That Bristol Ridge Magic
By Rhett Arens
As you wind along the Apple River on your approach into Bristol Ridge country it might feel like you’ve arrived into the backwoods of rural America but in fact you are only minutes from the newly opened St. Croix River Crossing Bridge. That feeling gets another boost from the fact there are no houses on this course. So, the bridge… is good for The Ridge. The Ridge is good for everything else, especially the golf.
Bristol Ridge Golf Course is an 18-hole, par 72, championship design with a full practice green and range, a pro shop with branded apparel, a friendly bar atmosphere and a full-service clubhouse offering complete dining accommodations.
New this year is a full participation management team with a long history at Bristol Ridge and a fresh perspective. This has injected lots energy and ideas into the operations. Quite timely given the need for some additional work around the changes needed to handle the COVID protocol. Please note, it’s all in place and working great. In addition to the new leadership, Mitch Fenske was promoted to Superintendent where he and his team have been working every corner of the property for improvements. The work got started this winter where tree removal and brush clearing brought some needed sunlight to those dense Wisconsin woods and a little more elbow room along the edges of the fairways.
Mitch and his crew have improved tee box conditions, sand trap shapes and widened a few fairways by changing up mowing patterns. The pin locations have converted from the standard red, white, blue (front, middle, back) placement to a gridded 6-positioning scheme. This adds many more options and the ability to refer to positions on your approach shots. It’s great for the game.
The course sets up as a series of holes that never repeat themselves and it keeps bringing the variety as the round progressives. No back and forth park-style stuff here. Yes, there’s plenty of trees, natural water features, rolling fairways, bunkers of all shapes and sizes and silky greens ranging from minor to monster. It’s this type of attention to design architecture that delights the dedicated customer base that have been playing this course for years (those attributes will also wow newcomers). The course hasn’t aged one bit and the feel of the round brings discovery and refocused energy with every hole. That type of play has a certain magic in it. It’s hard to put a finger on it but you find yourself pulling up to each hole, regrouping, strategizing and putting on a smile.
True to common design philosophy your round starts easy with a ‘feel good’ par 5 which can be reached in two with a very long tee shot cutting the left corner followed-up by a strong 3-wood. A little roll and you may find yourself pin-high with an eagle putt to start the round. Boom! As safe as hole #1 feels, the 368 yard par 4 #2 is the polar opposite. It’s tight, it’s downhill, then it’s uphill with very little room for error into a tilted green. A par here and you should feel good about your game. The number 1 handicap hole is a par 5, 537 yard, tree-lined beauty that keeps turning right. Picking how aggressive to cut those corners and staying out of the unplayable woods is key. It might be smart to throttle back and take this one in chunks. The elongated green has a few hump surprises when you finally arrive, you’ve been warned. The par 3 #8 has plenty of atheistic appeal. Well-proportioned bunkers sit along both sides of the green which plays 177 yards from the blue tees. Crosswinds are common here so don’t forget to factor that in.
The back starts with one of my personal favorites. A shorter par 4 that offers pure risk-reward and an interesting shaped green that drops hard along one edge. The gentle par 3 #17 is such a pleasure and I’ll bet plenty of ‘closest-to-the-pin’ money has exchanged hands on that green. A pitching wedge or a 9 iron should get the job done here.
Rick Lange and his team have set-up some enticing playing specials where $25 gets you a full-round with a cart on Mondays. If you want to keep swinging its $35 for all day play. Tuesday’s offers the seniors that same $25 deal between 8:00 – 10:00 with a play-your-own-ball tourney worked into the mix. On June 12th Friday Couples Night starts up with a handicapped 9-hole friendly competition.
The Bridge to the Ridge is a direct route to that special feeling of challenge, fun and playability that only a quality layout can provide. Bristol Ridge is the ticket to that magic.