A Hidden Gem At Heritage Links
By Rhett Arens
Situated in the big sky, rolling landscape around Lakeville lies a gem of a course. The Heritage Links Golf Club often gets overlooked among the collection of high profile courses in this corner of the Twin Cities, but that is about to change. It is Brett Martinsons’ mission to correct this oversight. Brett is the Head Golf Professional at Heritage is clearly seeing the glass half-full these days and with good reason. After a devastating 2019 winter kill where many high-end courses have experienced complete fairway and green destruction, the 100% bent grass layout at Heritage has produced the best playing conditions that Brett has ever seen in his 16 years at Heritage Links. And the word is out.
Brett and his team, including first year superintendent Ty Tollefson (coming from Stillwater Country Club) are ecstatic about the feedback they are receiving from long-time regulars as well as first-time players at Heritage. The first timers are coming back and becoming regulars and that is exactly what Brett wants. His focus is on growing the daily rounds and pumping up the tee sheet. The Heritage Links ownership is all in as well; making a concerted effort to invest and support Brett’s plans. All of this starts on the course, where playing conditions have evolved the last few years from ok to spectacular.
At 6,672 yards from the tips, the par 71 golf course requires strategic tee shots, but remains enjoyable and challenging for all levels of play. Designed by Joel Goldstrand and opened in 1997, the manageable length of the golf course brings a nice balance of links, park-style and target golf that puts a load of fun and shot variety into the overall playing experience. The front nine incorporates that links feel with open fairways, water hazards and rolling terrain. Beware, this type of visual layout appears easier than it plays with fairways narrowing at just the right spots and undulations providing less-than-ideal lies at many key points. There is certainly an intimidation factor as well with all of the natural marsh pond hazards lining the fairways and crowding the greens. Check the wind, pick your line and swing with confidence.
The back nine plays to a more wooded feel as it is lined with trees, more water, strategic bunker placement and some great elevation challenges. Overall the course design throws 45 bunkers at you and water comes into play on 16 of 18 holes. That description may sound a bit daunting, but provides fair yet challenging play for all skill levels from beginner to scratch. With four sets of tees ranging from 5,145 yards to 6,672 yards, you should be able to find your preferred yardage and start knocking down those pars. Given the interesting nuances of the Goldstrand design, you may want to request a complimentary yardage book at check-in, especially first time players. The clubhouse is happy to set you up with that.
The par 3s offer everything you would want in a set of par-3 holes… short yardages, long yardages, elevations up and down, carries and everything in-between. This type of variety is a welcome element on the scorecard. Many of the holes play best with some accurate target style play. Diligently hitting your spots and distances will reward you with good looks and wedge play into the green complexes. The 12th hole is the number one handicap and utilizes all of these elements into a long (427 from the blacks), challenging par 4 where hitting the landing spot and carrying the creek could yield a par putt. Not a lot of room for error in that scenario, but that is exactly the point – exactly what a number one hole is supposed to present.
The Heritage Links team has structured a great Club Championship event where both members and non-members can go toe-to-toe over the open two day tournament. Flights are set-up for the whole gamut of handicap play with the clubhouse hosting is a first class affair. This same hosting mentality carries over into the active league calendar and well-attended youth programs. Brett is encouraged to see a large influx of youth players raging from age 8 to 18 and feels this puts the game in good hands for the future. Again, that glass is half-full and you can hear it in his voice.
Walking through the doors at Heritage Links feels like coming into a private club where everyone knows your name, knows your favorite beverage and asks you how the kids are doing. That is a hometown feel that can’t be faked. Brett and his team would like nothing more for you to become part of that good feeling, play some of the best course conditions around and spread the word about this not-so hidden gem south of the Twin Cities.