Up, Down And All Around At Mississippi National Golf Links
By Rhett Arens
In this corner of the greater Twin Cities there are many reasons to love the landscape. With a flowing river cutting through the towering bluffs, a river town with loads of historical architecture and shopping that puts you at the doorstep of several iconic world brands (think boots and pottery). The town of Red Wing is one of those ‘all-in-one’ type of destinations. Choosing to play a round of golf within this unique setting only adds to the big day ahead of you. Sitting within those bluffs, just south of Red Wing, is 36 holes of elevated tees, serpentine fairways and rolling greens with plenty of character. Take a right a few miles south of town into the Hiawatha Valley and enter the world of Mississippi National Golf Links. Come prepared to be wowed by the beauty, the vistas and a memorable round of golf.
The two courses at MNGL are quite different from each other, which is exactly the point. If you’re thinking of playing 36 in a day, this is the place to do it. The Lowland’s offers a more traditional style layout at 6,484 yards from the tips with large greens and generous fairways. The Highlands is a whole other experience. You may find a compass handy as you try to calculate elevations and distances to the corners of those tree-lined fairways. Well-placed tee shots can put you in position where you can take dead aim at those pins and start carding birdies. A note of caution… try not to let the views and scenery knock you off of your game. Good luck.
The history at MNGL has been as dynamic as some of the courses topography as economic swings and ownership changes have brought openings and closures over the last 20 years. All of that has come to an end as the Red Wing Municipal Golf Corporation was formed and funds were raised through a number of private donations. In 2013 after a year of closure, the Red Wing City Council approved a five year agreement to help manage the course with the cities full support and oversight. The non-profit status at MNGL is unique within the Minnesota golf industry and the partnership is working well for everybody, especially the players who flock to this area for the unforgettable golf.
At the helm of the MNGL operations is PGA Head Professional Nate Gale. Nate is also the head coach of Red Wing High School’s golf team where some of the state’s top players have recently graduated and moved on to the collegiate ranks. Nate and his staff play host to a good number of ‘36 holers’ every weekend.
The Highlands is the bad boy to the Lowlands classic layout. A contrast in designs that works well for you and I. The uphill par 4 first at the Highlands should be your wakeup call to the action ahead. A teaser of a corner tee shot that will have you asking yourself, do I feel lucky? The Highlands also incorporates one of the state’s toughest par 5’s. A monster 650 yard saddle that keeps bending to the right almost to the end. How close to cut that tree line is the question, go wide and you have good looks but add additional yardage. Go tight inside and you nick a branch and go straight to a double bogey. The Highlands also possesses one of the all-time greatest elevations at the par 3 #17 where the term ‘big drop’ doesn’t do it justice. Is that two clubs? Three clubs? Four clubs? Your call. It’s roughly a 150 foot freefall (15 stories) to a good sized green that hopefully echoes back a nice thud upon your ball’s arrival. Go easy on that cart path downhill.
The Lowlands has some great golf holes that will challenge your game in a very fair way. The short par 4 seventh is a perfect example where doglegs, water, tree lines and bunkers are all brought into play and shot placement is at a premium. On the other side of the coin is the long par 4 #13 where at 450+ yards you will need to squeeze every yard out of the drive to get home in two. Not impossible, but when they start tightening the fairway width you will need swing commitment to card a par. This might be one of the toughest par 4’s in the state. It’s not hard to see why Nate and Mississippi National have produced some of the states top amateurs in recent years.
If the intriguing two course layout isn’t enough, MNGL is offering an ‘early week’ special Monday through Wednesday’s at $32 which includes a ½ cart. There is also the ‘36 hole package,’ which includes lunch at Baggers Pub restaurant where the classic burgers are renown and the beverages are chilled to perfection.
Two distinguished courses, a great overnight destination, all within easy driving distance of the Twin Cities. Stay and play packages are available with a bonus knowing that you can explore downtown Red Wing in the evening on foot and sleep like a king or queen at the historic St. James Hotel. As you can see Mississippi National has a good deal to offer and when you consider the opportunity to take in historic Red Wing as a bonus you’ve created a very memorable golf outing.