and snacks. There are both indoor and outdoor seating, volleyball courts and fire pits, even indoor and outdoor flat screen TV's and live entertainment Fridays and Saturdays throughout the summer months.

If you've followed my writing and reviews for Tee Times the past three years you all know I have my favorite destinations. You also know that you can bank on my recommendations and that you've never been disappointed when you've taken my travel advice to heart. With that in mind, trust me when I tell you that the Castle Course at Northern Bay (especially your first time) is nearly as much fun as you can legally have on a golf course. Every time I've been there they've had great course conditions, great food and great service. I love it there and go every year. That should tell you all you need to know. Go!

Article Comment Submission Form
Please feel free to submit your comments.

Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it.

Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.
Submit an Article Comment
First Name:
Last Name:
Anti-SPAM Passcode Click here to see a new mix of characters.
This is an anti-SPAM device. It is not case sensitive.

Advanced Search

Craguns 2017

Site Design and Content
Copyright 2017 Tee Times Magazine

Software © 1998-2017 1up! Software, All Rights Reserved