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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
June 23, 2017

Superior National - Great Straits
Superior National River #7 Photo Courtesy Bryan Hansel
+ click to enlarge
Superior National River #7 Photo Courtesy Bryan Hansel
Superior National along the Popular River
+ click to enlarge
Superior National along the Popular River
By E. Nolan


The best golf course on Lake Michigan is Pete Dye's Whistling Straits in Kohler, Wisconsin. There is little debate about that. Similarly, there should be little debate about the best course on Lake Superior - Superior National, in Lutsen, Minnesota. Do the two courses belong in the same conversation? I mean... they are now, aren't they?

What do the two courses have in common? Stunning panoramic lake views, dramatic and intimidating tee shots, water cutting through the course, incredible collections of par 3's and first-class service. Quite a bit, come to think of it. So, what does Whistling Straits have that Superior National doesn't? A Ryder Cup coming, $500 green fees, caddies, and showers with 12 heads in their associated lodging. Okay, there's more, but what is a golfer looking for (really needing) in a great golf round? And how do you beat the value you get at Superior National for all that you DO get? That is the better question. And the answer is... I don't know that you do.

I love Whistling Straits - don't get me wrong. (One of my five favorite courses in the entire United States.) It's not really fair to ANY course in the Midwest to even try to compare head-to-head. The point of my tete-a-tete is merely to urge you not to hastily throw all your eggs in Lake Michigan's golf basket. Lake Superior has some stunning golf and lodging on its shores, and the next-door tandem of Superior National and Lutsen Resort is all the stellar a Minnesota golfer really needs. (Especially once Jeff Brauer completes the Canyon Nine this year.)

There are 27 Audubon Sanctuary holes at Superior National - three nines: River, Mountain, and Canyon. Two of those nines (18 holes) are open now - Jeff Brauer completed a massive $4.6 million renovation on the River Nine last year, and it is spectacular... to say the VERY least. The Canyon Nine is currently under similar renovation and, when complete, will pair with the River Nine to make what (I contend) will be one of Minnesota's 6 best golf courses. I played the NEW River Nine last August and, I kid you not, there are five signature holes where there used to be just three. Not only is the epic 2nd - over the raging falls of the Poplar River - more epic, but the incredible views down the closing stretch of 6, 7 and 8, with the great tweaks to the finishing 9th have really made this 9-hole set spectacular. The Mountain Nine is packed with fun as well, just not afforded the same elevated tees and views of The River. Once the Canyon Nine is complete, the Mountain Nine will be transformed into one of Minnesota's best family courses with many options for fun being considered. (Footgolf, larger cups, Junior Tees, etc.) The goal is to make Superior National a haven for every golfer of every age, and it is well on its way.

I visited with Jeff Brauer in December, and asked him when the Canyon Nine would be open. (Having walked the holes under construction, and seen how amazing it will be, the anticipation is killing me.) "Weather permitting," Jeff said, "we hope to have it open late summer or early fall of 2017." (But you can tour it now if you're up there... and really should!) No matter when the Canyon Nine opens, I'll be there, and - if you've experienced Brauer's work at The Wilderness at Fortune Bay or Giants Ridge - you should be too. One architect with four of Minnesota's 10 Best Courses to his name... you'll have to play them all! (The best part is, you can do them all in one "Up North" loop - play all four courses for less than a round at Whistling Straits.)

90 minutes north of Duluth and 90 miles south of International Falls (Or, as my kids put it, 50 miles north of Gooseberry Falls and 20 miles south of World's Best Donuts in Grand Marais), Superior National sits in the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountain Range and on the shoulders of the beautiful Lake Superior shoreline. Adjacent the popular Lutsen Biking Trail, and a couple hundred yards up the Poplar River from Lutsen Resort (that flows under it's famous red wooden bridge), this is a golf getaway worth making.

I highly recommend a stay at Lutsen Resort, right on the lake. From there you can explore the coast (the famed Split Rock Lighthouse is only 40 miles away), sample the Maple Mustard at the Angry Trout Cafe in Grand Marais, swim and fish in the beautiful waters of Lake Superior and/or go looking for moose. There is plenty of wildlife in this area (golfers included), and plenty more that I haven't mentioned to see and do. Three days there wasn't nearly enough for my family, but it was enough for me to know we'd be going back regularly. Lutsen is Minnesota's Kohler... simpler, but closer.







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