Minnesota's 400+ golf courses can be a daunting universe to sort through when planning a golf vacation, but courses grouped together along "trails" make it easy to organize an extended golf getaway. The following six golf trails provide quality with varying degrees of difficulty. The trails match up nicely with several popular Minnesota Scenic Byways, making for enjoyable drives between the courses. So pack your clubs and select a trail to explore.
Minnesota Golf Trail
This selection of courses is located near the Otter Trail and Lake Country scenic byways, popular lake areas with excellent golf. In Battle Lake, Balmoral Golf Course's record is 64, so take a shot at that. Savor the woods and water at Blueberry Pines in Menahga, designed by former PGA Tour player and Minnesota native Joel Goldstrand. Both Longbow and Tianna are neat tracks in Walker, and the 27 holes at Perham Lakeside Golf Club provide a topographic mix that administers every type of golf test. The Wildflower at Fair Hills Resort in Detroit Lakes is also a Goldstrand creation, with 7,000 yards and course and slope ratings that suggest challenge. In Ottertail, Thumper Pond's 18 holes feature more than 30,000 pine trees and the resort sports a spa and indoor water park. Find out more about this golf trail at www.theminnesotagolftrail.com.
Brainerd Golf Trail
Winding its way throughout this fabulous lakes area is the 54-mile Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway, where Gull Lake and the Whitefish Chain provide a superb background for some of the state's best golf. The 27-hole Pines at Grand View Lodge, plus The Preserve and Arnold Palmer designed Deacon's Lodge, combine to set the bar for golf on this trail. The two Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designs at Cragun's Resort are impressive, and The Traditional and Whitebirch at Breezy Point Resort keep players returning. Golden Eagle's exquisite setting is enhanced by the cozy cabins that keep players on site. Learn more about this great golf destination at www.brainerdgolftrail.com.
This trail encompasses the North Shore Scenic Drive and the Superior National Forest Scenic Byway. Along the 154-mile North Shore byway, the Silver Bay 9–hole is a popular prelude to Superior National's dramatic 27 holes at Lutsen. Superior National also harbors one of the most fun par 3s on the trail, with a huge elevation drop to the green and Lake Superior viewable in the distance. Inland from the shore, the Superior Forest byway leads to the towns of Aurora and Hoyt Lakes, with a 9-hole course. Next stop is Biwabik and Giants Ridge, with two of Minnesota's most acclaimed golf courses, The Legend and The Quarry at Giants Ridge. This splendid pair and The Wilderness at Fortune Bay are a fabulous multi-day golf destination. East of there, Ely Golf Club is on the cusp of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Courses in Eveleth and Virginia round out this tour, with more information available at www.wildnorthgolf.com.
Minnesota River Valley
Belle Plaine's Valley View Golf Course has sweeping views of the Minnesota River Valley, with water in play on 13 holes. LeSueur's course is relatively short by today's standards but compensates with pesky hillside lies. Shoreland Country Club in St. Peter presents itself where the Minnesota River Valley Scenic Byway turns from south to west. It's a short par 69 with seven par 3s, views of the river valley and routes along Lake Emily. Mankato offers two courses on this trail. One, North Links, boasts a large driving range and two practice holes. Thirsty New Ulm Country Club patrons can opt for après golf at the Schell's Brewery or Morgan Creek Vineyard, and then peruse the town's Germanic flavor. A Minnesota gem emerges on the wide open prairie near Morton. Dacotah Ridge is Rees Jones-inspired golf, with vast expanses of native fescue swaying in the prairie winds and framing portions of Wabasha Creek. Granite Run in Granite Falls and The Crossings in Montevideo combine with courses in Appleton and Ortonville to complete this trail along the Minnesota River.
True to its moniker, this trail rides along the Mississippi River with the river bluffs on its wing, along the southern stretch of Minnesota's Great River Road. It begins with three courses in Hastings, which lies at the confluence of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers. At Red Wing, the Red Wing Country Club and the two courses at Mississippi National are the golf options. Just down shore, Mount Frontenac Golf Course tracks up and down the bluff, where deer are plentiful. Lake City Golf Club is gateway to The Jewel Golf Club, an upscale Hale Irwin course that doesn't disappoint. Lake Pepin and Coffee Mill courses are highly elevated and the two courses in Winona, The Bridges and Cedar Valley, are both peaceful oases in lush valleys worth the trip for golf and surprising dining.
Waters of the Dancing Sky
This golf trail follows the scenic byway of this name just south of the Canadian border from Hallock to Voyageurs National Park. The trail begins with courses at Hallock, Karlstad and Greenbush before the 18-hole Oakcrest Golf Course in Roseau. Warroad Estates is a regulation woodland course popular with Canadian golfers, and its ninth green is the shape of the state of Minnesota. Oak Harbor's vintage front nine is woodsy and the back has a Scottish links feel along the Rainy River. Falls Country Club is also next to the Rainy, and adds streams and ponds on ten holes. Get more information about this trail at www.watersofthedancingsky.org.