Open To The Links At Northfork
By Tim Cotroneo
Did the breezes, bunkers, and rolling hills of this year’s British Open at Royal St. George’s inspire you to play a wee bit of links golf? If that’s the case, there is no better place than The Links at Northfork in Ramsey.
Since 1992, The Links at Northfork have rewarded golfers seeking an invigorating diversion from parkland golf. First-timers can expect an impressive 6,900-yard track that is sure to provide the next best thing to British, Scottish, or Irish golf this side of Sandwich, England.
There will be no bagpipes as you strut up to the Par 5, 525-yard, first tee. What you may hear is the rhythmic sound of trains clacking along the tracks on the course’s eastern edge. The Links 18-hole layout looks, feels, and sounds like an across-the-pond golf flashback in time.
Feels Like The First Time
You’ll find a recurring theme at The Links at Northfork clubhouse, pro shop, banquet room, practice green, patio, or on the course. Nearly every person you interact with today was also representing this Joel Goldstrand-designed course the last time you drove to Ramsey and laced up your Footjoys.
Golf Professionals Josh Breen and Jim Fraser, Event Manager Stacy Gerster, and General Manager Mick Mollberg have a combined 60 years of Links at Northfork experience. Superintendent Jason Yonak has tended to The Links tee boxes, fairways, and greens almost since the course opened for business in the early 90s. Even Gary, the first hole starter, has called The Links home for 11 years.
This familiarity breeds a certain reassurance that your golf experience today will match or exceed your last Links at Northfork round. So, what can you expect after making the turn off Highway 10 on to Alpine Drive?
Practice Makes Perfect
The first thing you’ll note, after checking into the clubhouse, is The Links’ huge practice area. There’s an expansive putting and chipping green to your right, as well as a sizable driving range.
The Links also sports an additional three practice holes dubbed The Loop. Members love this value-added addition for sharpening their game.
For golfers who call The Links home, there is also a second driving range at the north end of the practice area. This pristine game improvement oasis is so beloved, General Manager Mick Mollberg shared that there are golfers who buy a member package specifically to practice on this special tee box.
Wind At Your Back Front Nine
Golfers playing The Links for the first time often acknowledge the wind, especially on the more wide-open front nine. “I’ve had golfers tell me it wasn’t this breezy when they left the house in the morning,” Mollberg said.
For The Links at Northfork golfers who play the course regularly, this brush with the miles-per-hour element seems to up their game. “We have quite a few members who play scratch golf. Our Links at Northfork team that competes with other courses always seem to bring home their share of trophies,” Mollberg said.
Once you’ve crossed the bridge from the clubhouse to the first tee box, it’s time to take on the undulations, sand traps, and natural grasses that add flavor to The Links at Northfork experience. The first hole is dotted with a dozen sand traps, but also plenty of fairway. The first is birdie material if the wind is at your back. The 129-yard, Par 3, 7th hole is The Link’s hole-in-one favorite. In 1998, the father and son duo of Willie and Josh Jungling scored back-to-back aces on Father’s Day.
Amen On Back
As you progress into the back nine, you’ll start to see and feel a different Links personality. Holes 14, 15, and 16 are The Links version of Amen Corner.
The 14th is a Par 5 with trees framing the left side and a huge right-to-left mound facing your second shot. The 15th is a sharp dogleg left Par 4, with a thin creek in the landing area prior to the green. The 16th features a divided fairway with a huge slope piercing the center of the fairway.
The 17th is a precise 176-yard Par 3, followed by a 432-yard Par 4 coming home on number 18. The closing hole features a ravine on the right side of the green.
J.R. Ewing’s Link To The Links
After your round, there’s nothing better that sipping a cool one from The Links at Northfork’s scenic patio. It’s here that GM Mollbeg shared a bit of history on how the course got its name. “Well, the Links part is easy. This is a links layout,” Mollberg said.
As for “Northfork,” it turns out the original owner’s wife really liked the television show Dallas. The ranch on the TV show was called Southfork. We are up here in Minnesota, and this acreage was originally a cattle farm. So, the course was named The Links at Northfork,” Mollberg said.
British Open At The Links In October
If you’ve yet to play a links 18-hole layout this year, mark your calendar for October. The Annual Northfork British Open will be held Wednesday, October 13, 2021.
What can golfers anticipate at this popular annual event? Will there be bagpipes, green beer, or golfers wearing kilts?
“So far, no bagpipes. Although we do usually have a couple of groups wearing kilts,” Mollberg said. For golfers who choose to don kilts in October, keep in mind… The Links at Northfork may be a little breezier than when you left the house in the morning.