Digging Up Fun At Gravel Pit Golf

By JP McNaney






Several years ago, Chuck Klecatsky was approached with an intriguing proposal. It was not the first time Chuck had been approached with an offer to help start up a new golf course, but this was, well, different… very different.

At the time, Chuck was the Director of Golf and Head Professional at Cragun’s Legacy Courses; a high-end resort course with two different courses. One was Dutch’s Legacy, named for resort owner Dutch Cragun. The other was originally designed by and named for Minnesota golf legend Tom Lehman.

The Legacy Courses were in development when Chuck was a seasonal professional at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor Florida outside of Tampa. He had already been a part of Grand View Lodge’s new resort course The Preserve.

Every course Chuck worked at and helped get off the ground are excellent resort golf courses. Innisbrook and Cragun’s host professional Tour events. The PGA TOUR holds the Valspar Championship on Innisbrook’s Copperhead course and Cragun’s hosts the CRMC Championship, a PGA TOUR Canada tournament.

When Chuck was approached to start up a 13-hole, Par-3 short course, you might think he’d be skeptical. Chuck, however, saw it as a chance to do something special. “So, this (Gravel Pit Golf) just, to me, gets back to the spirit of friendship and fellowship. It’s so much less formal. I love formal golf. I love the standards that I learned down south. Legacy was a great experience, but to do something different, that doesn’t take so much time out of people’s day and just bring the fun back to it got me rejuvenated.”

Chuck continued, “It brings me back to 1998 when we had a wedding tent (at Cragun’s) as our clubhouse, and we are introducing this new product to the community. I just love it.”

It is incredibly obvious the goal of Gravel Pit is to bring back fun to golf, and not just on the course. “Gravel Pit truly is an experience.  We want it to be more than just a golf course,” said Klecatsky. “We want people to come out and have fun with their friends and capture a trend in golf that is getting back to the fun of golf not necessarily all about your score. We’re all about fun at The Pit.”

Now in their third season, the success of this concept has led to The Pit adding 10 and a half more holes. Yes… I said a half hole. “So, the half hole is A: something to talk about. We always laugh but it’s the last hole on the golf course and it’s about a 65-yard putt. You’ll putt from the top of the ridge down a natural grass slope to an actual putting green, but we decided to call it a half of a hole,” Chuck explained.

The fun doesn’t end after your round.  There’s bocce ball courts and all the equipment you need to play is available at the clubhouse. Gravel Pit also hosts events.

“We have an event center as well. We do a lot of bachelor parties and things where people do play the golf course (before), but we have a 13-hole putting course so groups can just come out and use that. We do weddings, groom’s dinners, corporate events.”

Like most great hangouts, The Pit has a full bar and food is available to munch on during or after your round.

With Chuck’s creative mind always in gear, new fun ideas are always on the agenda. For example, a coffee shop. “We have a coffee shop this summer. It’s actually a mobile coffee shop.”

There are over 450 holes of golf in the Brainerd lakes area. Golfers have plenty of choices with prices that range from $16 to over $100 at the various public courses and resorts, but there really is nothing else around like Gravel Pit.

“It’s just different and it compliments what’s in Brainerd already,” Said Klecatsky. “I don’t think anyone is coming to Brainerd to necessarily play the Gravel Pit, but when they do have a vacation up here, I hope that they do put this as one of their stops. That’s what has been happening the last couple of years so it’s fun to see it starting to grow.”