The Bridges Golf Club – Bridging The Gap
By E. Nolan
|I’ve been saying it for years, and finally had the chance to write about it to thousands of you last year. “The Bridges is THE biggest golf surprise in the “gap” between the Twin Cities and La Crosse.” At the La Crosse Golf Show, early this year, I found that (like Christopher Columbus and America) I wasn’t nearly the first person to make that great discovery. Many MANY people were already “there” and a few had some rather strong opinions to offer on the subject. “Best service and conditions in the Winona area by far.” An Onalaska (La Crosse “suburb”) resident offered. A golfer from Lake City agreed. “The Jewel is #1 in southeastern Minnesota, but if I’m not playing there, I’m at The Bridges.” (Makes two of us.) So it’s worth the 45-minute drive from Lake City? “Most definitely!” (But then I already knew that.)
So why is The Bridges so distinctive? Why should you drive from the Twin Cities, Rochester, Brainerd or Alabama for a visit? First, it’s a Robert Trent Jones design. Imagine a Cragun’s Legacy Course (or RTJ Golf Trail outlier) in southeastern Minnesota. Second, “Bobby” and his pal Ben Knight had a great deal of fun with this design… and clearly loved bridges. To quote a great writer, “They even built bridges to get to other bridges.” (Wait, I think that was me.) Some of those bridges really define the holes… the walkway to the tee box on #9, the tee to green transition on #10 and another trendy “Billy Goats Gruff” model to the fairway on #12… those are crazy cool. The others just perfectly fit in to their variable environments.
There are many great holes scattered throughout the design. “Great” is such an arbitrary word (and frequently overused)… it really depends on what you’re looking for… but The Bridges gives you breathtaking elevated tee shots (tell me the 11th hole doesn’t look 800 yards long), attractive par 3’s over Pleasant Creek (#2) and “Death Valley” (#10), and one of the best closing stretches south of the Twin Cities. It offers plenty of interaction opportunities with the aforementioned Pleasant Creek, few blind shots, many gorgeous pond-side approaches, and a generous sampling of wildlife. There are challenging holes, easy holes, and others that allow you to choose your own adventure, to weigh the risk options vs. the potential reward. It is a value (and variety) loaded golfer’s buffet. And speaking of buffets…
The Bridges continues to expand its popular non-golf (or after-golf) options. There is a new 3-season “event pavilion” (Summer House) – an enhancement of many sorts to the great Visions Event Center – with additional space for special dinners, parties, dances, etc. and great panoramic views. And they’ve revamped the food service venues/menus to supply those additions. A new daily restaurant theGrill (one word) complements the already extraordinary AAA “3 Diamond” Signatures Restaurant. TheGrill is open daily during all operational hours, with more stunning views, big screen TV’s, and a varied clubhouse grill menu using as many fresh local grown items as possible.
If you read a lot of golf reviews, they begin to sound the same after awhile. Positive. Positive. Positive. Hole-by-hole descriptions. More positives. If you’ve been paying attention to this piece you’ll notice there’s no hole-by-hole narrative. That should be as much of a breath of fresh air to you as it was to me in writing it. There’s too much to love out here to fit in one page… no need for filler. It is authentic wire-to-wire fun. Are there holes I don’t love? A couple. (I don’t like any of the clubs in my bag right now.) But are there holes I do love? Oh yes. Many. And you will too.
They’re going all out at The Bridges and would love to have you out there. If you enjoy great views, values, variety and service (doesn’t start with a “v” but has one in it) you’ll love it here. At the very least this piece should pique your curiosity. When we moved to Rochester six years ago, a friend of mine told me it was his favorite (sub $50) place to play. I’d never heard of it, but drove the 50 miles over to play it. I’ve echoed his fond sentiments of the place ever since, and would gladly drive twice that distance to play it now. Not every day of course, but certainly a time or two every year. And if you haven’t yet been to The Bridges… There’s no better time than September.