Bears At Northwood Hills
By R.J. Smiley
The GPS Screen displayed the following message, “Caution, black bears near #5 green!”
Mid afternoon on Sunday is our couples golf day at Northwood Hills Golf Course. We enjoy these relaxed rounds with the fun couple that live just down the lake from us. Their grandkids are on their way home Sunday afternoon and the crowd at the golf course has thinned.
As we were loading our clubs onto our carts, we noticed a young man on the putting green with two small children. On his golf cart were three sets of clubs: one adult set and two seemingly new youth sets. I made an immediate observation, and then said, “We need to go directly to the first tee so we can get ahead of those beginners.” All agreed!
As we proceeded to our golf balls on the first fairway I looked back and saw the kids getting a quick golf lesson. I smiled, thinking to myself, “We indeed made a good move getting out ahead to this youthful group.”
We finished the first hole and stepped to the tee for the downhill par-3 second. We made a quick look for two balls hit into the cattails before putting out and taking the cart path to the third tee. I looked back to number one where the youthful threesome was just putting out. Again a smile, knowing we had made the correct move.
It took a while for our group to complete the third as the girls both chipped from the back of the green. The quick greens are unforgiving and both chips caught the slope and proceeded to the bottom of the hill.
The fifth also took a toll on the speed of our foursome. The woods, just starting to show their fall colors, on both sides of the square doglegged hole seemed to eat our golf balls. A snowman and 3 sevens do in fact take a long time.
We were putting out on number six as a single golfer on a cart emerged from the wooded path from the fifth green to the sixth tee. We putted out and proceeded to the evaluated 7th tee for the most beautiful tee shot in Minnesota. The seventh hole is known affectionately as the Cliff Hole, because of the steep drop in front of the tee.
We waited for the single to finish putting on six and allowed him to play through. On the tee I asked, “Did you play through the dad and his two kids?” He answered in the affirmative.
As we waited for the single to hit his second shot from the 7th fairway, the dad and his two kids skidded to a stop on the cart path at 7. “You must have skipped the sixth hole entirely?” I questioned.
With eyes big as saucers the dad empathetically said, “We just got to the green on number 5 when two bear cubs came out of the woods and started towards us. The kids thought it was cool, but I just took off. I know momma bear is somewhere just behind them.”
We hit our tee shots as we discussed all the bear sightings this fall. As we were driving toward our golf balls we saw a notice appear on the GPS screen: “Caution black bears near #5 green.”
The bear sighting added some excitement to our not so normal Sunday afternoon couples golf.
As I am writing this story for Tee Times I received a Facebook video from Bill Isrealson who lives on the Vintage Golf Course near Staples, MN. Bill videoed a large black bear as it crossed the 13th fairway at Vintage.
In the past week there have been three bear sightings within a block of our home on Mille Lacs. Looks like it will be a good year for the bear hunters. The bumper crop of black bear proves that not all mammals catch the COVID19 virus.