Gravel Pit Golf Course – Minnesota’s Newest Golf Course

By Rhett Arens






There is a question I never thought I would be asking myself, “Is it possible to transform a gravel pit into a golf course?” It turns out the answer is a resounding, “Yes!” This summer will see the complimentary addition of another signature course into the Brainerd Lakes golf mecca. Most of us Minnesotans don’t realize how lucky we are to have so many quality golf courses within less than a half-day drive of the Twin Cities. Now Chuck Klecatsky and co-owner Mark Dvorak have added another stop on one of America’s greatest golf destinations.

The Gravel Pit Golf Course (no elegant naming pretension here) is coming to life and targeted to open in mid to late April. With the deep experience Chuck and Mark bring to the table (Cragun’s Legacy Courses and Whispering Pines respectively) they didn’t hesitate to go out and hire one the region’s most famous golf architects and turf specialists – Scott Hoffmann. Scott Hoffmann Golf Designs are responsible for bringing The Classic at Madden’s to the masses; a cornerstone of elite public golf in the land of 10,000 holes if ever there was one.   

Starting with the bones of an old gravel pit located just north of Cragun’s Legacy Courses property, the visionary team starting moving dirt while maintaining the built-in elevations that blessed the topography. Their goal; carve out 13 holes that range from 60 to 200 yards in length, but more importantly, offer an insane amount of variety and challenge within the small, dynamite packaged landscape required some imagination. Why 13 holes? Why not? Golf courses weren’t always locked into 9 or 18 hole designs. Our great grandfathers from the Scottish Motherland played their rounds on whatever the proprietor offered, it might be 8, it might be 12 or it might be 6, it’s not until large commercial interests and broader competitive powers took over that a round of golf became more defined. It’s not a stretch to imagine playing 13 holes in the windswept dunes along the Scottish coastline and The Gravel Pit harkens back to those ‘links style’ days with plenty of fescue, large waste bunkers and large greens with an abundance of contours. In other words, something much different than the resort, park style courses that dominate destination golf in northern Minnesota. 

Outside of Minnesota, a handful – some recent, highly awarded, highly esteemed courses give a nod to small golf has been rapidly becoming a thing. Names like Pinehurst, Bandon Dunes and Sand Valley have added ultra-small ‘short game tune-up courses’ to their offerings. The idea is these are set-up for a two-hour window, not a five-hour one. There is no expense or quality being shorted on these tracks. The tee boxes, bailout areas, mini-fairways and regulation greens are all world-class; just like the championship courses they are paired with. I’ve had the good fortune to play The Cradle at Pinehurst and it might be the most fun and dialed in short game test I have ever played. Roughly an hour and a half of brain surgery type wedge play with some piped in tunes and chilled craft beer added to the mix for good measure. That is the idea behind The Gravel Pit. Chuck wants to be clear he is not in business to compete head-to-head with the 7,000 yard beauties in the area, he is here to compliment them, to offer weekenders and the lake communities a less time-intensive option. A relaxed, fun but challenging outing with friends and family. 

The Hoffmann Design Team has built-in water features that will keep you on your toes with two sets of tee boxes, blind shots that will test your swing commitment and enough sand and undulation that you should hope your ‘feel game’ is working properly. It’s a set-up that should promote friends and fellowship. Where laughs and bets being settled will be heard rolling off the clubhouse deck. With indoor seating for 50, a small bar and appetizers there should be no lack of post-round comradery.  

At first impressions, the concept of a golf course rising from the ruins of a gravel pit seemed, to put it mildly, off-base. But like the replay officials in every major sport that carefully reviews the video, considers all the angles, it’s now clear that “upon further review” the idea that a short track with an authentic links styled play and plenty of savvy architecture is exactly what the greater Brainerd Golf community is waiting for. Not every day offers a five hour playing window, but The Gravel Pit does offer a two hour round with friends and fellowship right down the road from the big resorts.