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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
August 16, 2017

Ruttger's - Golf On The Quiet Side Of Brainerd
By R.J. Smiley

Before the turn of the century (the 20th Century) Joseph Ruttger, great grandfather of resort President, Chris Ruttger, would have never dreamed that his farm on Bay Lake would one day be on the quiet side of Brainerd. Ruttger's resort began when the family rented the loft in the barn and fed guests three square meals a day. From that humble tradition, that old farm has morphed into the oldest resort in Minnesota owned continuously by one family. In the early days Brainerd was a boomtown centered around the timber business and the railroad that transported lumber back to civilization.

In recent years the Brainerd Lakes Area has vaulted to the summit of Minnesota Golf with a collection of great golf courses. The area is ranked among the top golf destinations in the world. Ruttger's has always been a part of the Brainerd Lakes Area, but some people felt that Ruttger's was located on the wrong side of Brainerd.

Turning lemons into lemonade, Dave McMillan, the new marketing manager at Ruttger's created a new marketing slogan, "Ruttger's is located on the quiet side of Brainerd."

Ruttger's is a family resort with a stable clientele that returns year after year. With a variety of comfortable accommodations, the resort can cater to groups of any size. From simple hotel rooms to spacious luxury condominiums, the resort keeps the beds cozy, but modern in every way. The main resort and many of the units overlook Bay Lake. With a clean lake where kids can catch sunnies, and dad can chase all of Minnesota's game fish, the resort has remained relevant. The simple pleasure of paddling a canoe on sky blue waters transcends time.

The restaurants at Ruttger's feature comfort food sure to please any pallet. Even though the resort dates back more than 100 years, management does not live in the past. With a finger on the ever-changing pulse of travelers, the resort has continually added the amenities that today's fickle resort guests demand. With tennis courts, an executive golf course, a championship golf course, and the latest video games; the resort has something for everyone.

The executive course, Alex's Nine, is the oldest resort golf course in Minnesota. Opened in 1921, Alex's Nine is used primarily by kids and inexperienced golfers, but seasoned players are surprised at the challenges presented on this well maintained par 34 course.

For golfers who regularly play golf on metropolitan area courses, the first journey around the Lakes Course creates an unexpected experience. First time players are surprised at the quiet and solitude found in the wilderness that is as unspoiled today as the property was when Joseph Ruttger homesteaded in the late 1800's.

The Lakes Course has been a work in progress since it opened. The dedicated staff has continuously worked to improve the turf conditions on this true north woods gem. "Since the very beginning, the Ruttger family insists that guests be treated just like family," said Dave Sadlowsky, Head Golf Professional. "Now that all the recent improvements to the golf course are fully grown in and the turf has matured, the resort has purchased new maintenance equipment to give our guests 'perfect' playing conditions. With our guests in mind, we are confident that the playing conditions on the Lakes Course will be among the best in Minnesota."

"For the 2017 golf season we have put a sharp pencil to the pricing of our golf packages. The package that seems to be a favorite offers unlimited golf on the Lakes Course or Alex's Nine and cart and range balls. Many golfers are planning to come to Ruttger's and get a complete spring tune up in one or two days."

In our conversation, Sadlowsky shared several email quotes that illustrate Ruttger's commitment to quality golf.

"During the entire 2016 golf season the course was in the best condition I have seen in my 15 years coming to Ruttger's. We appreciate the fact that ownership and the experienced staff continuously work to improve."

"I had never played Ruttger's before. To say I was impressed is an understatement. The golf course flows with the natural landscape. It does not feel like the golf course was constructed, it feels like it was always there. Almost every hole is a signature hole, especially the par 3 holes."

"Talk about great finishing holes, the last three holes at Ruttger's could be on any golf course in the world. The non-stop drama begins on 16 and continues until the final putt."

Quotes like these define the Lakes Course. For scratch golfers there are many birdies to be had through 15, but the real test begins with the second shot over the lake on the risk-reward par 5, 16th. After a great tee shot on the thimble tight 17th, golfers are left with an approach over a pond that mirrors the 12th at the Augusta. But the 18th is where the golf course get its name.

It is worth the price of a green fee just to play the par 3, 18th. No fairway mower is needed on this all carry over Bass Lake hole. From any of the four tees there is no safe way to play the hole. Every tee shot must carry over the lake. "There is a story about a hard-headed golf pro who ran out of balls during a pro-am attempting to get one in play." (Local rule: after two in the lake, carry it to the drop area on the far side.) Once onto the putting surface, a two putt is another dramatic test. Famed golf course designer, Joel Goldstrand, created one of his largest and most creative greens on the 18th at Ruttger's.

Authors note: Before you hit your tee shot on the first hole, step out onto the deck overlooking Bass Lake and the 18th green. Take a long look at how big the green on the 18th really is. From the tee the steep bunker filled bank, that fronts the green, makes the green appear small. In truth the green is huge. Just take plenty of club and trust your swing. Any par on this hole deserves an adult beverage from your group.

Ruttger's management knows that everyday all summer long cars loaded with golfers, heading for the big name courses north of Brainerd, drive past the turnoff on Highway 6. Dave Sadlowsky and the entire Ruttger's staff extend an invitation to stop, on the quiet side of Brainerd, and give the Lakes Course at try.

The experience will be memorable, you might even become a member of the extended Ruttger family.

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