Monday, August 20, 2007

Course Review: Hardwoods Golf Club

Mille Lacs Golf Resort & Marina
Garrison, MN

NOTE: From time to time, I visit courses in my area and give my impressions. I am not compensated to give these reviews.
View bottom of posting for rating categories.

Things are happening at the Mille Lacs Golf Resort & Marina. The sleepy 6300 yard, par 71 course is slowly being transformed into a leading resort and entertainment center in central Minnesota. Just minutes from the Native American casino Grand Casino, which attracts 3.2 million visitors annually, the Hardwoods Golf Club is part of a 270 acre resort complex that is planning to have a 120-room hotel, an indoor water park, and a day spa surrounding the course.

The developers of this ambitious project are Todd & Mary Christenson, owners of Christenson Development, a family-run construction and development company. They purchased the golf course in 2003 from R.J. Smiley, a well-known senior golfer in Minnesota and have been busy with improvements ever since.

The course is cut through stands of mature trees, thus the Hardwoods name. It’s longest hole is only 510 yards, but the course also has two dogleg left par 4s, and a 205 par three. On most holes, if you can keep your drive on the fairway, you can reach the green with a well-placed utility wood. Another feature is Pinehurst-like elevated greens. If you are just off the fringe, rolling your putts up to the hole often isn’t your best option complicating getting your ball on the green and potentially adding strokes to your score. You will find this course a great test for high-handicap players and is the perfect length for women.

The course itself is short by modern standards, but the new owners plan to add 200-300 yards, many more sand traps (the course only has three) and another par 5 hole. At 6500+ yards, the course will become a better test for golfers and with the construction of a new modern clubhouse, slated to break ground in 2008, the Hardwoods Golf Club hopes to become the leading resort in the Mille Lacs Lake area alongside competitors Izady’s and Ruttger’s.

A big advantage is its proximity to the Twin Citis – only 90 minutes from Minneapolis/St. Paul and one of the first major resorts on the Highway 169 corridor. The Mille Lacs Golf & Marina is also well situated to take advantage of its proximity to Grand Casino, less than ten minutes away. Many Native American-owned casinos also own a golf course, but this one has no plans to be a golf course developer, so with only a short drive to Hardwood Golf Club, gamblers can take some of their winnings and play 18 holes or make it part of a weekend package of golf and gambling.

On a recent tour of the course, one thing that is very apparent are the many new log cabin-style housing that is spring up all over the back nine. Freestanding units and four- and eight-plexes are sprouting up along the fairway and surrounding the greens on the back nine. Unlike more modern courses, the setback of these units is quite close to the course and if you are interested in taking the plunge, are available for sale.

Although the existing clubhouse is a bit dated, it still boasts a full bar and a pretty extensive grill menu, something that you rarely find at smaller outstate Minnesota courses. Even the cart girl will mix you a drink right there on-course.

Rates are very reasonable, especially for off-peak tee times. They top out at $45.00 with cart for weekends in the summer months, but a twilight round with cart can be had for as little as $25.00. Also, the Christenson’s are aggressive marketers and deals should be easy to find through out the summer.

Hardwood Golf Club
Garrison, MN

Location: 7
Friendliness: 6
Value: 7
Layout: 6
Playability: 8

The Hacker Rating of this course is based on the golfing experience for the average golfer. The course was rated on the following categories: Location -- easy access, easy to find, what’s nearby; Friendliness -- good service, cart girl, clubhouse, food choices; Value -- cost, what you get for your money; Layout -- length, bunkers, traps, difficulty, course style; Playability -- good for beginners, seniors, etc.
The rating is based on scale of 1 to 10 in each category with a total possible rating score of 10.0 .


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