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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
June 23, 2017

The Jewel Golf Club - Minnesota Awesome
The Jewel #8
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The Jewel #8
The Jewel #10
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The Jewel #10
E. Nolan

Highway 61 runs north and south along the Mississippi River. For all intents and purposes, for 140 beautiful miles between La Crosse and St. Paul, it is the Minnesota/Wisconsin state line. The towering bluffs, soaring eagles, waterfront towns and bountiful stunning-ness... all of that, and The Jewel Golf Club is right there in the middle. Smack dab in the middle of not just Minnesota Nice, but Minnesota freaking awesome.

The Jewel is the measuring stick for all the other golf courses along the river. There are some with more holes, some with more vistas, some with more amenities, but none with more "wow." Other than my personal dislike for the turtle shell that is the #8 green, these are unquestionably the best public putting surfaces in southeast Minnesota. This is the course you come to for a heat check - to find out if you've really got game. For those like me, it is often the Jewel of denial - letting me know I'm not quite there yet - but man do we still love to play it. And I'll drive out there every day, if I can, to keep trying.

The Jewel has the aura of a private club - a distinguished, exclusive place. You don't feel like you should be able to play it without special privileges, which is apropos, considering it is always a special privilege to play it. Clubs with that feel are always well run, a testimony to management and especially to jack-of-all-trades Professional Kent Blaschko. Given his background out east, at some pretty iconic clubs, he knows what a top-tier course should look and feel like. So how does he feel about this one?

"Lake City and the Jewel... they're special. The people make the place," he says. "From the course operators to the golfers. Everyone is appreciated here and feels that way." (Very true.) "When you pay to play a course the experience should feel like a treat... a reward for your investment. Hopefully every golfer feels rewarded leaving here." (We do.) "It's definitely a privilege to work here... well worth the daily drive."

Sometimes I think, as golfers, we forget about the efforts of the people who set the stage for our game. We'll drive an hour to play a landmark course a couple times a month or so. (In good weather.) Some of these guys - these professionals - they do it every day. (Rain, snow or shine.) Their routine investment is our reward. It's what people like Kent and his staff do that make it worth the drive from everywhere for all of us to play a stellar track like The Jewel. I always try to remember that. It's why I also always try to remember to say "thank you." We're blessed to have places like this in Minnesota!

If you're a Twin Cities golfer who's never played The Jewel, you're scarcely an hour away from a Hale Irwin masterpiece - a tale of two diverse nines, and eighteen opportunities to post a snowman. Kidding. (Mostly.) It's not that the course is too difficult - not at all - it's just that everything else you play in southeast Minnesota is built differently. Nothing in the area compares, or prepares you for this. So it helps that The Jewel has a great driving range and chipping area to help you warm up. It helps that they start you out easy - two straightforward par-able holes before you get tested. And it also helps to play the right tees. (Please.) I've heard Kent say it, and I'll say it, too. "The only way you hate this course is if you play it wrong." (Know your own limitations and game.)

The front nine has a handful of standout holes with some rather extreme greens (#3 and #8). The stretch from 5 to 7 is superb, with a short Par 3 followed by a super-short Par 4, and then another great Par 3. It is the perfect course for best-ball formats - allowing go-for-broke swingers with nothing to lose to pursue some of these dicey pin locations. (No wonder it's so popular for big group outings!)

The back is more of the same quality, just in greater quantities. The 10th hole is the best hole on the course until the 11th, then the 11th is the best until the 15th, and then the 15th is until the 16th. It is one-up after one-up... the oh-so-memorable steps to a permanent love affair for me and so many.

I love playing The Jewel in the fall, when the high-definition colors boom from the bluffs. But truthfully, I love being out here whenever. Sitting at the bar having a drink, stopping by for dinner, taking it all in. I thank everyone I can when I'm here, especially Kent, because I know what we'd be missing if The Jewel wasn't here.

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