Mount Frontenac – Breathtaking Golf
By E. Nolan
|Like any golfer who cares about where they play golf, I always check out the website to see what I’m in for. Whether intentionally clever or not, Mount Frontenac’s home page gives away little, and leaves you wanting to see more. And just a little south of Red Wing, (less than an hour from St. Paul) towering above (and directly adjacent to) gorgeous Lake Pepin and the Hiawatha Valley, I got a whole lot more. (Especially in their locally renowned views.) The closing of Mississippi National has been a boon to Mount Frontenac, as hundreds to thousands of golfers looking to replace the cliff-top views there, were able to find them here.
And about those views. Note the plural use of the word. There are several. One of the pro shop attendants asked me if I saw the panorama from the 13th green. Absolutely. You can’t possibly miss it. It is, in my opinion, the most memorable one on site, as you can see for miles in several directions. And, before even touching on the golf, that view creates the ideal segway to one of Mount Frontenac’s key non-golf related draws. Wedding host. The expansive clubhouse and banquet hall provide an excellent space for rehearsal dinners and post-ceremony celebrations… indoor or outdoor. Outdoors, wedding photographers have a field day in this naturally beautiful environment, with a multitude of cliff, mountain, and riverside backdrops to choose from.
When the leaves start to change colors in September, Mount Frontenac becomes even more of a “can’t miss.” The quality of the views magnifies, and the abundant trees lining the fairways of the course amplify the surrounding grounds. Barricaded by tall Oak, Spruce and Pine varieties, they are THE defining hazard here, with little water and/or sand in play. If you can hit a straight shot, and control your distance, you’ll score well. The front begins simply enough, with my favorite hole on course, a slight dogleg left par 4, with a downhill approach to a green with a view. The next two holes assure that your round remains comfortable, and then the trees begin to come into play. The next three holes will likely make or break your round, and the front nine ends with another beauty, a sharp dogleg left (could have been the course name) to a ridge-hanging green backed by a beautiful pond.
The ample recovery space provided on the front is nearly eliminated on the back, as the design expects you to be warmed up by now and able to hit straight. The starting three holes, after the turn, are pressure cookers, not really allowing you to breathe until you reach the aforementioned peak view of the course, on the 13th green. The feel good vibes you collect at that point stay with you over the next two easy scoring holes, and then the closing stretch requires calculated focus to manage your way around the marsh guarded 16th green and back up the long hill par 5 18th, to the clubhouse.
Mount Frontenac Golf Course is affiliated with Treasure Island Resort and Casino, which keeps the tee sheet steady but not full. It fills up on its own based on word of mouth and an abundance of regulars who covet the views, the seclusion, and the entertaining design. Stay and Play packages are offered in wide variety through Treasure Island, where an altogether different form or rewarding “play” is always available.
When I mentioned the Mount Frontenac website to that same pro shop attendant he told me there was a gallery of photos online too. (And there is, I somehow missed it.) Photos of the ponds, the cliffs, several of the highlight holes, etc… But I’m actually glad I missed those, because seeing all that imagery, that phenomenal scenery first-hand, was a far better surprise, a far more revealing discovery. But now that I’ve told you, you can check it out for yourself. Or, like me, you can wait and be pleasantly surprised.
If you haven’t (the last few years or ever) made a Fall drive down the Mississippi River valley between the Twin Cities and La Crosse you really should. There is plenty to see, from Red Wing to Wabasha, Winona and beyond… from the vineyards (where the name Frontenac comes from) and eagles, to the (if you’re a golfer) plenty of great (new or favorite) places to play. It pays to explore, as I always do, whether on the fly or via websites. You never know what you’ll find.