Wedgewood Cove Golf Club – Well Worth The Visit
By E. Nolan
A year ago, I told the story of my office golf map – enlarged 600%, with a 100-mile radius drawn around the Twin Cities. That big red circle is full of tiny pins – (33) red pins for the public golf courses worth visiting, (23) green pins for my favorite restaurants, (24) yellow pins for the restaurants others have recommended to me (that I still need to visit) and (7) white pins for the golf courses I still want to play within that 100-mile radius.
At 99.4 miles from the epicenter, Wedgewood Cove Golf Club in Albert Lea is the southernmost green pin on my map. (Green = Course Worth Playing) That’s right, Wedgewood Cove is the furthest I will drive within my 100-mile circle to play golf. And I’ve done so several times. My wife likes to tease me about Wedgewood Cove, “What if you’d been off by just a mile on your measurements?” she asks. “One mile too far north on your precious epicenter.” Simple. I’d be missing out.
Wedgewood Cove is relatively new, as Minnesota golf courses go (opened in 2009) and unlike any other course I’ve played in Minnesota – making it always one of the most challenging sites to describe. “What’s it like?” Twin Cities golfers ask, literally all the time. (No doubt at the “coin toss” stage in deciding between “should I go” or “no.”) “It’s a combination of StoneRidge and the Links at Northfork,” I’ll say. That’s the best I can come up with. “Except that it’s on a massive lake.” Unlike either of those other two.
Everyone knows StoneRidge is easily worth a 100-mile drive. But is Wedgewood? Well, I guess that depends on what you’re looking for. Do you like firm and fast conditions – essentially links-style play? Do you like fescue-lined fairways, oversized wavy greens, mounds all over the place, beautiful 3-Pars over water and wide-open holes you can bomb away on? Do you like rounds that routinely clock in at 3.5 hours, even when the course is mostly full? “Everybody claims their rounds are that quick,” some object, and that’s probably true. But, I’ve made the drive down to Wedgewood Cove five times over the past eight years, and never once had a round go over four hours. So… I’m inclined to believe it. And, I most definitely appreciated it.
Let’s say the above description sounds like something you’d enjoy. Well, then you’re in for an even greater treat when you learn about the unique holes scattered throughout the Garrett Gill/Jon Schmenk design. Several holes on each nine skirt the residential community that surrounds the course, but the houses never really interfere with the views, and definitely not with your play. The front nine has several “signatures” – from the 4-Par second hole that requires a unique shot through a wall of trees, to the 5-Par fourth hole that zigzags between ponds and the 3-Par sixth hole over another pond.
The back side starts out so strong with a pair of short risk/reward 4-Pars, gets a bit more intimate with some of the residential properties, then gets real frisky with Pickerel Lake views for a couple of great holes. Beyond holes 10 and 11, highlight “signatures” on the back nine include the beautiful 3-Par 14th with the drop down shot towards Pickerel Lake and the 3-Par 17th over the wetlands – a truly challenging hole.
In total, Wedgewood Cove is a 245-acre property, with a 6,993-yard, 18-hole, championship course that feels like a private club but is very much accessible to the public. The club has two restaurants – The Cove Bar & Grill and The Wedgewood – with similar menus, but different vibes. (Patio dining is currently available, as is Curbside take-out. Hopefully indoor dining will resume soon!) In a typical year the club will host tons of golf groups and many a banquet or wedding in their Vineyard Ballroom and waterfront venue overlooking Pickerel Lake. Management has a “make it happen” mantra. “This isn’t a place that says “no” very often to anything,” Head Golf Professional Donnie Teeter says. They prefer the words “yes” and “I do.”
Speaking of “yes” and “I do”… I’d say “yes” to the question of whether or not I think Wedgewood Cove is worth driving 100-miles to play. 100 miles (from the Twin Cities), 125 miles (from La Crosse) 150 miles (from Des Moines)… even 175 miles (from Sioux Falls). Yes, to all of them. And, if you’re still torn, do I think you’d come back to play it again (and probably again). “I do.”