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Along the River and Through the Minnesota Bluffs

Along the River and Through the Minnesota Bluffs

Red Wing's Mississippi National Golf Links has two courses that provide quite different challenges

By Matt Tevsh

Heights make you queasy? Well, believe it or not there is a golf course - yes, a golf course - in Minnesota that provides an equilibrium test for those so challenged.

Located among the Mississippi River bluffs in a beautifully diverse stretch of the state, Mississippi National Golf Links' Highlands course in Red Wing is a wild ride -both by golf cart and by design. The tee shots on No. 10 and No. 17 from the back tees are sights to behold high above the Hiawatha Valley as golfers attempt to hit seemingly impossible targets.

Hole No. 17 is probably the most photographed hole on the entire property. From 171 yards, it features a steep 150-foot drop from a sliver of a tee box that would barely hold Gary Player's step-through finish. The green is generous enough to hold just about any shot, but perched above high above the forested property, this hole is all drop.

Hole No. 10 features a similar fall-off from the tee box but offers quite the opposite challenge the rest of the way. At 656 yards from the tips, the fairway of this sharp dogleg right looks like a bowling lane. Hitting it requires precision with an iron let alone a driver which seems necessary considering the length of the hole.

"In my opinion for someone to make par (on No. 10) they should hit driver and aim at the group of three trees on the left," said Mississippi National head professional Nathan Gale." The next shot requires a slight fade that goes about 200 yards which will leave 100-150 yards. Then, hit an extra club to account for the uphill third shot. The green slopes slightly from back-to-front which helps almost any iron shot hold the green. Then two-putt for par. It requires distance, accuracy and course management. I think it's a great golf hole and it makes people commit to their shots since there really isn't a bail out. The hole drops 100 feet from tee to fairway."

Because of its diverse topography, the Highlands course routing is quirky to say the least. Really only eight of the holes play "level" from tee-to-green. Hole No. 8 is the furthest point out, a 15-minute cart ride from the stately clubhouse. And Hole No. 13, a 103-yarder, is on a cool little nook on the property at the bluff's edge. To get to No. 14, golfers actually have to loop back past the tee box on No. 13.

According to Gale, the Highlands has "12 views overlooking the bluff country."

As a 36-hole complex, Mississippi National has a quite different experience on its other 18.

"The Lowlands is a more traditional-style course, better for tournaments and championship-level golf," said Gale. "It has hosted many club, MGA (Minnesota Golf Association) and PGA-level events. It has rolling hills rather than the large/steep elevation changes. It's also walkable which members prefer. It doesn't have the views the Highlands has but the design is more comparable to a course you'd see in the Twin Cities. Bad shots don't get penalized quite as much as the Highlands. I'd consider it a truer test of golf."

At 6,484 yards, the Lowlands plays over 200 yards longer from the back tees as the Highlands to the same par 71. For the average golfer, the Lowlands course plays appreciably more difficult from all sets of tees based on USGA slope measurements.

For more information on Mississippi National, go to Special rates are available including free golf for kids and discounted golf for military personnel.

Revised: 09/01/2014 - Article Viewed 30,607 Times - View Course Profile

About: Matt Tevsh

Matt Tevsh Matt Tevsh has been a freelance sports journalist since 1996. He has been published in multiple periodicals including Midwest Golfing Magazine and on various websites including He is an avid golfer and a former member of the Golf Writers Association of America.

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