Golfers, Stop Your Car!
By R.J. Smiley
Ruttger’s wants golfers to experience the natural beauty and exceptional challenge of the Lake Golf Course. Play Ruttger’s 18 championship holes (some Masters quality) for $1.39 per hole. Ruttger’s Bay Lake Lodge has been in the resort business since 1898, but most Minnesota golfers have never enjoyed the truly unique holes that make up The Lakes Golf Course.
Joe Ruttger, the German immigrant, who carved out a homestead, then a resort, was challenged by the north woods wilderness. That same north woods wilderness challenges golfers on The Lakes Golf Course.
In the early days, customers would take the train from the Twin Cities to Deerwood where Joe Ruttger would meet them with his horse drawn wagon and transport them back to his fishing resort on the shores of Bay Lake. James J. Hill built the railroad to transport lumber from the mills in central and northern Minnesota back to the cities and on to Chicago; resort guests were an after thought. Word spread rapidly that Joe and Josie Ruttger treated resort guests “just like family.”
Today, fourth generation owner/manager, Chris Ruttger carries that tradition forward. Chris and PGA professional, Dave Sadlowsky, have put together two exceptional opportunities for golfers to get acquainted with Ruttger’s golf courses and receive the “family treatment.”
Sadlowsky, the second year pro, convinced Chris Ruttger to offer the $100 Foursome Package again in 2015. He argued that golfers needed a “good reason” to STOP at Ruttger’s on their annual trip to Brainerd, the fourth best golf resort area in the world. (Technically Ruttger’s is included in the Brainerd group of courses – but the resort sits alone, about 15 minutes east of Brainerd.)
“We just want golfers to give us a look! If a foursome headed up to Brainerd would leave the cities four hours earlier, they could play our course and easily make it to their resort that same day. The thing I learned in my first year: if golfers play The Lakes one or two of our spectacular holes will stick in their mind over and above the other 100 or so holes they might play in the area,” Sadlowsky stated.
The $100 Foursome Package is truly a complete golf package. The $100 price includes green fees for 4 players (normally $45 for resort guests), plus golf carts and, for the real hard-core players, all the range balls you want to hit. If you break that down, golfers pay the ridiculously low price of only $1.39 per hole… and the range balls are free. There is no better golf bargain available in the USA.
If golfers still want more, one would bet that Dave Sadlowsky would cut some deal to play Alec’s Nine, Ruttger’s original golf course created in 1928. The cute executive 9 (par 34) is free for resort guests, but proves to be a welcome diversion from the grueling Lakes Course.
Golf Packages Starting at $139 Per Person
To prove that Ruttger’s treats guests just like family, the staff has put together a golf package price that would only cover green fees at several Brainerd area courses. Starting at $139 per person the package includes unlimited golf and cart on both the Lakes Course and Alec’s Nine, unlimited use of the driving range is also included. Golf package purchasers will not be forced to sleep in an old outdated motel that date back to the horse drawn wagon days. Golf package participants’ sleeping arrangements are in newly redecorated condo-type units complete with a kitchen. The kitchen however will most likely not be used because the package includes a breakfast and dinner at any of the variety of dining options available at Ruttger’s.
Don’t forget to bring your swimming trunks and maybe your fishing boat. Ruttger’s is a full service resort with swimming pools, beach and the fishing that brought guests to the resort in 1890 remains very good today.
The Lakes Golf Course
Many golf courses claim to be carved through the wilderness. The Lakes Course proves it! The first hole is the last time you will see a road until you are standing on the 18th green below the deck of Zig’s Restaurant.
Every human appreciates beauty with a slightly different eye. Therefore, The Lakes has something for everyone. Standing in the shadows of towering white pine, the approach shot on the par-5 second offers an infinite variety of photo ops. Once your eyes have digested the panorama of the dramatic down hill approach shot, you must get back to the business of playing golf. A short drive along a cattail marsh with the frogs croaking brings golfers to the Goldstrand-style square doglegged right par-4 third where they will encounter the “Green From Hell.”
The hardest shot on the golf course is the tee shot on number four. My advice is to drive up and look at the landing area, because from the tee, there appears to be none. No matter how many times you play this hole, you will never know if your ball has found the fairway until you find it on the short grass. Once you have a ball on the fairway (whether you hit it there or dropped it), the approach shot is one of the prettiest and challenging you will ever experience. Make a par and every player but a scratch player will net a birdie! Every shot on the stunningly beautiful, risk/reward par-5 fifth will cause the adrenaline to flow. The approach shot (second, third or fourth), over the small lake that laps at the slender green will cause your heartbeat to quicken.
Two relatively easy, but still beautiful holes, introduce golfers to the back nine. The cart path to the 12th tee takes your group behind the fifth green for an instant replay of the nightmare of an hour ago. As you stand on the 12th tee you will need two things: a camera and some Rolaids. In this truly experienced writer’s opinion, “The 12th is the VERY BEST hole on the golf course.” The fairway, guarded by water on the left and huge pines on the right, is actually wider than it appears. A driver is required for most golfers on this beauty to be able to get home on the uphill second. The green, like the fairway, is larger than it appears, and golfers only see the flagstick. Play two clubs more than the measured yardage because of the elevation change.
The par-5 fourteenth has converted many golfers into a photographer. The decidedly elevated tee of this dramatic hole gives golfers an unspoiled look at Swan Lake; the pre-settlement wilderness runs the entire length of this hole. Squint your eyes and catch a vision of a birchbark canoe filled with beaver pelts. In the midst of this wilderness you will eventually find a tiny green hidden in the folds of marsh grass. The severely sloped two-tiered sliver of green on the par-3 fifteenth will make you wonder why Goldstrand thought there was room for a hole.
The first 15 holes will not get first time golfers ready for the finish. Allow this writer to exaggerate, if only slightly! If the trio of water guarded finishing holes on The Lakes Course were manicured to Masters’ standards, I believe that each could be nicely fitted into the hallowed grounds of Augusta National.
Think what you would pay to play Augusta! You can play these holes for $1.39 per hole!