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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
August 16, 2017

Chisago Lakes Golf Course - A Top-Rated Course With A Top-Notch Atmosphere
By Colin Ritsick

During my research for this particular article leading up to playing the course for the first time, I started in a pretty obvious place - the Chisago Lakes Golf Course website. This is where I learned that they have been named a top 50 public golf course in the state as well as being the host site for the 2016 Minnesota State Open qualifier; and an image began to form in my head. It was an image that plagues golf society the country over - one of grandeur and for a lack of a better word, uppityness. Nobody wants to play a golf course where they feel judged for not having a single digit handicap. And admittedly, that is where I thought I was headed. Thankfully, I could not have been more wrong.
I got out of my car and I noticed two things immediately; the vibrant shades of green all around me, and the sound of laughter. I saw women waving to each other from a couple of holes near the clubhouse and I saw a group of men thoroughly enjoying themselves on the clubhouse patio over a beer. It was then that I realized I might have this place figured all wrong.
Warm smiles greeted me in the pro shop and easy conversation followed. I learned that Chisago Lakes is as much a golf course as it is a social scene. But after the pleasantries were exchanged and I began to relax in the friendly surroundings, I learned something else - this golf course doesn't mess around.
Water is in play on 13 holes, trees are in play on 18 holes and the greens will punish you if you've got a lead wrist. Beautifully kept up, the fairways and greens could not have been a brighter shade of green if they were painted. It's not a long course, 6,600 yards from the tips, but placement and precision is mandatory. A perfect drive means little to nothing here if you don't have control on your wedges - there's a very fine line between a good approach shot and rolling it off the back of the green here.
Most of the holes are pretty straight forward. There's little to no elevation changes and other than a couple of doglegs left and right, most holes are straight-ish. But the hazards make up for the apparent simplicity. Fairway bunkers and perfectly placed ponds make for some daunting tee shots that leave you contemplating an iron off the tee.
With the conclusion of this year's U.S. Open at Oakmont fresh in my mind, I found it amusing to see a facsimile of the famous church pew bunker at Chisago Lakes. Hole number 9 plays back into the clubhouse and is an average length par 4 with a nice, wide landing zone down the middle and to the right. But to miss it left on this hole means finding yourself in the church pews. There's hardly any distance between the grassy speed bumps, so if you are unfortunate enough to land in the sand there's a good chance that a short punch out is the only option available.
At the teebox of each hole are two things that I have never seen before. An aerial snapshot of each hole is blown up and framed with yardage markers to visible landmarks to give the golfer the overview of what's ahead. Given that I have never played the course and there were a few blind drives, this was a welcome addition to the course.
Secondly, Chisago Lakes has benches on the tee box. Now, I've seen benches on courses before, but these benches have last names stenciled into the backs of them. A closer look revealed to me that these benches namesake's have passed away and family members have sponsored that bench in their memory. It is a nice touch that resounds the idea of good golf but a commitment to a good community as well.
My day at Chisago Lakes ended as it began - with a warm conversation. I played by myself on the back nine and I flew through it. I caught up to the group ahead of me on the last couple holes and ended up joining a threesome of ladies for number 18. They immediately welcomed me to join them and were interested to hear about my first time on "their course," and they even invited me for group therapy on the patio after the round.
After driving to Lindstrom with one image in my head and leaving with a completely different, yet much better one, I have no doubts that I will return to Chisago Lakes before the season is over.

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