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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
August 16, 2017

Whitefish Golf Course - A Comfortable Place To Play
Whitefish #12 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
+ click to enlarge
Whitefish #12 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
Whitefish #9 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
+ click to enlarge
Whitefish #9 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
By R.J. Smiley

The dictionary defines comfortable: Providing physical ease and relaxation.

When Tee Times asked General Manager and Head Golf Professional, Steve Bengtson, to describe his golf course, he said, "Whitefish is a comfortable place to play." Then he expounded on the variety of ways that he and his experienced staff utilize their beautiful golf course to provide a very comfortable golf experience to players of all skill levels.

Back in 1968 a group of local business and area cabin owners decided that the area needed a golf course. The informal group formed a corporation sold a few shares of stock and built a golf course. The nine-hole course was built without much professional help. Fairways were carved through the virgin forest. The result was a series of beautiful fairways lined with white pines, maples and oaks. Credit must be given to the original developers who left several white pines in strategic locations to accent certain holes.

The golf course quickly became a regular stop for those who frequent the area. As the popularity of Whitefish Golf Course increased, it became obvious that the facility required expansion. In 1983 the shareholders brought in golf architect, Don Herfort, to blend a second nine holes with the original nine. Upon completion, the Herfort designed holes had a more professional and finished look. During the years since Bengtson became GM, the greens on the original nine have been replaced and sand bunkers have been added. Today Whitefish Golf Course is a beautifully maintained, mature golf course. Rickie Ellestad and his small, but efficient, maintenance crew have created a special niche, a beautiful, comfortable and player friendly place to play golf.

Golfers enjoy the natural north woods feel of Whitefish. As golfers take this tour through the forest, they often see deer that roam and forage on and around the golf course. It is not unusual to see eagles soaring with a freshly caught fish clinched tightly in their talons.

Bengtson says, "People love our golf course. We don't have all the trouble and forced carries that players have to navigate at some course. Whitefish is just a fun and comfortable layout for all. That does not mean that our golf course is not challenging. We have members who own cabins in the area that are members of some of the prestigious private clubs in The Cities. They love playing our golf course, especially with family and friends who are not low handicap golfers. If they take those players to some of the areas challenging courses, nobody has any fun. Our course is long enough, 6,500 yards from the back tees to be respected and short enough, 5,500 yards from the front tees, to be fun. We have a comfortable place to play golf."

Bengtson, who is in his 22nd year as GM, has learned to cater to the needs of the public golf market. "We have leagues that play on Tuesday and Wednesday mornings. One of our favorite leagues is the couples league that plays late on Sunday afternoon. After golf they stay for dinner and cocktails. Doug Knox who manages Bogey's Grill always creates something special for these regular customers."

"In addition to our season membership programs, we also offer what we call 'The Cabin Card' that area property owners and the general public can purchase. The card gives the purchaser tremendous flexibility. We offer a 20-play card and a 40-play card, with or without cart. We allow up to 12 players to use the card on a single day. This is great for family reunions! The Cardholder may give the card to friends or family to use. Another real advantage of the Cabin Card is that it allows charging privileges in the bar and grill."

The other thing that Whitefish is really good at is hosting small outings or golf tournaments. "We like to call them Buddy Groups. Anything more than 8 players is a Buddy Group. Our course has become very popular for bachelor and bachelorette parties. In these groups we get players of all abilities. Again with our comfortable course all the players can enjoy the round. Our staff will custom design the package that the organizer of the Buddy Group wants. Everything from Hole-In-One insurance to catered food and beverage. Some of our best customers learned about Whitefish from being part of a Buddy Group." Steve and his staff will work with individuals or Buddy Groups to find the exact lodging and dining facilities to make their trip up north special.

Whitefish has a driving range and practice green along with a well-stocked pro shop. "Logo merchandise flies out the pro shop door, says Bengtson. "In all my years in the golf business, seeing a return customer come in wearing something that he purchased in the past is our best advertisement. It says to me that that Whitefish sweatshirt is considered comfortable."

As I wrote this story I kept thinking of my favorite pair of faded Levis. Comfortable!

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