In many towns across Minnesota, when folks plan a special meal out, they head to the local golf course. Many clubhouse restaurants are noted for their great food, with views of a beautifully landscaped course as a scenic backdrop. So the next time you're on the road and looking for a quality dining experience, check out the area's golf courses for their restaurants.
And if you enjoy a round of golf before you dine to work up an appetite, so much the better. The golfing's great, too. Here are some suggestions to get you started.
The Bridges Golf Club, Winona
The course: Not far off Great River Road scenic byway, The Bridges is a 1920s layout set in scenic Pleasant Valley, surrounded by steep bluffs and hardwood forest. Seven of the original nine holes were incorporated into today's 18 by Robert Trent Jones.
Dining: In a serene setting, Signatures Restaurant offers fine dining with lovely views. The menu's refined selections emphasize locally sourced foods and go beyond the fare typically found at clubhouse restaurants. Among the interesting localized items are Red Lake walleye, free-range duck (Caledonia), free-range chicken (Lewiston), grilled pork loin (Elgin), and trout from Bulldog Farm in Menomonie, Wis., each very well-presented.
Nearby: The Minnesota Marine Art Museum along the Mississippi River in Winona.
The Crossings at Montevideo
The course: Formerly known as the Montevideo Country Club, The Crossings is a rolling course at the confluence of the Minnesota and Chippewa rivers that requires a fair amount of strategic play; a spacious deck overlooks a par 3 for fun post-round viewing.
Dining: Johnnie's On The Tee is driven by a large menu includes bacon-wrapped pork chop, burgers, pastas and steaks, plus some cool 'fairway favorites' such as 21 shrimp & fries, a variety of wraps plus taco and chicken Caesar salads, and there's always a catch of the week.
Nearby: Historic Chippewa City, a village of 24 buildings, many from the 1870s and 1880s, moved to this site by the county historical society.
Marshall Golf Club, Marshall
The course: The Redwood River threads through Marshall Golf Club, which opened in 1942, expanded to 18 holes 30 years later, and was upgraded again recently. It's a relatively short par 71 at 6,600 yards from the tips with two ponds coming into play, especially the one that crowds the second green on three sides.
Dining: The Clubhouse Restaurant offers standard but delicious fare, and the lounge overlooks the Redwood River. The nachos and walleye or chicken fingers are tasty with special sauces. The cool chef salad refreshes after a round on a hot summer day, and the smothered steak sandwich is a definite filler.
Nearby: The Heritage Museum and Windpower Learning Center of Southwest Minnesota at Lake Benton, about a half-hour drive from Marshall.
Prestwick Golf Club, Woodbury
The course: Just east of St. Paul, Prestwick is the classic public golf course, but with a private country club experience. Beautifully manicured with extensive floral beds, the course plays less than 7,000 yards from the blues, but delivers a challenging round for players at every level.
Dining: Axel's at Prestwick is now David's Chophouse, debuting this season with new menus. The house features aged Hereford beef, and the impressive menus have small plates, grilled pizzas, soups, sandwiches, pastas and an outstanding selection of seafood.
Nearby: The St. Croix River and the antique shops, shopping in Woodbury, and galleries and gift shops in Stillwater.
Territory Golf Club, St. Cloud
The course: Territory blends linksy holes with woodsy holes on a rolling track with lots of elevation changes. The relatively huge greens provide ample targets for wild hitters.
Dining: Coyote Moon Grille features a tempting menu in the lodge-like clubhouse. Locals flock to the Territory for the Tuesday-Friday luncheon buffet and the earlybird specials Wednesday-Saturday. Other favorites are the slow-roasted prime rib on weekends and a variety of pastas and seafood options.
Nearby: The impressive Munsinger and Clemens Gardens along the Mississippi River across from downtown St. Cloud are a "must-see" for garden lovers.
Grand View Lodge, Nisswa
The courses: Grand View is one of Minnesota's pre-eminent golf resorts. Its original course is The Pines, with 27 holes, right across the street from the historic lodge and main resort grounds, which also includes the 9-hole Garden Course. Nearby is The Preserve, a pristine 18-hole that debuted in 1996. North of Nisswa, Grand View also operates Deacon's Lodge, an exquisite golf course designed by Arnold Palmer.
Dining at the new Dining Room in the historic lodge will be a fresh and exciting experience after a very successful reconstruction. The new Cru restaurant -- which features small plate dining and fine wine – is a popular new option, as is the Northwoods Pub. Grand View's other five restaurants also welcome resort guests and the public, with the charming Italian Gardens adjacent to the Glacial Waters Spa, Loony's Beach Hut, Freddy's Grille, The Preserve Pub & Grill and Palmer's Grille at Deacon's Lodge.
Nearby: An assortment of attractive shops in Crosslake, Pequot Lakes, Baxter and Nisswa.
Blueberry Pines Golf Club, Menahga
The course: Since its debut in 1991, Blueberry Pines, eight miles south of Park Rapids, has matured into an extraordinary golf experience that meanders through a forest. Designed by native son Joel Goldstrand, it has a spring-fed stream and fairways lined with pines.
Dining: The log clubhouse has a north woods look inside and out. The new Ice Creek Restaurant & Lounge has fine dining crafted by chef Joel London, who offers off-menu specials daily plus prime rib on weekends and a Sunday brunch that packs in the locals. There's also a long sandwich menu plus entrees such as bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin, grilled halibut and several pasta offerings.
Nearby: The headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park north of Park Rapids.
Superior National at Lutsen
The course: This is a splendid 27-hole course with one of the best settings in the Upper Midwest. Tucked into the Superior National Forest, with glimpses of the Great Lake, Superior National also provides routine sightings of whitetail deer, fox, timberwolves and an occasional moose.
Nearby: Lutsen Alpine Slide
Warroad Estates Golf Club, Warroad
The course: Just five miles south of the U.S.-Canada border, the Warroad Estates course is nicely manicured and frequented by Canadian golfers who don't seem to have any qualms about the ninth green, which is the shape of the state of Minnesota, and overlooked by the bar and grill.
Dining: The casual weekend Grill at the golf club is not necessarily fine cuisine, but it is really good food. An array of sandwiches (Sand Wedges) compete with Bunker Burgers, the most notable of which provides something of a spectator sport: any visitor who consumes "The Big Bertha," a full-pound burger with the works, receives a sleeve of Callaway Big Bertha Golf Balls.
Nearby: The vast Lake of the Woods, one of the state's premier fisheries.