Old World Charm – The Links At Northfork
By Rhett Arens
In today’s world, natural elements have been taking center stage in golf course design circles. Think about some of the high profile introductions in recent years… Bandon Dunes, Sand Valley, and Mammoth Dunes. You get the idea. Vast stretches of fescue, large waste bunkers, serpentine fairways, long carries and undulated green complexes. News flash – The Links at Northfork has been bringing this type of golf for years! Something the lucky folks in the northwest corner of the Twin Cities have known since 1992. Now is the time for the rest of us to get on board. At just under 7,000 yards from the Championship tees, this Joel Goldstrand design can provide a true Scottish links style experience with or without the kilt.
The Links (as it’s known in these parts) sports four sets of tees and bentgrass from the tee box to greens – all meticulously maintained under the careful management of long-tenured Superintendent Jay Yonak. Jay has worked at The Links since it opened and may have scored his biggest victory this past winter by keeping the poa annua grass intrusion at bay. Courses with poa annua lost that battle with vast stretches of fairways and greens going dead during the 2019 winter kill event.
Your round will start with a straight-up par 5 that should allow you to work out a few kinks without any trickery. Like most of the holes in an open links style layout, wind will factor in, dictating if the par 5’s can be reached in two or three shots. The par 3 fourth is a tester with any wind above 10 mph. With water on the right and a large bunker on the left, the center of the green seems like a wise choice. The par 4 fifth is famous in Minnesota Golf lore as it is the site of the longest hole-in-one in state history. The hole will tease you to take the corner, but beware, most of us don’t have the distance to make that work. The front closes out with a birdie par 5 – assuming your ball doesn’t go for a swim. The large green is surrounded on two sides with water but at a short 479 yards from the middle tee it can easily be reached in two, assuming of course Mother Nature is cooperating.
The back nine starts with another par 5 that could allow you to go back-to-back birdies. Right-handers will have to start that power fade out over the large waste bunker but even if you don’t clear it, there is still a chance at par. The par 4 eleventh incorporates a split fairway that provides the big hitters with a risk reward moment. Keep in mind there is a lot of bunker surface in the wheelhouse area. Although trees don’t usually figure prominently into a links style course, the par 4 thirteenth smartly uses a lone oak to either shield second iron shots or steer drives to the right – a nice twist on the links layout. Many of the regular customers would call out the par 5 fifteenth as the signature hole. Its target golf and lined with trees, which a shift change for this course and is rated as the number 1 handicap for a reason. Keep it on the short stuff. I would be remiss if I didn’t call out the par 4 sixteenth, which has two fairways. Short hitters should play the upper fairway, long hitters have the option of playing the lower fairway, but beware of the three bunkers along the right side. The green is undulating making this hole a real test.
General Manager Mick Mollberg is quick to note that not everybody who rolls into his parking lot is there for the golf. The Links at Northfork is also an ideal setting for all occasions including wedding receptions, anniversaries, birthday parties, holiday celebrations and corporate outings/meetings. The private banquet room can seat up to 275 with beautiful views of the adjacent golf course and first-class, customized service. While the planning calendar is busy, there is always room for another event. The planning and coordination is handled through Events and Sales Manager, Stacey Gerster.
The Links at Northfork will see its fair share of tournaments and sponsored events in 2019 with PGA Professional Josh Breen and his team packaging all kinds of goodies into your event. Typically tournament packages involve full services including registration tables, prize tables, event announcements, personalized cart signs, professional scoring, beverage cart attendants, hole contest signage, set-up and take down of signage/tables/chairs on the golf course, two complimentary committee carts, use of the three-hole practice loop, as well as use of practice putting and chipping greens. All of this adds up to peace of mind for the event planner.
Many players today are looking for the full-on natural elements type course designs. You could say The Links at Northfork have been ahead of that curve for some time. Mick and the Links team have the course set-up for you to take a four hour visit to Scotland without ever leaving the ground. Given the British Open is just around the corner, now is the perfect time to join in on the fun and get a good dose of old-world charm at The Links at Northfork.