Hitting The Sweet Spot At Heritage Links
By Rhett Arens
Sitting just a hop, skip and jump south of the Twin Cities is another of those Joel Goldstrand designs that seem to surprise and challenge at every bend in the fairway. Joel is a homegrown Minnesota talent who switched gears from his professional playing days on the PGA TOUR to a renowned golf course architect having designed and/or renovated more than 100 golf courses. Heritage Links Golf Club sits right there with some of his most visible projects, including the Pines at Grandview Lodge, the Links at Northfork and the mind-blowing elevations at St. Croix National. Speaking of elevations, Brett Martinson (Head Golf Professional) is seeing rounds being played at historical levels. He attributes many of these to repeat customers who keep coming back for the excellent conditions. The weather has been fickle, but Superintendent Ty Tollefson and his hard-working crew have playing conditions dialed in just right and the proof is in the crazy, busy tee sheet.
Having opened in 1997 during the high expansion years when golf was growing exponentially, Heritage Links is having a 2020 season that could be characterized in that same category. Heritage Links’ rounds at this point in the year are closing in on last years total and its only mid-August. So, in some ways COVID taketh and COVID giveth. Pandemic be damned. Minnesotans want fresh air, blue skies and a proper social distancing sport that provides lots of smiles and swinging space. To paraphrase Brett, they are “blowing it out of the water.” Heritage Links has put itself in a position to make the most of it and they are.
Never one to rest on their laurels the team at Heritage Links has invested in the clubhouse operations with a remodeled upper level, a new bar and a new food and beverage facility. Doubling down on those improvements, they have also brought in two new golf simulators which offers bad weather day swings and plenty of off-season entertainment.
The 6,600 yard, par 71 Goldstrand layout is a Championship track with a nice mix of links and park land style holes. The front nine is definitely more open with a prairie links feel coming into play under full wind exposure and several water features that work seamlessly into the rolling terrain. The trees show their teeth more often on the back nine where tight fairways are sprinkled with substantial bunkering and a collection of challenging elevation changes. Who doesn’t like a downhill look into a green? The quick answer is nobody, because they are always fun.
While the overall length isn’t staggering, no corners were cut on the 575 yard second with its double dog-leg. You need to be careful how much you bite off those doglegs or they will bite back. Hole #6 plays around a beautiful marsh into an open landing zone that will have you looking into a surrounded green with wetlands on three sides. This is where you need to have those iron and wedge yardages down pat. The front nine finishes up with a 387 yard par 4 that was made for the power fade. No need to cut too much corner here as the green offers plenty of forgiveness on all sides for a medium range iron.
The back nine kick off with a split tree opening across a ravine. You will see a handful of these throughout the round. The short, 305 yard tenth requires a layup that gives you a proper vantage point and yardage into the bunker protected, hump-style green. Another forced carry leads you into the 12th green between trees. This type of thinking person’s golf makes for some exciting moments and requires good ball striking skills. Topping balls or chunking them will be costly with these types of stop and start fairways. The par 3 fourteenth sits at a comfortable length, but the green is undulated and situated with a cattail strewn marsh across the back. It makes for a splendid, natural atheistic. The par 4 seventeenth presents a nerve inducing tee shot that may have you thinking I need to bail out to the right. Going that route will add lots of yardage so it’s best to nail a solid, straight driver to the end of the fairway which will get you to a reachable second shot which also has a tough feel to it. Walk away with a par and you can feel like you’ve slayed a tough one… because you have.
Heritage Links has that pull and tug that creative designs seem to have but at the same time they can leave you feeling rewarded. It’s great that Brett and his team are feeling some of that positive energy in these crazy times. They have kept the faith and the faithful keep coming back. Now it’s your turn to hit that sweet spot at Heritage Links.