Wedgewood Cove – Minnesota’s Southern Belle
By E. Nolan
There’s a course in southern Minnesota, less than 100 miles from the Twin Cities, that resonates with me in a way few other courses in the state do. Having taken architecture classes from the course’s primary designer, Garrett Gill (and John Schmenk) I’ve always felt personally invested in its success. But the better part (the best part) of Wedgewood Cove is that no matter its roots, I’ve just always enjoyed being there – playing, eating and relaxing along the shores of Pickerel Lake.
Albert Lea’s crown jewel is basically two courses in one. It’s a links-style course, in a way no other area courses are. And it’s a parkland course with, again, holes unlike any course in the area. Head Golf Professional Donnie Teeter has been there a long time, long as I’ve been writing, and every year he responds and feels the same… “Gets a little better here every year.” Sounds cliché, but I’d agree with that sentiment. I like and appreciate the course a little more with every visit.
Wedgewood Cove is a course that never tries to be anything more than it is, while always being plenty of everything for everyone. My wife loves the experience off the red tees. My son, a scratch golfer, finds plenty of game for him off the tips. I’ve played the course four times over the past few years and shot the exact same score all four times… off three different sets of tees. I appreciate my consistency as much as I appreciate theirs. Wedgewood Cove is always well maintained, scenic, challenging and, most importantly, fun. Talk to the members and they’ll tell you they never tire of playing it… that they appreciate the management of the course at every level, and that they love the reactions of people who come play the course for the first time. When asked what they hear the most from visitors, a handful of regulars pretty much all said the same thing… “That second hole got me.”
Both nines begin and end at the clubhouse, with hole 1 running out just right of 9, and hole 10 doing the same just left of 18. Simple starts and finishes, by design, with all the creative artwork in between. Everything on the clubhouse side of the road (holes 1, 9 and 10-18) feels similar – links style golf – with mounds and wide-open fairways weaving between marsh and ponds. But the seven holes after the starter are the ones that really demand attention – parkland holes, with all their up, down and dramatic diversity. The aforementioned second hole will give you pause. Yes, those trees in the distance are in your way – splitting through the middle of the fairway. But, yes, you can still par or birdie the hole.
Meaning no disrespect to all the longer holes at Wedgewood, my utmost affection is reserved for their stellar collection of par 3s. The front has two great ones, at 3 and 6, with the third hole (playing towards the water) actually being my favorite hole on the front. The back feels like it has twice as much water, but packs in the fun and memorable holes as well. The Par 4 11th hole is a nailbiter, guarded all the way down the right side by water. But, again, the pinnacle of fun (for me at least) is in the par 3’s. The 14th hole is a great little drop shot down to the shores of Pickerel Lake. And the 17th feels a bit like the famous island green at TPC Sawgrass, with a forced carry to a tricky green.
They do a little bit of everything but, most importantly, they do everything well. They are a wedding and event host with a great banquet ballroom (capacity 400) and some even better photography locations both inside and outside along the lake. They are popular for tournaments, with space and catering for the smallest and largest of groups. Wedgewood Cove has two restaurants, essentially, with an Executive Chef, Kitchen Manager AND Food & Beverage Manager, so nothing is overlooked. Their more casual eatery “The Cove” is a sports bar with golf course views, a fun menu (Mac & Cheese Eggrolls!) and windows facing west to take in the sunset. “The Wedgewood” is more formal, offering seasonal menus with local ingredients for both lunch and dinner while also boasting some great lake views. Wedgewood Cove has a couple of private dining rooms as well for meetings and smaller events, and all of the dining sites are served by the same fully loaded bar.
All of this to say, no matter who you are or what you’re looking for, the golfer gets a little bit of the best of everything at Wedgewood Cove.