Dacotah Ridge Golf Club – Minnesota’s Open Venue
By E. Nolan
There are debates about the best golf course in the Twin Cities, and debates about the best golf course in every corner of the state… except one. There is no debate as to the best golf course in southwest Minnesota. The winner is Dacotah Ridge. Say what you will about the golf course – that it’s too long, too hard, too fast or too fun – the club staff welcomes all comments with the same “we’ll see you next time” smile. They know you’ll be back. More importantly, they know you WANT to come back.
You will leave Dacotah Ridge (no matter what you shot) KNOWING that you could do better with another chance to play it. If it’s your first visit to the uniquely wild farm/prairie landscape, you’ll be a bit overwhelmed by the width and contours of the fairways. You’ll be a bit uncertain about the best approach angles, the safest places to be off the tees and on each green. You’ll stand on many a tee box, looking back at the previous hole, simply shaking your head. You’ll get it then – everything you did wrong – and you’ll want another shot at it. That’s why so many capitalize on the fabulous Stay & Play packages afforded by Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel just down the road. Dacotah Ridge golf trips are done best by an afternoon round, overnight stay, and morning round the next day. (Check out their super popular “Birdie Package” and other combos). You’ll get the course the second time around. Bank on that. But bank on the course getting you a few more times too.
For better and (occasionally) worse (on the scorecard) the brawny Rees Jones design never lets up. The rough is tough when dry, tougher when wet. The fairways are runways either lined with water hazards or tall ropy fescue. The greens are large, turbulent and fast. It is the definition of a championship golf course, a course that feels like it could host the PGA TOUR tomorrow. In fact, I tell everyone Dacotah Ridge is Minnesota’s “Most Open Venue” because: 1. The course is wide-open and 2. It’s the only course in Minnesota I believe capable of hosting the U.S. Open. (No joke.)
Dacotah Ridge kicks off with one of the best opening holes in Minnesota, a short Par 4 that I have yet to birdie, but should have all eight times. From there you make the long run out to the furthest point of the course, where a downhill Par 3 (#4) and twisting Par 4 along water (#5) ramp up the fun. The front nine wraps at the clubhouse with a tricky green perched on a plateau beneath it.
The back nine introduces trees into the mix, but not until you’ve taken on the signature Par 3 over water at 11 and two more great and challenging aquatic holes at 12 and 13. If you’re thinking to yourself that’s not a lot of tree trouble, I don’t blame you, because you really don’t notice them until you literally can’t seem to miss them on 17 and 18. The dogleg left 17th hole is as fun as the dogleg left 18th hole is tough and long, but both holes give you a farewell you won’t forget.
The course yardage is a bit misleading, with each set of tees feeling several hundred yards longer than they play (tipping out at 7,109 yards). I tell every first timer the white tees (at 6,217) will be more than enough course. Leave your ego at the door (especially if it’s windy). Without concessions (gimmes) my bet is on no “rookie” breaking 80 from the whites, regardless of handicap. I dare you to try. If you prove me wrong, move back to the blues for round two. You’ll enjoy the test both ways.
Dacotah Ridge is less than 90 miles from the southeast Twin Cities limits, and only 5 miles east of Jackpot Junction Casino Hotel. Jackpot Junction offers 440,000 square feet of gaming tables, Blackjack, slot machines and live entertainment arenas. You can eat at the golf course, with stellar views at the Wabasha Creek Restaurant, or pick from casino options like the casual-dining Dacotah Restaurant (breakfast, lunch and dinner menus), the Players Sports Bar & Grill (18 HD big screen TV’s and a 9’x12’ projection screen, with a full bar), the Circle Bar (in the middle of all the action on the casino floor) and quick options at Caribou Coffee and 2-Go Food Express.
Overnight guests will find comfortable beds in a variety of rooms and suites, or spacious full-service sites in the RV Park, with a pool, Jacuzzi and splash pad for extra entertainments. Whatever your experience at Dacotah Ridge or Jackpot Junction expect to see that knowing smile when you leave. You know you’ll do better next time, and they know you’ll be back to try.