Playing The Elements At The Links At Northfork GC
By Rhett Arens
It’s right there in the name… ‘Links.’ Windblown fescue, wide serpentine fairways, hidden fairway bunkers, large undulating greens all playing out under the prevailing breeze. It’s a style of golf course design that has found a resurgence in popularity and rightfully so. Courses like Mammoth Dunes, Bandon Dunes and Erin Hills have been stealing the spotlight in the national media outlets in recent years, but it’s the courses like The Links at Northfork that have been carrying the torch for Links style golf for years. They’ve been doing it quietly with grace and a humble nod to consistent, impeccable quality – just like a wee bit of Scotland relocated into the Twin City suburbs. Located in Ramsey, MN out towards the Northwest corner of the metro, The Links features a challenging 4-star Golf Digest-rated Championship golf course, a spacious well-appointed banquet facility (accommodating up to 295 guests), a friendly, comfortable Pub with good atmosphere, a well-stocked pro shop and of course, plenty of Mother Nature’s finest work.
The course has some amazing roots as it was designed by esteemed architect Joel Goldstrand in a truly Scottish links style layout. Since its opening in 1992, The Links has gained a reputation for impeccable playing conditions and quality practice facilities. Those playing conditions have translated into plenty of accolades and the honor of hosting prestigious golf tournaments such as the Senior PGA 3M Qualifier, U.S. Open Qualifier, and a handful of Minnesota Golf Association events. Clearly the Goldstrand design is a fair and tough test of golfing skill.
The golfing operations offers four sets of bentgrass tee boxes, fairways, and greens, all of it offered at value-based pricing. In addition to the great on course conditions, the practice facility is well-known in player circles for its spacious all-grass driving range, two large practice greens, a practice sand bunker, a chipping green, and a clever par eleven 3-hole practice loop. The Championship course record stands at an incredible 11-under 61 shot by Steve Veriato (playing in the Senior Tour Qualifier) back in 1996. Talk about going low!
The round starts with a perfect ‘how’s my swing today’ hole. A straight, not so long (unless the wind is in your face) par 5 that plays 525 from the back tees. You should know if you’re swing is feeling good by the time you sink that final putt here. The par 4 number 3 will test your fairway splitting abilities as water comes up on the right. Keep your spin low here and you may see a par putt, if not, say goodbye to that $4 Pro V1. The par 4 number five has a place in Minnesota golfing history as the home of the longest ace in Minnesota history (371 yards from the tips). When you play it, it’s hard to imagine anyone carrying the mound into a blind green and jarring a hole-in-one and that’s exactly why it’s not recommended for most of us. Take the wide, sweeping right curve up the hill and put a little faith in those wedges. The front closes out with a short par 5 but a water surrounded green that creates a real risk/reward set-up. If a tailwind is pushing you, reaching the green isn’t the issue, the issue is keeping that second shot out of the water. A very fun, strategic hole indeed.
The par 5s keep coming on the start of the back nine. Here I suggest you pick your line and grip-n-rip. Eagle putts show up here often enough to give it a good try. The #15 hole is called ‘Big Dog’ and is exactly that, a medium length par 4 that is all target golf with a capital ‘T.’ It’s the number 1 handicap hole for a reason, don’t feel bad about a bogey here. The long par 4, 18th hole is a round breaker if you find the fairway bunkers along the left side of the fairway. Keep your head and finish strong. This course will play differently everyday depending on the wind direction and speed. That is what the Scottish elders wanted as they battled the ‘links’ back in the motherland.
General Manager Mick Mollberg and his team know it’s the golf that matters. Sure, the facility does an excellent job hosting all kinds of events and celebrations. Sure, The Pub welcomes all comers with a smile, great food, and a celebrated menu. Sure, the pro shop has just what you need when you need it. When you’re driving back home from this little slice of transplanted Scotland, it will be that 10-foot birdie putt or the surgical wedge shot you forced into a side wind and landed within three feet of the pin that you will cherish. With that, it won’t be long and you’ll be setting up your next tee time at The Links at Northfork.