Hitting the Right Notes

The 14 courses on the Southern Prairie Tour are an easy drive south of the metro area, and at least one updated track suggests you “get back” on the road.

April 15, 2022 | 2 min.
By Chuck Lennon
Photos by Peter Wong Photography

The Abbey Road entrance at Montgomery National Golf Club hints at what’s to “come together.” When new owner and pro Greg McKush bought the golf course, it was the culmination of a three-year brainstorm with architect/designer Paul Miller when they worked together at Meadows at Mystic Lake. With a little help from friends, McKush and Miller collaborated on their inspiration of a Beatles-theme to the renovation. Since then, the word spread (i.e. golf.com, and a fellow in Liverpool, England, is “in touch weekly and working on a documentary,” says McKush).

An active Facebook (Meta) page chronicled the building of a 10,500-square-foot log clubhouse and event center. It’s set on a highly-elevated promontory with an expansive view of the course and the already iconic yellow submarine on the pond at 18—which reveals the course’s intended Beatles sub-theme. Aligning with the fact that McKush is a singer and songwriter, this all makes sense. 

“Guitars and Golf” nights at the course “are a blast, and we also have a guitar-shaped bunker on No. 10,” McKush reports. It’s not overt, just amusing and charming window dressing on a golf course on the upswing. For his part, Miller explains, “we’ve switched and tweaked some holes and done some landscape work.” Late fall opening events at Montgomery include a Big Cups and Chili Dipper. 

The two courses in New Prague entertain a total of 384 MGA members. There’s a bakery in town that has kolackies (apricot recommended). New Prague Golf Club is a classic parkland-style layout noted for its smooth putting greens, opened in 1931. 

Creeksbend Golf Course adds 200 MGA members to the New Prague total. Goldstrand laid the course out in 1995, and players negotiate elevation changes, and the creek meanders around ponds and wetlands. The clubhouse is a 1930s barn, and the course also boasts a 10,000-square-foot practice putting green. 

Ridges at Sand Creek in Jordan is as tough and fun as it is unique. It must be quite the challenge when multiple boys and girls AA high school section and state championships are held there. The course begins with seven wide open, linksy holes before a transition via cart path unveils a mature parkland the rest of the way. General manager and MGA vice president Mike Malone reports a familiar tune regarding an “outstanding season in 2021.” There’s an exceptional restaurant in the clubhouse.

Visit Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store in Jordan

The candy store is an extremely popular destination. Its large yellow barn captures the eye on Highway 169, and coupled with Jim’s Apple Farm this destination compels a visit. You name it they have it. Chuckles? Yep. Necco wafers? Of course. It is a jam-packed inventory with a worldwide reputation. The farm harbors 10,000 trees and sells apples galore in season, and its Apple Strudel and horseradish sauce enjoy glowing reviews that rival the local town ball team, which plays at the charming mini met. 

Another local diversion is Sand Creek Adventures, with 1,600 feet of zip line through the trees and over Sand Creek. They also have high- and low-ropes adventure courses. The candy store and farm are located on 169, just west of the Ridges at Sand Creek, and a short hop south of Valleyfair Amusement Park, Canterbury Downs and Mystic Lake Casino. 

Shoreland Country Club is a semi-private in St. Peter with a very attractive environment, with views of Lake Emily and the lush Minnesota River Valley. 

Le Sueur Country Club’s charm begins with its website course tour, with the popular old golf tune “Straight Down the Middle,” sung by Der Bingle himself (Bing Crosby). Roly poly fairways and small greens on this Russ Zachariason design, originally 1926. The course is as popular as the Crosby song. 

On the northeast outskirts of Mankato in Janesville, Prairie Ridge Golf Course, a quality Goldstrand nine that can be considered the gateway to the three Mankato courses on this tour. A recently discovered 1938 photo west of Janesville presumably shows what might have been a golf course. We’ll leave that to the author of “Fore. Gone. Golf.” 

North Links Golf Course, a par 72, is the only 18-hole public course in Mankato (located in North Mankato). The private Mankato Golf Club has a rich history dating to Tom Bendelow in 1919. The course was updated to eighteen holes in 1954. 

The ‘west wing’ of this tour includes Terrace View Golf Club, and stops in Madelia and New Ulm, each of which host the July celebrations with popular parades: Park Days and Bavarian Blast, respectively.

Mankato’s Terrace View was fresh and wide open in the ‘70s when Sam Snead conducted a youth clinic there. Out west a bit, Madelia Golf Course’s nine was assembled by architects Bolton & Menk, a company that specializes in public infrastructure in the region. 

You’ll pass Morgan Creek Winery and Schell’s Brewery en route into New Ulm, where the statue of Hermann and splendid Germanic cuisine make the difference. The semi-private New Ulm Country Club general manager and pro Tim Huffman reeled off an impressive number of open tourneys at NUCC this season. Starting with the 62nd Invitational in June; Schell’s event August 28-29; a Pro-am September 12; Greenskeepers Revenge October 15-16; a 3-player Fall Classic, and more, all attesting to the popularity of this semi-private par 71. 

There’s no mystery to this magical tour of great golf in Minnesota’s Southern prairie.

Chuck Lennon

Chuck Lennon has produced the “Driving Minnesota” series in the Minnesota Golfer magazine for more than a decade. He retired from media relations at Explore Minnesota Tourism in 2012, where, having been a liaison with the MGA, golf resorts and courses, effectively positioned the state as a golf travel destination. A product of Cretin and Highland Park high schools, he honed his journalism skills at the University of Minnesota and the College of St. Thomas. He is a member of the Golf Writers’ Association of America.   

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