Copyright 2006 Dana Buttenhoff
Minnesota golf courses come in a wide variety from 9-hole mom and pop courses to 54-hole resort complexes. In this series of articles we have been discussing different destination. Today we will highlight Superior National at Lutsen, which is located on Lake Superior’s north shore in Lutsen Minnesota.
Lutsen has long been a travel destination for Minnesota skiers and the business of tourism is alive and well throughout the entire North Shore region. There are plenty of places to stay from economy to luxury with many lodging facilities working with Superior National to offer discounted greens fees.
To get to Lutsen from the Twin Cities is approximately 245 miles north. Begin by taking I-35 north from the Twin Cities and then continue on Hwy. 61 north from Duluth. The distance from Duluth is a little over 90 miles, and residents of Duluth have been visiting the Lutsen area for many years as a favorite weekend destination.
Superior National is a 27-hole facility that has three distinctively different 9-hole courses. These courses have a couple of things in common. First, the influence that Lake Superior has is indescribable until you have played here. The optical illusion that the lake creates along with the pull the big water has even on uphill putts is incredible. Second is that each of these courses do have risk /reward holes on them. The question you have to ask yourself is “does the reward out weigh the risk?” Third is that a strong wind off of the lake can make holes play 3 to 4 clubs longer or shorter depending if you are going into or with the wind. This course can make a good golfer look foolish.
The three courses are The River, The Mountain and The Canyon. An 18-hole round will alternate two of the three courses from day to day. Superior National also offers unlimited play daily packages so that you experience all of the holes, more than once if you start early enough! The Canyon to River combination plays 6,369 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 71.1 a slope index of 127 and a par of 72. The River to Mountain combination plays 6,323 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 70.9 with a slope index of 130 and a par of 72. The Mountain to Canyon combination plays 6,768 yards from the back tees with a course rating of 73.0 and a slope index of 133 and par is also 72.
The River 9 is named for the Poplar River that runs through the property. The river does come into play on a couple of holes, most notably on number 2 and number 9 where the rush of the river on the tee shot can play mind games on the golfer. If you concentrate and block out the sights and sounds of the beauty around you and play the golf shot, both of these are relatively easy golf holes. If your mind wanders a double bogey or worse can be made on these two or any of the holes for that matter.
The Canyon 9 is named again for the deep canyon the Poplar River cuts through the area of the course on holes 5 and 6. The first time I played this course as I proceeded from the green on number 4 to the tee box on number 5, I heard a dull roar. I stopped the golf cart to listen and to my wonder as I came around the turn and stood on the tee box of number 5 a smile came across my face that was hard to contain. The elevated tee on number 5 is one of the risk/reward holes at Superior National. The carry over the river is 225 yards, there is a false front to this green, but at least that is dry land. Most balls find a landing spot somewhere in the raging river and end up in Lake Superior about a mile away. I elected to hit a mid-iron to the center of the fairway with a 9 iron into the green. I like to take a par anytime it presents itself. After finishing this fun hole you climb back up to another elevated tee box for number 6 which is a 150ish yard par 3 again with the Poplar River cutting through just in front of the green. Elevation, wind, pin placement and even humidity levels of the air make club choice interesting on this hole. Number 8 is the signature hole on the Canyon 9. On a clear day the backdrop of Lake Superior is absolutely breathtaking. This par 3 hole also plays from an elevated tee box and features a drop of over100 feet to the putting surface. Make sure you select the proper club; because the Poplar River is lurking behind the green and is ready to give any ball hit long a ride to Lake Superior.
The Mountain 9 plays back to the ski area at Lutsen Mountain. Views of Britton Peak and Moose Mountain can also be seen when playing this 9. Coming back to the clubhouse Lake Superior is in your view. Always remember where the lake is located when on the putting surface. Number 6 is a brutal uphill 530-yard par 5. The finishing hole plays back toward the lake. If you have been hitting the tee ball well and can keep the ball in the fairway then an approach shot below the hole will give you a good chance at a birdie. If your driver has been letting you down throughout the round, hit the club you hit the straightest and play for the center of the fairway.
The North Shore is one of my favorite destinations in Minnesota. A trip to the North Shore is not complete without playing at Superior National. Inquire with your lodging facility for any coupons that may be offered to Superior National. You will also want to inquire while booking a tee time as to rates because there are mid-week and weekend rates available as well as twilight and all day unlimited play packages. Call for tee times at 1-888-564-6543.