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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Cragun's 2016

Fairways & Greens
June 23, 2017

Jackpot Junction And Dacotah Ridge - Rural Legend
Dacotah Ridge #9
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Dacotah Ridge #9
Dacotah Ridge #11
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Dacotah Ridge #11
By E. Nolan


The Minnesota River Valley is a great place to escape urban chaos (almost exactly halfway between the Twin Cities Metro and Sioux Falls) for a night or weekend, and Jackpot Junction Hotel and Casino lies comfortably in the heart of it. A popular meeting place for corporate outings and large group events, with suites, deluxe accommodations and standard rooms available in the hotel, there's an option for every individual or group budget and occasion, and an expansive, full-connection RV Park outside with 30 sites for the more ambitious travelers. The hotel has a swimming pool and hot tub, an arcade to entertain the children, a fitness center with the latest exercise equipment, a business center for those who can't "really" get away, and high-speed Wi-Fi provided throughout the hotel.

Jackpot Junction is well known for its creative giveaways. In March they even gave away $96,000 cash in Friday Bean Bag competitions. (Yes, Bean Bag competitions!) April welcomes a new assortment of prize days and games, from Hot Seats to Grand Slam Giveaways, and even a Tax Break Special on Tuesday, April 18th from Noon to 8:00 pm, with each event giving away thousands in cash and game play. And those are just the specials. Every day presents additional opportunities to cash in on their 440,000 square feet of gaming action, with Bingo, pull tabs, lottery options, 24 table games and over 1,200 slot machines of traditional favorites and modern twists.

Not all of the action is on the casino floor, of course. Jackpot Junction brings in entertainment acts from around the world. Their Dacotah Exposition Center is a comfortable indoor arena that seats 2,000, and the better-weather months pack the 5,000 seat open-air amphitheater throughout the summer. In April, Jackpot Junction is welcoming Sammy Kershaw and The Purple Experience - a tribute to Prince. Their calendar is constantly updating, so if you're heading over for golf or gaming, be sure to see which celebrity might be there with you! If you're looking for a great and spacious place to hold a conference or convention, Jackpot Junction offers over 45,000 square feet of flexible meeting space with the ability and staff to cater and customize your event.

Not only can the casino cater food to large groups, it can appease the appetites of all creatures big and small. Every great casino has a great buffet, and Jackpot Junction's Seasons Buffet provides a little bit of everything with weekly and seasonal specials. In April guests will pile in to pile on at the Easter Sunday Brunch Buffet, and the Seafood Buffet on Thursday, April 26th. Players Sports Bar & Grill is a great place to watch baseball and the NBA Playoffs in April, and Wing-Out Wednesdays gives you wings for only 75 cents each 4:00 pm until midnight. Dacotah Restaurant has great steaks and daily specials - check their menu when you're there. There's a Caribou Coffee and Papa John's on site, as well as a 2GO Food Express and the Circle Bar on the game floor. The last feature restaurant at the casino is 4.9 miles down the road at the prestigious golf course - Dacotah Ridge. And it's about time we talk about the great golf at Dacotah Ridge. (Slated to open on April 14th - weather permitting.)

Dacotah Ridge is a Rees Jones championship design - the only fully designed Rees Jones course in Minnesota. Over the years Rees has developed the tightest imaginable connection with tribal groups around the country, and the mutual respect between the two parties tends to lead to spectacular results. Lauded by most as Minnesota's best public golf course south of the Twin Cities, the only real surprise to Dacotah Ridge's brilliance is the land that it was built from. Surrounded by cornfields, you'd never expect to find such a topsy-turvy, wildly meandering and thoroughly entertaining course out here. To call Mr. Jones a master for what he accomplished in little Morton, Minnesota would be a vast understatement. Given these results, its no wonder so many national casino courses have made him their first call when adding golf to their properties.

Designed to play from 5,055 to 7,109 yards, across five sets of tees, it's not sufficient to call this a links-style course, or parkland, or really any of one thing. It's more a hybrid of many elements and as loaded with challenge as it is with fun. I've played Dacotah Ridge six times in my life, and every time the rough has seemed thicker than the last. On my last visit the starter even encouraged me to avoid the rough "at all costs." I nodded. "Fairways and greens," I said, and then proceeded to drive my first tee shot into the rough. I did hit two fairways in regulation though. (Even if one of them was on a Par 3.)

I applauded the design as genius and cautioned it as tough. I need to add a few more adjectives. The fairway and greens conditions are exceptional, the rolling, prairie beauty is rampant, and the entertainment factor (when you do hit the fairway) is super high. Located off of a lightly travelled country road, the isolation of the property is heavenly - you feel like you're miles away from the nearest house.

The front nine has several signature holes including the slightly left-turning opener. As first-holes go, this is one of the best in all of Minnesota. Wind can be a pretty big factor out on the exposed portions of the course, and can make the Par 5s play really long, but the fairways are wide and you can see where you need to play your next shot to. It's just a matter of getting the ball there. The downhill Par 3, 4th and risk/reward 5th around the lake are one of several spectacular back-to-backs on this track. 7-8 is another, with a great Par 3 followed by another risk/reward Par 4.

It's hard to believe that the back side can get better, but many feel (myself included) that it does. The most popular, and arguably best hole on the course has to be the all-carry-over-water Par 3, 11th, which is followed by another 1-2 punch of water holes where accuracy is very much at a premium. You play across more open, rolling prairie and then you get to the last "power couple" - the dynamic finishing duo. These last two holes bring the big wood to us lumberjacks. The trees really shouldn't be in your way, but it's so easy to get distracted by the options of play and surrounding beauty that you're bound to hear that wooden "thunk" at least once.

Dacotah Ridge is cloaked in fescue, peppered with bunkers and water hazards, and defined by the occasional tree - a masterful mix of all elements. And, when you're done experiencing it, you have the option of one more luxurious element in the clubhouse - the Wabasha Creek Restaurant. Sitting out on the deck with a great plate of food, you get to take in the aura of the setting either in preparation for a memorable round, or in celebration of an unforgettable one. A sight to behold... and a story to be told. That is Dacotah Ridge.






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