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Cragun's 2016

Fairways & Greens
May 30, 2017

Wedgewood Cove Golf Club - Middle Of Everywhere
Wedgewood Cove #8
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Wedgewood Cove #8
Wedgewood Cove Clubhouse
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Wedgewood Cove Clubhouse
By E. Nolan


Every town needs a playground, a grocery store, gas station, library and golf course. Every town needs all of those amenities. (Not necessarily in that order though - obviously the golf course should come first.) Albert Lea is more than just a "town" and, fortunately for its 20,000 residents, they have more than just "A" golf course, but the one "must play" in the area is Wedgewood Cove.

Keeping with the trend of "mores," Wedgewood Cove is more than just a golf course. It is a social club, a fast-paced links and trees hybrid of maximum playability and minimal design hiccups... a round that takes more than four hours only if you want it to. (We played all 18 holes on a busy afternoon behind four foursomes in 3 hours and 38 minutes.) Wedgewood Cove puts the emphasis on fun... and more fun.

Given that Albert Lea is perfectly wedged at the intersection of I-90 and I-35, "The Cove" is a straight and easy shot from the Twin Cities to La Crosse, from Des Moines to even Sioux Falls. It is literally in the middle of everywhere. The questions always asked are, "What's it like?" and "Is it worth the drive?" And the only way to answer those is to tell you more about it.

I'll start with some comparisons you might relate to. Wedgewood Cove is like The Links at Northfork in the Twin Cities, like Trempealeau Mountain in La Crosse, like Otter Creek near Des Moines and Prairie Green in Sioux Falls. If you can't identify with those metropolitan reference points, I'll translate for you: fast, firm fairways, greens in near flawless conditions, more topographical hops and drops on the course than off of it, and superb service.

The great service begins at the top where "private club mentality" meets "public club accessibility." Director of Golf Donnie Teeter promotes the facility's extraordinary "social values." "Weddings, business meetings, corporate and charity outings, golf groups, leagues and/or the everyday golfers... we provide a pleasant and picturesque retreat here for everyone."

Sounds like he covered every base, but there's more to this club than even all of that. The award-winning "Wedgewood" restaurant is a fine-dining lunch and dinner draw with front-row-seating to the local scenery - lake views, wildlife, etc. Better yet, the casual diner can absorb the same menu in The Cove Bar & Grill with televisions, great appetizers and less stringent restrictions on golf shoes.

Further expanding on Mr. Teeter's description, Wedgewood Cove is easily the area's most flexible wedding host, with a customizable outdoor "chapel" space (overlooking Pickerel Lake) and The Vineyard Ballroom that can seat up to 480 with a "social area" that can accommodate 250 more. The catering is on-site and exceptional for all events, with a broad menu to please the broadest of tastes and appetites.

But it is arguably the golf that satisfies most. They typically don't track pace of play because even walkers like me can finish in less than four hours (and break 90). The Garrett Gill designed course is extremely walkable or enjoyably rideable on lightning fast carts (with mapped GPS no less). The firm links-style conditions tend to reward accuracy over length, but there are plenty of risk/reward opportunities (several Par 4 greens you can go after in one) and more than a few hazards scattered in to keep you honest. This course was always intended to be the diamond amenity in a master planned community, and recent economic prosperity is finally allowing those dreams to develop. Now, instead of residents getting a course to love, the course is drawing in residents. And why wouldn't you want to stay and play here on a daily basis?

The front nine has a few "signatures." The second hole is particularly noteworthy, and unique. Most designers use walls of trees to border their holes. Mr. Gill flips that script and uses a wall of trees to divide this hole. Over, under or through... those are your options. Forget going around the trees.

There's water in play on five holes on the front, with the par 5's being especially hazardous, but the beauty of the design shines best on the back, where you get to run along the lake and play among some more ponds. There's great debate regarding the "true signature" hole of the course. I really like the short, downhill, Par 4 eleventh hole, and tricky Par 5 fifteenth, but I'm absolutely in love with the 14th, a 3-par gem that is side and back-dropped by sparkling Pickerel Lake. No houses, no noise or unnatural interruptions. Just pure, unadulterated golf beauty.

I don't know where you're coming from, or what you love about golf, but Wedgewood Cove is well worth a 90-mile drive in my opinion. Speaking from plenty of experience.






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