The Summit Golf Club – A Peak Golf Experience
By E. Nolan
There’s nothing higher than the summit of something. That is the definition of the word. The summit of Cannon Falls, Minnesota incidentally is a golf course. I’m not saying there’s a mountain in Cannon Falls. I’m telling you that of the many high points you’ll experience on a visit to Cannon Falls, the golf ones are way up there, especially at The Summit Golf Course.
The Summit is 25 miles from the southeast Twin Cities suburbs of Rosemount and Apple Valley. It’s a straight shot down there on Highway 52 (or up if you’re coming from Rochester) and an easy cruise over from Northfield, if you’re coming from I35. The course itself is roughly three miles west of Cannon Falls, a fact you’ll appreciate once you see how much beauty those three rural miles get you.
To really appreciate the landscape of the property – to understand how high you really are on some of the golf holes – you need to have an aerial view. The drone footage on the website (while a bit dizzying) displays the magnificent panoramas you can get from some of the peaks, and even more entices you to go experience the thrills and beauty yourself.
The 18-hole, Par 72 Championship course is a thriller, chock full of elevated tee shots, dramatic carries, wide fairways and hairpin turns. You have holes that “feel” like mountain golf, only to reveal themselves as plateaus along steep valleys. And then you have blind tee shots that reveal themselves as stunners on approach to the greens – quite a few of those to be exact. The playability ebbs and flows, requiring that you pay attention. A regular told me last year, “It’s not uncommon for a 10-handicap like me to walk off the second green two-under par, and then to be three-over par after hole 3.” Like I said… pay attention.
I’m often asked if The Summit “is really that good?” And, if so, “why don’t we hear more about it?” I can answer the first question easier than the second. The Summit has so many glimpses of greatness – so many holes you’ll complete and want to drive back to play again. The 9th hole, for example, cascades down to a wide-open green alongside a rustic maintenance barn. The approach shot to that perilously perched green is fun, and (taking in the entire setting) is quite photogenic. As for why people don’t hear more about it when discussing the best courses in the state… I don’t consider that to be entirely true. In 2004 Golf Magazine listed it as the “20th Best Value Course in the United States.” That said, there are admittedly some tough holes here. You can get a bad lie and a bad bounce and lay the blame on the course. Maybe that’s it. All I know is, every time I head out to The Summit I bring a few extra balls and my favorite camera lens, because I know I’m going to hit some great risk/reward shots (probably won’t pull them all off) and I’m going to take some epic pictures. Never fails me there.
The clubhouse resembles an old country church, with golf equipment for sale, snacks, food and a variety of alcoholic (and non) drinks. The course has four sets of tees, which can help with the challenge factor if your ego so allows, and if your kids want to tag along (as mine always do) they have a very family-friendly 9-hole Par 3 course as well.
The Championship course consists mostly of parkland holes with lots of trees, and a few links-style holes scattered in for good measure. The front nine has a couple of great par 3’s – the short, pinched 5th and the downhill 8th to a peninsula green, one of two holes with water in play on the front.
The back nine ramps up everything – drama and challenge – with the final three holes being among the property’s very best. Make sure you know exactly how far you are from the “edge of the cliff” on 17, so that you can property calculate your carry to a most difficult of platform greens. And then forget driver on 18 as you set yourself up for the beautiful and precise final approach – over the water to “home.”
The Summit has come a LONG way in the 20 years since it was first shaped out. Progress and improvements have been made to playability year in and year out and management has proven to have an open ear to all reasonable adjustments. The course you see and play today is remarkably better than it was two decades ago – a fact every course wishes they could state with similar confidence.