Gateway Golf: Fine Courses from Rush City to Cloquet

By Explore Minnesota

Black Bear GolfHeading to northeast Minnesota? Stop on the way for some great golf on the Moose Lake tour along the I-35 corridor.

One hundred years ago, the forest in the Moose Lake region was so dense there was no place for a golf ball to go. Then came lumbering, followed by a pair of deadly forest fires and then decades of recovery and renewal.

Today the area thrives with charming towns, interesting history and challenging golf courses—and is a great gateway to northeast Minnesota.

Golf was introduced in Cloquet in 1923, when famed designer Donald Ross crafted Cloquet Country Club. The club’s big shots were impressed by Ross’ turn-of-the-century design at Northland Country Club in Duluth. Minnesota designer Joel Goldstrand completed Cloquet’s back nine at the turn of the 21st century. The course at Black Bear Casino Resort in nearby Carlton was mined from a thick forest, and is located just 30 minutes south of Duluth.

Just down the road in Hinckley, Goldstrand also designed Grand National. The course conditions are excellent and players can take advantage of stay-and-play packages at the adjacent casino resort, as well as hot coffee and sticky caramel rolls at nearby Tobies Restaurant and Bakery. Pathfinder is a relaxed nine-hole option in Hinckley.

Locals made the nine-hole course in Moose Lake happen in 1929, with design help from Duluth sportswriter Runcie Martin, who played in the 1905 U.S. Amateur and was in the hunt in the third U.S. Senior Amateur at the age of 72 in 1957. Moose Lake patrons enjoy the views of the course and Sand Lake from Shirk’s Tavern; many arrive by boat and moor at the floating dock in front of the clubhouse.

Rush City’s Bulrush Golf Club was designed by former PGA pro and Minnesota native George Shortridge, who teamed with another former PGA player, Mike Morley, to lay out Bulrush Golf Club in Rush City in 1999-2000. “We designed the course for public play so as to not have a high degree of difficulty,” Shortridge explains. “The intention was for players to want to return for another round.”

Pine City Country Club offers a sporty challenge on its affordable nine, which sports bluegrass and four sets of tees. Rounding out golf on this tour is the nine-hole 29 Pines Golf Course at Mahtowa.

Area’s History Includes Tragic Forest Fires

Hinckley had prospered with lumber companies working its dense forests until the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894, which destroyed the town and five smaller communities and killed more than 500 people. After the fire, an exact replica of the destroyed train depot was rebuilt. Today, it houses the fascinating Fire Museum, which chronicles the poignant stories of victims and survivors, as well as the heroism of train engineers who were responsible for saving hundreds of lives.

The Cloquet/Moose Lake Fire of 1918 claimed more than 1,000 lives as it swept through Pine County for several days. Survivors who recalled the Hinckley fire 24 years prior reported that it was small compared to this calamity. The flames rode a 60 mile-per- hour gale and at one point destroyed a dozen villages. The Moose Lake Fire Museum is also located in its train depot.