Wild Marsh – The Buffalo Club
By E. Nolan
If you trust the ratings and rankings of local and national professional publications, Wild Marsh is on the way up. Rapidly. GolfPass recently had them Top 20 in the State. “Best value in the Twin Cities,” another source added. “Superior conditions and service, with a sick logo and the most diverse collection of merch in Minnesota,” boasted one more. “That Burger & Beer for $1 steal (Thursdays) is worth an hour drive… every single week,” they proclaimed last year. Surrounded by so much water one local journalist nicknamed them “Brainerd South,” and with those incredible panoramic views from the clubhouse …
You get it. They get it. Wild Marsh knows what they have and what to do with it. They arranged all their accolades on a billboard mockup – with an aerial of the course as a backdrop – only to realize that with so many accolades you couldn’t even see the course behind them. So, they went with, “Welcome to Buffalo, Minnesota… Home to Wild Marsh Golf Club.” (And let the picture say the rest.)
General Manager, Eric Hart – with his Hospitality and Management Degrees from UW-Stout – formerly served as a restaurant manager, and as a golf professional at private Somerby in Byron, MN. When asked if he missed Somerby, and where he’d prefer to be between there and here, he doesn’t hesitate. “My heart is here, and I believe to a person I have THE best team in all of Minnesota. I’m blessed to work for an incredibly generous and ambitious owner who diligently reinvests in the course. And our superintendent, Jeff Meyer… he’s so vastly underrated.” Deferring all credit, Eric sings the praises, name-by-specific-name, of a dozen other people on staff the club couldn’t do without, and (while admitting Brainerd, Banff and Hawaii are tempting) he sure seems all-in, in Buffalo.
I tagged along with the Editor in Chief of GolfTripX.com on his early July visit from California. Compelled enough by what he’d heard and read to include Wild Marsh as a detour on his Sand Valley trip, Darin Bunch said the stop was well worth it. “Blew me away. You’d never find a public course like this out west, with a peak rate under $50 (walking). Couldn’t find it under $150. I’ve played all over Minnesota (at all the Top 20 courses) and There’s No Way This Isn’t a Top 10 Public Golf Experience in the State.” (They should put that on their billboard.)
Darin would know a thing or two about the best golf experiences, considering he’s played over 500 of the world’s top courses for the various golf and travel publications that have employed him over the past three decades. “What they’re doing here is something truly special,” he said. “Beautiful, friendly people at a beautiful, friendly place. Fantastic service, great pace of play and superb course conditions, with near-perfect bentgrass fairways and greens (that no other local courses have, other than elite private clubs like TPC Twin Cities and Spring Hill). From the atmosphere to that bold logo and their 60 different hats… I love it. Love it all.”
Wild Marsh would fit perfectly in Brainerd, alongside their best resort courses, and could draw a similar, pretty penny up there. A little closer to the Twin Cities and you’d never get a tee time. They heard it from Darin (never one for hyperbole), and they’ve heard it from many other media sources. Their 7th hole – that some dub “Pebble Beast” – works as a Monterey replica and was listed as one of Minnesota’s “Dream 18.” The course is so popular now they’ve capped on memberships, and their Women’s League (Tuesdays) literally doubled in one year. While still a metro outlier, dozens of new residential neighborhoods are being built in the area, and Wild Marsh is flooded weekly with guests from golf-hungry communities like St. Michael, Albertville, Monticello and Rockford/Delano. Suffice it to say… they’re no sort of secret anymore.
Kicking back in an Adirondack on the patio overlooking Mink Lake, I breathe in the fresh air and smells from the grill, and I smile at the buffalo on the hill guarding the first tee. (Nice touch.) Such a magnificent view they’ve got here – such an oasis in general. There’s a fire pit beside me, diverse menu to select from, 19 beers on tap (yes, 19), a half-dozen pull tab boxes, and sports of all sorts playing on 65” TVs all around.
I found both peace and rejuvenation at Wild Marsh this year. I’ve found my new “Happy Place.”