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July 22, 2017

The Preserve At Honey Creek Resort - Southern (Iowa) Charm
The Preserve at Rathbun Lake #3 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
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The Preserve at Rathbun Lake #3 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
The Lodge on Rathbun Lake
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The Lodge on Rathbun Lake
By E. Nolan

There are FIVE critical components to a truly great golf resort: 1. A first-class course, 2. Diverse, quality, lodging options, 3. Great food, 4. Multiple entertainment options and/or amenities, and, 5. A first-class golf course. (The "Greatness" of a resort should begin and end with the GOLF.)

Golf travelers (specifically buddy groups) need ALL of those elements to make a destination worth a weekend or extended trip. Minnesota has seven resorts that legitimately check ALL of those boxes. Iowa has ONE. There are MANY great golf courses in Iowa, but just one Honey Creek Resort.

Let's take a run through The Checklist...

First-Class Golf: GolfWeek, GolfGetaways and Golf Magazine all rank The Preserve at Honey Creek Resort as a "Top 5" public course in Iowa. The Preserve is also one of Only Five Audubon Certified properties in the state. If you're unfamiliar with the Audubon prestige, suffice it to say it essentially equates to being in a nature preserve - with sublime serenity, beautiful views and wildlife all around you. It doesn't hurt that Honey Creek Resort is a literal State Park, with the lodge and cabins set right on the hills above one of Iowa's biggest lakes - Lake Rathbun.

Diverse, Quality Lodging: Families (and specifically golf groups) looking for new places to explore this year should definitely have Honey Creek Resort on your radar. The Lodge, overlooking Lake Rathbun, has spacious, energy-efficient rooms and an indoor waterpark perfect for kids 12 and under. Golf groups in particular benefit from the cottages adjacent The Lodge - some with up to 4 bedrooms, accommodating 10-12 golfers.

Great Food: The menu is always changing at the Rathbun Lakeshore Grille in The Lodge. Come down anytime to absorb the panoramic dining views. Come down on the weekend to take full advantage of the Sunday Breakfast Buffet.

Entertainment and Amenities: Look, you're on the lake, there are bike and hiking trails galore, campgrounds, basketball courts, a playground, arcade, a bar with big-screen TV's and an indoor water park. It's a bonanza of blasts... for kids from newborn to you!

First-Class Golf: But, great as everything else is down here, GOLF is why you're reading this article, and GOLF is why it's most worth driving down from wherever you're reading this article.

Google Maps says it's five hours from the Twin Cities to Moravia, Iowa. It's never taken me more than four and a half - the route is almost all I-35 (and the last 70 miles are pretty... well... pretty)!

Would you drive 300 miles for an extremely-high-value, All-You-Can-Play golf package? Please tell me that is a rhetorical question! Maybe I shouldn't have even worded it as a question, because you know you WOULD - you SHOULD - go! Given the acclaim and accolades you already know The Preserve has earned, a trip to southern Iowa should (at this point) be a "no brainer" for 2017! Not only does their winter typically end a full month before ours; (Spring Break is an awesome time to drive down) but, course designer, Kevin Norby (of Herfort Norby & Associates out of Chaska), is arguably one of the most underrated Golf Architects in the Midwest, and he couldn't have been given a more dramatic template on which to build his dream course.

The course stretches to 7,000 yards, across five sets of tees, on 240 acres of rolling prairie. The carts have GPS systems, the hot chocolate in the clubhouse hits the spot, and the gorgeous lake views seen from the fairways, paired with the many elevation changes, brilliant routing and super-scoreable holes makes The Preserve quite worthy of the company it keeps among "Best in State" contenders.

Having covered almost eighty courses in Iowa, I would contend the collection of Par 3's at The Preserve are also worthy of "Best in State" consideration, with three of them (#3, #9 and #13) ranking among the course's Top Five holes. Wind can be a factor, and be mindful of the water hazards, but otherwise... with all the work they're doing on the native grasses on the course, the playability factor of this course is unsurpassed in Iowa. You can easily have your "best game ever" at The Preserve.

The Preserve offers three different Stay & Play packages with the resort, but the ones with "unlimited golf" are of especially high value to those of us who can't wait for winter to get over (and often don't have to in Southern Iowa - they've only had 3 inches of snow in Moravia so far this winter)! In late March of 2016, my family went down to HCR for two nights (our fourth visit overall); and, my son and I played 90 holes of golf in those three days, while my wife and girls hung out at the water park.

Talk about a win-win... all the way around!

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