North Country Golf

By Scott Hanson, Publisher and Editor-In-Chief

Quite a few “links-style” courses have popped up in the United States over the past ten or fifteen years, as course designers have tried to capture the magic of traditional Scottish and British courses. These American-made links courses have had varying degrees of success, as some are excellent tests of golf and others seem like somebody got tired of tending their crops, so they decided to throw 18 flags out in the middle of their field and call it a golf course. Even the best of the links courses that I’ve seen in our region are what would call “Americanized” versions of links courses. Generally speaking, the U.S. versions have very well-defined fairways, unlike true links courses; the landscape has more of a man-made look to over here; and the bunkers aren’t usually as deep and menacing as lynx picthey can be in Europe. All those differences aside, there are some very nice links courses around, and on of the nicest one that I’ve played is Lynx National in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

The front nine and the back nine at Lynx National have been given very appropriate names: the front is known as the Prairie Nine, and the back is known at the Marsh Nine. The Prairie seems like it was built right on a prairie, with gentle undulations, a few deep swales, and tall prairie grasses lining each hole. A few pine trees are scattered throughout the Prairie Nine, but they are so few and far between that they seem to be nonexistent. Without many trees, and being out on the prairie, the wind can really get whipping on this part of the course, as I was witness to. It must have been gusting at 50 mph at one point, but then it subsided quickly, and during the rest of my round the wind was pretty ,much non=existent. The Prairie nine starts out with a straightforward, uphill par-4 that measures 400 years, but probably plays to about 415 since it’s uphill. The big green is flanked by a couple of small bunkers on either side,and a nice stand of pine trees that are a couple hundred yards behind, on the other side of a dirt road. Obviously, these trees don’t come into play, since they are so far behind the green, but they do have a visual influence on the hole, and frame the green very nicely.

The 3rd hole is an interested, semi-blind par-4. Only 365 years from the tips, it’s not overly long by any means, but if you haven’t played at Lynx National before, it can be a very difficult to determine where to aim from the tee box. The hole moves very slightly uphill, and turns right around a couple of bunkers and some mounds. It looks like a good player should be able to cut some of the dogleg off and aim over the bunkers. If you go a little too far right, though, big mounds and really thick prairie grass creep into the pictures, and your golf ball can quickly disappear.

hole 9 photoThe 4th hole at Lynx National is a 470-years par 5, so it’s not overly long. And it’s very straight, so there aren’t any crazy nooks or crannies to worry about. Three large bunkers line the right side of the fairway, and the out-of-bounds on the left side makes the average-sized fairway seem much skinnier. A very deep green allows for many different pin placements, and an array of mounds and small hills surrounding the green help to knock slightly errant shots back towards the putting surface.

The front nine ends with a very scenic and challenging par-4, measuring a rigorous 415 yards from the back. The green is not visible from the tees, since there is a modest descent from the fairway to the putting surface. One you get out to the middle of the fairway, you will see that the green sits perched above a pond that stretches all the way across the front of the green. This pond is essentially barbell-shaped, with two big sections on the sides of the green connected by a skinny section directly in front of the green. Two big bunkers were placed in front of the green, between the putting surface and the water’s surface. The stately clubhouse sits behind the green, inviting golfers in to get a snack or a refreshing beverage before tackling the back nine.

The back nine starts with a 385-yard par-4, with water everywhere. A mid-sized pond is located on the left side of the fairway in the landing area, and a bigger pond sneaks in from the right up by the green. The first pond, back in the fairway, makes the fairway seem quite narrow, but there is a wide open bailout area in the right rough for people who are unable to find the short grass. If your tee shots ends up the bailout area, the water up by the green will be directly between you and the pin, and therefor more dangerous. The green is very skinny, and guarded on the left by a big bunker, so the water is not the only trouble on this hole.

The 13th hole is a fun par-4. It looks long on the scorecard, at 425 years, but in reality it is possible to cut some of the corner off of this dogleg-left. The course designer tried to make it difficult for people to do that, by putting a big sand trap at the corner, as well as by letting the tall prairie grasses in the rough grow thick. If you can muster up enough power to get through all that, a short iron into the slightly elevated green hole 4 photowill face you. If you decide to play it safe, a mid- to long-ion will be the right club for you. The green is sloped quite severely from back to front, and is surrounded on three sides by sand and some nicely contoured mounds. I think this hole is very pleasing to the eyes.

The 15th hole has recently been lengthened, and now is one of the longest holes in the entire state of Minnesota, at 625 yards. This three-shot hole is very straight, but the fairway goes up and down, and then back up and back down again, several times, on its way to the green. there is also a sever slope to the right which can kick balls toward a marshy area and out-of-bounds. A big bunker sits to the left of the big green that contains a multitude of undulations.

The last hole on our tour of Lynx National is the long par-4 18th hole, measuring 410 yards from the tips. This hoe bends to the right around a bit pond that lines the entire right side of the hole. Right-handers who slice their tee sots better be careful, because this pond has surely already grabbed its fair share of golf balls. The fairway sweeps around the water, an the very wide green is tucked in on the far side of the hazard. A tiny man-made creek bisects the airway, and two big bunkers guard the green. there is so much potential danger on this hole that anyone who is fortunate enough to make a par should feel very good about themselves. An excellent way to finish the round at Lynx National.

Lynx National is a wonderful example of links-style golf. Although there is plenty of tall prairie grass around every corner, waiting to hide any errant shots, there are very few trees on any of the holes, so Lynx National would be a perfect place to play in the fall – there aren’t any leaves on the ground to obscure golf balls. Along with that fact, the prairie grasses show their fiery autumn hues, making the course even more beautiful than ever. If you’re in Sauk Centre area this fall, make sure you check out the Lynx National.