Course: Mississippi Dunes Golf Links
Weather: 85 and windy
Written By: Brian DeVinny
Rating: See bottom of review
This hidden gem, resting along 3000 feet of the Mississippi River, is very unique and one of the most beautiful courses I have played in the Twin Cities area. About 15 minutes east of St. Paul in Cottage Grove, the Mississippi Dunes classifies as a must play if in the area, and has quickly become a favorite for my friends and I. The 18 hole, par 72, links style golf course is made up of bentgrass fairways, crowned greens, and a plethora of unique sand bunkers that are sure to give you trouble. The holes running alongside the Mississippi River are absolutely stunning to look at and are part of the reason why this golf course was awarded 4.5 stars out of 5 by Golf Digest. The course is in great shape, and can be a little windy coming off the river. One thing that I personally like about the course is its uniqueness. It has several holes that are not very “traditional”, almost making them novelty holes. This may be viewed as a bad thing for the traditional golfer, but to me the course is fun and always entertaining.
The course can be difficult if you aren’t able to tackle the multiple crowned greens and stay out of the troublesome bunkers, many of which have wooden planks laid vertically on the inside of them. The course also has multiple blind shots which can be frustrating if you’re not familiar with the course. However, if you can hit the long ball, this course has some high risk-high reward shots that can result in some low scores. The uniqueness of this course starts with its format – the front nine has four, yes four, par threes and three par fives, while the back nine has two par threes and three more par fives.
The Mississippi Dunes has an awesome clubhouse up high on a bluff, overlooking the river, which makes for great views from almost anywhere. Connected to the clubhouse is a nice bar to stop in at and grab a beer or a burger, and watch any sporting event on one of the flat screen televisions. After the round you can buy a beer priced at the score you shot (.86 cents in my case), which is always a must. They have a spacious banquet hall and patio/deck set up all overlooking the river. Tucked away in the trees behind hole nine is a beautiful ceremony stage right up along the riverbank for an unforgettable wedding site. There is a driving range that you can either drive to or take a golf cart, and a putting green outside the clubhouse.
The front nine starts off with my favorite par four, as it is one of the most beautiful holes on the course. The fairway calls for a slight fade to have the best view of the green, but turn that fade into a slice and your ball might end up in the Gulf of Mexico, as the entire right side of the hole runs along the Mississippi River. Hole 2 is a short par three overlooking the river. This heavily crowned green makes it imperative to stick it on your first shot. Furthermore, the green has a large mound running straight down the middle of it; end up on the wrong side of it and you’ll be praying for a two-putt. Hole 3 is a 460 yard par five with a large tree right in the middle of the fairway. Avoid that off the tee and you’ll have a nice elevated look at the green for your second shot. Hole 4, accurately titled “Death Valley”, is a 209 yard par three with an extremely large waste bunker that nearly runs from tee box to green. With a highly undulated green front, a par on this hole is quite the accomplishment. Hole five hoists the title of number one handicap and is well deserved. This 400 yard sharp dogleg left requires the conservative golfer to lay up off the tee, leaving a nearly 200 yard second shot at the green. If you’re feeling confident with your driver, cut the dogleg with a nice draw and set yourself up to gain some strokes on your companions. Holes 7 and 8 are both par fives. The first requires some patience; trying to rip your second shot around the dogleg left can lead you to some fescue hazard on both the left and right sides of the fairway. Even if you are to stay straight, the green is guarded by an extremely grueling bunker with wooden planks that seemingly run straight up and down when standing in the bottom of it. Save your “go for it in two” mentality for hole 8. The nice wide fairway sets you up in the trough of a hill, taking away your view of the pin. The blind green can be scary, but take a look over the peak of the hill and you’ll see that your second shot will funnel right down towards the green. The beautiful yet frustrating number 9 could be argued as the “signature hole”. This incredibly deceiving 106 yard par three, hanging right off the riverbank, feels like it plays about 90. The often difficult “three quarter wedge” shot usually sticks but miss long and you’ll be in a tough trap; miss left and you’ll be swimming.
The back nine starts off with the second hardest hole on the course. The split fairway is littered with sand traps, making the tee shot incredibly difficult. If you’re so lucky enough to avoid the traps, you’re still left with a long iron or wood to a green that is protected by a large and deep bunker to the left. Number 11, a par five, can be a birdie hole if you’re straight off the tee. You’re second shot needs to clear a small body of water and make it to an elevated green, but the distance is favorable and the green is not nearly as undulated as the other holes. Holes 13 and 14 are another set of back to back par fives. Both straight away off the tee and plentiful in sand bunkers, a long ball off the tee followed by a nice second shot can put you right around the greens. Number 14 certainly has the distance enticing you to go for it in two, but it is a severely crowned green making it very hard to stick with a fairway wood or long iron. Be patient with this hole and avoid the wood enforced bunkers. Number 15, a par 4, lines you up over a large pond off the tee box. You can bail to the right for a short, safe drive, or you can try and bite off a significant portion of the pond and give yourself a nice look at the green. A large waste bunker separates you and the green for your second shot. Hole 16 is a short par four that has a very narrow fairway as it gets closer to the green. You can play it safe and go short left, but if you’re straight enough you can hit a bomb right up to the edge of the green. Any movement right and you’ll be in the trees, any to the left and you’ll find the sand traps. The last hole is a great hole to end on. This par 4 is safest to be a little right off the tee; this will set you up with a great elevated look at the green, with the Mississippi River posing as a backdrop. Enjoy the view, and finish strong with a par.
The Mississippi Dunes is a fun and beautiful course. You can play it so many different ways that can lead to a wide array of scores, making it a great two-person scramble course. Nearly every hole has something unique about it, but for the traditional golfer this may not be a good thing. The multiple crowned and highly undulated greens can be frustrating, as well as the blind shots that you’ll run into. Play it a second time and you are able to adjust and have a better sense of what to expect. Once you do this, you can enjoy the true beauty that lies within this course and hopefully put up some low numbers.