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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
November 19, 2017

The Bridges Golf Club - Golf Architecture
The Bridges #10
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The Bridges #10
The Bridges #2
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The Bridges #2
E. Nolan

Think about the most memorable bridges in the world: Brooklyn, Golden Gate and Jeff. Now think about the most iconic bridges in golf: Swilcan and... wait... Are there any others? Can you think of the names of any other golf arches? Probably not. After all, a bridge is intended to be far more practical than it is commemorative. They are typically constructed to cross over water - the shortest distance between two points - that kind of thing. They are usually built where they are needed.

Well, sometimes a bridge is more appreciated when it doesn't have to be there. Sometimes you remember and acknowledge that bridge more. That's the feeling you get at The Bridges Golf Club in Winona, Minnesota. The course itself didn't have to be built, but we (as golfers) are blessed that Ben Knight came along in 1920 and built what Robert Trent Jones, Sr. later finished. That's right, the former Country Club of Winona was completed by the patriarch of (arguably) golf's greatest architectural family. (While he was working on Hazeltine National - host of this year's Ryder Cup - no less.) Ben Knight, RTJ, Sr. and Joel Goldstrand (18th hole) provided southeastern Minnesota with a gem that is NOT private, and loaded with overpasses - many of which did NOT have to be there. And that makes the place (in my mind at least) even more unforgettable.

There are three specific and rather extraordinary trestles at this course. (This is how I remember them...) The first is at #9 - "Lumber Lane" - a lonely wooden walkway to the way-backs... the tips. (Step softly and carry a big stick.) The second is at #10 - "RTJ Skyway" - the arch-en-ciel crossing to what essentially is an island green surrounded by... well... clouds. My daughters swear the Three Billy Goats Gruff live under that bridge and I have no reason to doubt them. (My golf balls on that hole are eaten by something.) And the third pier-like platform of note is on #12 - "Blind Man's Bridge." (You don't know where your ball went, but it's out there somewhere.)

I've played this course a handful of times and taken too many pictures of these remarkable structures and, comparatively, too few photos of the course itself. That's almost a disservice to the terrific routing. In fact, there's a chance the Bridges is the most underrated course south of the Twin Cities (in Minnesota). It certainly belongs in the "best kept secret" conversation. That's not to say it isn't sufficiently revered and busy-not at all. The La Crosse region golfers are well aware of its quantity of quality holes. It is accordingly a fixture in their routines-a regular rendezvous.

But like I said, it isn't just about the bridges. Snuggled contentedly into Winona's Pleasant Valley, the property boasts rivers and ponds, hills and valleys, gulches and peaks (over, under and around the structures). There are wide greens and long fairways (#11 gets longer every time I play it) mixed with deep aquatic hazards and tall trees. And some of the bridges actually do take you across hazards. (Pleasant Creek is in play on half the holes.) There is plenty of drama. You'll find tee shots that strike as much fear of failure in you as they do awe of the surrounding beauty - specifically at the 10th and 11th holes. There are great Par 3's like the downhill 2nd over water (and a bridge) to a tricky green. And the final stretch of holes are down-and-out design stars - the Goldstrand-designed 18th finishing over a couple more bridges and alongside a pond FAR below the clubhouse patio.

That clubhouse features a southern Minnesota hotspot in the Bridges' renowned AAA "3 Diamond" Signatures Restaurant - which, combined with their spectacular banquet and event facility, Visions Event Center, is the source of some of the region's most celebrated foods and views. Visions runs the gamut in hospitality options. Personal, private, golf and corporate groups of every theme (wedding, graduation, reunion, etc.) and size book the area's premier meeting place and their professional staff caters to every need with pleasure. Visions and Signatures have the luxury of further expanding their hospitality horizons (in peak season) to the great outdoors, where the Summer House has gas fireplaces, ceiling fans and fresh air comforts opening to patios with expansive seating and views. There's always a party of some variety going on at The Bridges.

And, if you're not here for one of those (parties), you can still enjoy the great service and food options at theGrill (one word) every day, with more views and varieties of new and fresh tastes to test.

Come on down, up, or over, to enjoy the food, the golf and the views. Absorb the all of it in segments... one bridge at a time.

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Article comment by: Mark King

Great work

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