NISSWA, MN. - The Grand View Lodge founded the golf boom in the Brainerd Lakes region, and the resort continues to push it to new heights. Grand View has been entertaining tourists on Gull Lake in central Minnesota since 1919, but the resort didn't jump on the golf bandwagon until the last decade. In the land of 10,000 lakes, fishing has always been the king of summer sports in Minnesota, but golf clubs are starting to replace the fishing poles in the trunks of people's cars around here.
Fred Boos, the general manager of Grand View in the 1970s and 80s, is considered the founding father of it all. Realizing there weren't any real golf courses in the area to chose from - just a few scattered 9-hole layouts, like Grand View's Garden Course, or short 18-hole executive courses - Boos hired former PGA Touring pro and native Minnesotan Joel Goldstrand to build The Pines Golf Club, which opened in 1990.
Two years later with the demand growing, Goldstrand added another nine to The Pines, ushering in a new economic era in this small, quaint community about three hours north of the Twin Cities. Others area resorts, like Madden's and Cragun's, have followed suit. The growing competition has been good for everybody, fueling talk that maybe, someday, the Brainerd region could become a Myrtle Beach north. The region is well on its way, being named No. 41 of Golf Digest's list of the World's 50 Greatest Golf Destinations in its September 2000 issue.
Since opening The Pines, Grand View has added two more gems, The Preserve and Deacon's Lodge, to become Brainerd's golf centerpiece, and a resort worthy of a Silver Medal award by Golf Magazine.
Grand View's director of golf Bill Moseley called the area's golf potential "unbelievable." The "Explore Minnesota Golf Alliance," a conglomeration of 30 visitors bureaus, resorts, golf courses, and other associations with a vested interest in state tourism, has been visiting golf shows across the country since 1998 to entice players to taste the Midwest's thriving golf industry.
"Believe it or not, we don't want to be that big (as Myrtle Beach)," Moseley said. "We don't want the courses to be so plentiful, you lose sight of the quality. We want to get the optimum range (of golfers), so that the golf experience is good for everybody, where you don't have to wait and you' re not pressed (on the course). We want to grow slow and steady."
Plans are in the works for Goldstrand to add another nine to The Pines, creating two 18-hole layouts. This nine could open as early as fall, 2002.
The Grand View Lodge isn't all golf, either. It didn't survive for more than seven decades without a major golf course for no reason. The resort features 11 tennis courts, a 300-person swimming pool with a 110-foot water slide, a wonderful beach on Gull Lake, and the Paul Bunyan Trail, one of the nation's longest paved trails for hiking, biking and rollerblading. Guests can rent ski boats, jet skis, canoes, and bikes or go horseback riding. Fine dining is available at seven different restaurants, including the Italian Garden and Brownie Cote's.
The only thing holding Grand View back from attracting more visitors nation-wide is the lack of lodging. People can chose from 60 lakefront cabins on Gull Lake and 10 more on Roy Lake. The Townhomes along the 8th hole at The Pines and the cabins at Deacon's Lodge are the deluxe staying options, but don't delay in booking. Moseley said Grand View is already 75 percent booked lodging-wise for the summer of 2001.
"We need to get more motel and hotel rooms," Moseley told the Saint Paul Pioneer Press. "That's why our courses aren't as crowded in July and August as people might think. The resorts are full because of family vacations, so we don't have enough rooms for just golfers. Our courses are actually busier in the spring and fall, when we have lots of people here on golf packages." Here's a look at what you're missing if you don't put the Grand View Lodge on your "Places to Play" list:
Playing any of the three nines - the Lakes, Woods and Marsh - is a treat. Any combination of three equates to a 6,800-yard-plus course that will challenge any player. It is the most decorated of the three courses for good reason. The Pines, which made Golf Magazine's prestigious "Top 100 (Public) Courses You Can Play" list in 2000, boasts a personality all its own - from the narrow, three-tiered green on the Lakes' 212-yard 9th hole to the 210-yard carry over wetlands on the 4th tee of the Marsh nine.
Some holes are tight and tree-lined; others are wide open with a huge, undulating green being the biggest cause for concern. "The Pines is a 'what you see is what you get' layout," Moseley said. "It's a true, north woods experience."
This course is the shortest (6,601 yards from the back tees) and the easiest (135 slope) of the three, but that doesn't mean it isn 't a worthy stop. The locals have come to enjoy The Preserve for its playability and scenery.
The Mike Morley/Dan Helbling design, which is located about two miles south of the small town of Pequot Lakes, was purchased by Grand View in 1996, opening later that fall.
With 13 elevated tees, The Preserve is a roller-coaster ride through mature forests of birch, maple, ash and oak trees. The fifth hole, a 438-yard par 4, plays dramatically uphill, though. Even with a solid 250-yard drive to avoid one wetland to the right, golfers must pound an 180-yard approach over another marsh. The 162-yard par-3 13th hole plays more like 140 yards with the 75-foot plunge to the expansive green. The 14th is a controversial 287-yard par-4. It plummets downhill from the tee to a valley below, then rises up at to a testy, elevated green.
"Some say the view from the clubhouse is the best in the state," Moseley said. "Because the course is so playable, it's just plain fun. It appeals to a wider audience."
Although Deacon's Lodge, designed by the Arnold Palmer Design Company, is the longest drive from the resort, that doesn't stop players from making the trek. Construction started on Deacon's, which is named for Palmer's father, in the fall of 1997, funded by a company named Sienna World Golf, but Grand View was happy to add the course to its mix when Sienna couldn't fund the project to completion.
Deacon's opened to much fan fare in May 1999 as Palmer and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura played a nine-hole exhibition round. As word got out, golfers started flocking to its remote location in Breezy Point. Golf Magazine named it one of the top 10 new public courses in the United States in its March 2000 issue.
The course, which plays to 6,964 yards from the Palmer tees, is enhanced by its beauty and difficulty. It rambles through 500 acres of thick-forested, rolling land and abuts three lakes - Shaffer, Lynch, and Douglas Lakes - on five different holes. Under the green grass of the 45 acres of fairways lies 170 feet of native sand, which Palmer transformed into natural waste bunkers, giving it a feel of the famous Pine Valley Country Club in New Jersey.
The course's simple slope of 128 is a product of generous fairways and large greens (averaging 7,500 square feet), but in reality, playing Deacon's is a rugged test, one that beginners might not enjoy. Ten of the holes require carries over wetlands, but it's the approach shots to well-guarded greens that are the danger. All of the par-4s and par-5s dogleg or bend one way, requiring delicate placement of each shot.
The Lodge at Deacon's is a charming, giant log structure that includes a full-service restaurant, a spacious patio and a pro shop. Deacon's massive driving range and several putting greens complete the facility. Moseley considers Deacon's the "classiest" of the three courses. "Getting Deacon's was a natural fit for us," he said. "We realize it gives us an edge. People can come here and play three unique courses and not move from the resort."
23521 Nokomis Ave, Nisswa, MN., 56468
Tee times: 1-888-437-4637
Year opened: 1919
Package information: 1-800-432-3788
Director of Golf: Bill Moseley
Web site: www.grandviewlodge.com.
23521 Nokomis Ave, Nisswa, MN., 56468
Phone: 1-888-437-4637, 1-218-963-3146
Statistics from the back tees (Lakes-Woods): Yardage: 6,874; Slope: 137; Rating: 74.2
Statistics from the back tees (Woods-Marsh): Yardage: 6,883; Slope: 139; Rating: 73.9
Statistics from the back tees (Marsh-Lakes): Yardage: 6,837; Slope: 141; Rating: 74.3
Designer: Joel Goldstrand
Year Opened: Lakes and Woods nines (1990); Marsh nine (1994).
Green Fees: $70 noon Sunday-Thursday; $80 Friday-Sunday morning
Head pro: Eric Peterson.
Pequot Lakes, MN.
Phone: 1-888-437-4637, 1-218-568-4944
Statistics from the back tees: Yardage: 6,601; Slope: 135; Rating: 71.6
Designer: Mike Morley/Dan Helbling
Year Opened: fall, 1996
Green Fees: $70 noon Sunday-Thursday; $80 Friday-Sunday morning.
9348 Arnold Palmer Drive, Breezy Point, MN 56472
Phone: 1-888-437-4637, 1-218-562-6262
Statistics from the back tees: Yardage: 6,964; Slope: 128; Rating: 73.8
Designer: Arnold Palmer Course Design Company
Day Opened: May 31, 1999
Head pro: Mark Neva
Green Fees: $90 Sunday noon-Thursday; $95 Friday-Sunday morning.
Statistics: a par-35, 2,502-yard 9-hole executive course
Green Fees for 18 holes: $25 Sunday noon-Thursday; $30 Friday-Sunday morning.