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Cragun's 2016

Local Golf
July 22, 2017

Minnesota "A to Z" - Land Of 10,000 Likes
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Mississippi Dunes #18 on the Mississippi River
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Mississippi Dunes #18 on the Mississippi River
By E. Nolan

Minnesota means "Sky Tinted Water." If you already knew that, you probably know everything. If you didn't know that, you might learn even more from this article. Be "fore-warned" that this is a golf-centric piece, and that my only (self-imposed) rule for the feature was a limit of ONE bold word per letter. (I only get 1,000 words, so I have to be selective.) This - ladies and gentlemen - is my "Best of State" summary of Minnesota.

A - America: Minnesota is part of the United States and VERY proud of it, but around here when we say we're going to America, we mean Bloomington and the Mall of America. The world-famous shopping center is massive - to understate it - and only getting bigger by the day. With the world's largest indoor playground (Nickelodeon Universe) and hundreds (if not thousands) of stores and restaurants under one roof (and hotels under that same roof) you could move in there and NEVER have to leave.

B - Brainerd Lakes: Arguably the Midwest's most popular summer vacation destination with four renowned resorts: Breezy Point, Cragun's, Grand View Lodge and Madden's and another great golf course (Golden Eagle) in case the 200+ golf holes at the other four properties weren't sufficient. Brainerd is also famous for boating. In fact, many Minnesotans think Little Big Town's song "Pontoon" is our state anthem.

C - Casinos: We have many casinos in Minnesota, but the marquees are Fortune Bay (home of The Wilderness) in Tower, Mystic Lake (home of Garrett Gill's masterpiece - The Meadows) in Prior Lake, and Jackpot Junction (home of Rees Jones's prairie marvel - Dacotah Ridge) in southwest Minnesota. All three are well-worth both sides of a Stay & Play!

D - Deacon's Lodge: Few courses merit distinction like Arnold Palmer's tribute to his father - Deacon's Lodge. Matt Ginella of GolfDigest considers it one of Palmer's five best designs in the United States. I consider it his best IN THE WORLD - just a stroke ahead of Tralee in Ireland. As a lifelong Palmer fan, it is an honor having this course in Minnesota, and I proudly consider it one of our "Five Must Plays."

E - Eagles: We have TONS of Bald Eagles in Minnesota, especially along the Mississippi River. Interesting fact: No one has ever recorded a golf "Eagle" in Minnesota. Here "two-under-par" on a hole is referred to as a Loon. (Totally made that up to see if NBC would quote that in their Ryder Cup coverage.) I also LOVE loons. (A reference to Minnesota's state bird and not my kids. Though I love them too.)

F - Fishing: If golf isn't Minnesota's #1 passion, it's Friday Night Fish Frys. (And then the Vikings.) Yes, people here go nuts for hockey, curling, sunlight and snowmobiling, too, but fishing yields it's own fan base of fanatics, and when you can get fresh Walleye fried just right, you'll take it over Mahi Mahi. (Maybe) I personally can't stay awake fishing but my son loves it and so do about half of the five million people living here.

G - Golf: Minnesota has over 500 golf courses in all. 1,000+ if you're ambidextrous.

H - Hazeltine National: The host of the 2016 Ryder Cup is a beautiful, lakeside, Robert Trent Jones design in Chaska made infamous by Tiger (ummmm...) "giving away" the recent PGA Championship to Y.E. Yang. Hopefully the American Team can snatch a similarly monumental victory from the Europeans and, in the process, teach my favorite golfer (Rory) how to putt. (Otherwise Jack's Major record is safe.)

I - Iowa: Iowa is our southern neighbor and we don't joke about them or their driving EVER.

J - Jewel: The Jewel in Lake City is not just Hale Irwin's best design in America (IMO), but Minnesota's best public course south of the Twin Cities.

K - Kibawib: A kibawib is meat on a stick. Actually, it's Biwabik spelled backwards. Biwabik means "great little town with two huge golf courses" which is appropriate given that Giants Ridge (Golf & Ski Resort) is located there, and the Troon Golf operated facility not only has the state's most highly acclaimed course (The Quarry) but the most highly acclaimed golf hole as well (#17 at The Legend). (I was just informed Biwabik means "Be Right Back"... and I'm not even sure if that's correct.)

L - Legends: This is the Land of Legends... of Legend's Club (a fun 18-hole play in Prior Lake), of Arnold Palmer and his Deacon's Lodge masterpiece, of PGA Legends who partake in the annual 3M Championship (at TPC Twin Cities) and of Paul Bunyan and his giant blue ox (that took his first nap ever this year).

M - Mississippi River: You learn how to spell "Mississippi" here before you know how to say "Dadda." (At least I did.) For great golf value on its banks, check out Mississippi Dunes and Mississippi National.

N - Nice: A popular expression here is "Minnesota Nice." Keep in mind it does not apply on roads, in parking lots, or when the Vikings play the Packers.

O - dOnuts (because "O" looks like a donut) and you can get the World's Best Donuts here, in Minnesota, in Grand Marais, on Lake Superior (or 180 yards from it). Incidentally, World's Best Donuts is also the name of the place where you can get them.

P - Pines: We have lots of trees in this state. Many of them are pines. My favorites are the one in my living room in December, and those that line the fabulous fairways of Pine Creek (9-hole gem in La Crescent) and The Pines at Grand View Lodge near Brainerd.

Q - Quarry at Giants Ridge is (according to most national golf publications) the #1 public golf course in Minnesota. I agree that it is one of the state's "Five Must Plays."

R - Really: Troy Burne is not really in Minnesota, but for all practical purposes we consider it to be. It is just across the state line, and while hardly underrated to LOCALS it is vastly underrated in America. (Seriously should be on ANY American Top 100 List.)

S - Superior: America's largest freshwater lake borders Minnesota to the northeast and Minnesota's Lake Superior shoreline has many highlight destinations worth visiting, like Split Rock Lighthouse, Gooseberry Falls and Superior National at Lutsen. (And... sticking with the "Superior" theme... check out the golf and dining at Stoneridge (and Danny's) in Stillwater.)

T - Twin Cities: Two words (I know), but you can't have one without the other: Minneapolis and St. Paul. Besides, the Minnesota Twins are awesome.

U - Up North: Yes, we are up north, but to Minnesotans "Up North" is a stunning paradise for outdoor lovers - essentially from one of America's greatest small towns (Ely) to the Canadian boundary waters. Supposedly 80 moose live up there somewhere.

V - Vikings: One of these days the Minnesota Vikings will win an important game. When they do I'll write about it. (I am now in the doghouse for the next three years.)

W - Wild: There's the Minnesota Wild hockey team, the great Wilds golf course in Prior Lake, the best mini-golf course in the state at Wildwedge (near Brainerd) and my personal favorite grill at my personal favorite golf course in the state at the Wilderness at Fortune Bay. (Most underrated golf course in America!)

X - is the # of Lakes we actually have in Minnesota. I can't put a number there because no one really knows how many there are (which works out great for this article). Our license plates swear there are 10,000, but supposedly there are as many as 15,291. I do know this: Our largest lake is Red Lake, the most popular name is Mud Lake, and only one of the 87 counties in Minnesota, Dodge, does not have a lake.

Y - YaSureYouBetcha! Not sure if it's one word, but... oh well. Minnesotan's are famous for a lot of goofy things, like their expressions (including Uff Da!), ending sentences in prepositions, quilting, and for eating some pretty bizarre foods: pickled pigs feet, lutefisk and SPAM.

Z - The Zumbro River runs through Rochester, famous for its Mayo (as in the Mayo Clinic). It is also one of the few rivers in the country that actually flows NORTH. (Even if that's only the second thing you learned in this entire article, I've done my job!) Cheers!

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