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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Craguns 2017

Fairways & Greens
June 23, 2017

Wedgewood Cove On Pickerel Lake
Wedgewood Cove #17
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Wedgewood Cove #17
Wedgewood Cove #14
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Wedgewood Cove #14
By E. Nolan

What is the southernmost great course in Minnesota? That's easy, Wedgewood Cove. 80 miles south of the Twin Cities in Albert Lea, and about 10 miles north of the Iowa state line, this course draws its crowds from all over, even residents in Sioux Falls and La Crosse. Head Golf Professional Donnie Teeter says, "We're kind of at the crossroads of everything here, and that's always worked great for us."

It should, because Wedgewood Cove is a great place to stop for a 3.5 hour break. (I've never had a round at Wedgewood Cove take four hours.) On my last visit there, my son and I were placed behind a foursome of regulars. One of them walked up to me and shook my hand. "First time here," he asked. "Fifth," I replied. "Well, don't worry about us," he said. "We're pretty fast." (I've heard that claim a million times before really slow rounds.) "Okay," I nodded, figuring we'd be waiting all day. The two of us never caught the four of them. They had relatively lax putting rules, but truthfully, the course conditions and playability are conducive to fast, fun rounds, and when you know how to golf the right way (fast), Wedgewood Cove is an idyllic place to play. Part of the reason why I keep driving over there from Rochester.

Beauty and diversity are two other qualities to appreciate at this course. Wedgewood Cove is a 6,993 yard, 18-hole, championship routing set on 245 acres along the shores of Pickerel Lake. Generally considered a Links-style course, there are other elements that come into play just enough to keep it from being exclusively classified as any one thing. I mentioned that it plays fast - the fairways are firm and wide, the holes shaped towards the greens, and the greens quick and true. That is very much Links-style. But Garrett Gill and his design company had a little fun here with some holes as well. The second hole, for instance, has you cutting over the edge of a pond to reach safety on the left side of the fairway, but you have the option off the tee to go straight at the hole... over or through a distant wall of tall trees. It's risk/reward for sure, and a great way to test the theory that trees are 90% air. (I've found the 10% that is wood, here, several times.)

The front nine has several other great holes that will test your mettle. The intimidating fourth hole makes you dodge and weave around three ponds on the way to a skinny, speed-sloped green. Six is a fun par 3 over another pond, and seven is a reasonable chance at birdie, if you don't hit into the water that splits the hole, off the tee.

This is a master-planned community course, but the houses never interfere with the play or the aura. You're best off forgetting whatever you scored on the front nine as you make the turn, because the back feels like a completely different course. I've started my round on the 10th hole before, and the pond all the way down the left side sure makes it nerve-wracking. The trouble switches to the right on #11, one of my favorite holes on the course, then switches back to the left on #12, then back to the right on #13. The zigzag nature of those first four holes on the back mandates that you have your tee game figured out. (Don't mix up your slices and hooks!) I want to draw your attention to two stellar holes on the back. I already mentioned one of them - the short par 4, 11th. It requires a water carry and the ability to keep your ball left. Definitely reachable in one, it's a tee shot I always love to take. The other back favorite is the par 3, 14th on the edge of Pickerel Lake. A pretty little downhill shot over a pond, it's the one hole on the course that always seems unaffected by the wind. If you miss the green, the only element at fault is your skill.

Locals love the golf experience at Wedgewood Cove, but they also love "The Wedgewood" - the club's fine-dining establishment in the clubhouse, open for both lunch and dinner. Golfers tend to come in early or stay late to enjoy the same menu as The Wedgewood in a more casual, setting around the bar and TVs at "The Cove."

Wedgewood Cove can also easily host large golf events. They have a great wedding/banquet facility that can accommodate over 400, with full-length windows that overlook the lake and golf course. Summer ceremonies can be particularly stunning at their outdoor venue on Pickerel Lake. Picturesque and perfect.

There's plenty to please the people of Albert Lea at Wedgewood Cove, and more and more visitors are stopping in to get a piece of that pleasure for themselves.

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