Superior National At Lutsen – Adventure Golf On Minnesota’s North Shore

By E. Nolan






There are a handful of golf courses in Minnesota that would command triple their daily golf rates if they were more easily accessible to major population areas. Without a doubt Superior National is one of those few, for a number of unique and cool reasons.

SUPERIOR SETTING: The words “North Shore” typically bring to mind Hawaii, and that’s at least semi-applicable to Northern Minnesota in summer. Lake Superior has that oceanic feel, with iconic lighthouses and waterfalls scattered along the way. The beaches up and down the interior coast are lit up by campfires at night, the stars sparkling like they’re hung a little lower here than elsewhere, and the waves lapping on (or pounding) the shore, dependent on weather. It wouldn’t be outlandish for the locals to great you with an “Aloha” instead of a semi-Canadian “welcome eh,” and (the best part) you can get here from the Twin Cities in a few hours for $20 instead of hopping flights across the country and Pacific for a couple grand. Yes, just over halfway between Duluth (90 miles) and the Canadian border (60 miles), south of the Boundary Waters and Grand Marais, Lutsen is all the “little-bit-like-Hawaii” it needs to be.

100-MILE VIEWS: Superior National sits on the edge of the Sawtooth Mountains, just across the road from that stunning Superior lakeshore, those emerald waters dominating the views from a half dozen golf holes. You’d have to be blind not to be mesmerized by the panoramas offered throughout the round, and not just of Lake Superior, but of the Poplar River and its tributaries, waterfalls and many a deep canyon. You’re clearly in waterfall country here, so the abundance of aquatic features and natural beauty won’t surprise you, but how often the visual hazards (distractions) come into play will certainly affect your mental game, beginning with the signature Par 3 at Hole 2 on the River Course.

ARCHITECTURAL INTRIGUE: Whoever first envisioned building a golf course here had to be a bit sadistic. While true that you’ll struggle to find more beautiful land in the state, trying to figure out a routing through all these rocks and supernatural features had to be a literal nightmare. Old reviews deemed the course nearly unplayable in parts, and they weren’t wrong, but every hole is a far cry today from what it was when the renovations began a decade ago (2013), and it’s now every bit as playable as the nationally ranked courses a bit more inland. Legendary golf architect, Jeffrey Brauer – he of Giants Ridge and Wilderness fame – was hired to realize the potential of the land with his decades of design experience and own twinges of evil genius. Throughout all his many national projects, Jeff has never been given nearly enough credit for the fun provided by his brilliant greens, the skill with which he allows the land to lead to his inspiration and the percentage of people who can’t wait to come back to play his courses time and time again.

Manager and PGA Head Professional Heath Ekstrom has been at Superior National for over two decades now, and he’s watched transformation after transformation firsthand. When I ask him if it’s better now than it’s ever been, he says, “Light years.” No matter his love for and loyalty to the place it was when he first got here, he readily acknowledges changes have needed to be made along the way. “The playability has been so vastly improved this past decade alone,” he contends. “If you haven’t played Superior National since (Brauer’s) renovation, then you haven’t played Superior National.” They hear it all the time… people saying they’d forgotten just how much fun it was to play there. And that’s where I’d say they’ve improved the most. They’ve leaned into what people loved the most and spread that across as many holes out there as they possibly could. National panelists might overlook them, but Minnesotan’s don’t. They keep their parking lot full of people who know how much there is to love at Superior National.

EXTRA AMENITIES: The River and Canyon nines form the “daily” course, but Superior National has a third “Mountain” nine, that doubles on mountain golf with mountain-foot golf – the most entertaining foot golf course in Minnesota. A half-dozen other resorts nearby offer various vacation options, most with their own bars and grills, but Superior National is also only 20 miles south of Grand Marais and it’s waterfront restaurant, lodging and entertainment scene. In other words, you have everything you need to have nearby when you come to the North Shore for your golf vacation. So… book away! Mahalo!