Welcome to our “Where I Played” series, in which a GOLF staffer runs through a recent day at a course you might play in your future. On this occasion, we’re teeing it up at The Pines, in Brainerd, Minn.
On a recent trip to Grand View Lodge, my dad’s favorite spot in our rental was in the sun-soaked porch, hand on his chin as he watched golfers chip, putt and putt again on the 3rd green below us.
We have taken family trips to Grand View before, but on this occasion we stayed in the resort’s new North Pines neighborhood, where some homes are open and others are still being built. It’s off the main property, but these places are bigger and great for families or large groups, and they have everything — plenty of bedrooms and bathrooms, massive TVs, a porch, deck and a firepit. This one even had a pool table.
But let’s get back to the beginning. Our place’s best feature was its location, which was perched on a hill and looking down on the 3rd green of the Woods nine. Birdwatching? Boring. Watching resort golfers navigate a tricky downhill par-3 with water lurking? Yes, please.
Grand View Lodge is about a two-hour drive north of the Twin Cities in Brainerd, Minn. It’s golf heaven up there; everyone local knows that, and Grand View is just one of the area resorts that offers superb lodging and golf accommodations. The Pines, for example, has three nines: the Woods, Marsh and Lakes. There’s also another 18-hole course at Grand View, The Preserve, located about five miles down the road. Both courses are among the state’s better public options, and you know what? They are only getting better.
Besides the newest lodging digs, Grand View is in the middle of a four-phase project, the goal of which is to rejuvenate all of the resort’s 100-plus bunkers. (The Preserve phase has yet to be approved, but could be in the near future.) Work at The Pines is already underway. Every bunker on property (67 of them) will be addressed — either moved, reshaped, or taken out altogether. They will also fix drainage (including some greens that drained into bunkers to create washouts) and add new sand (BestSand from Ohio) in every bunker.
Adam Haugen, the director of golf at Grand View, said the bunker project has been talked about for several years and was more recently stalled a couple of years ago due to Covid. Now it’s well underway and phase 1 is already complete.
Work started on the Lakes nine earlier than anticipated this fall and it’s almost done, save for a few finishing touches, but will be ready to open in the spring. It went from 18 bunkers to 15. The Woods portion of the project also started in the fall and will be completed in the spring. The Marsh will be more of a project, as they are also creating new cart paths, fixing tees and some greens. That will start in the fall of 2023 and finish in the spring of 2024. There will always be 18 holes open at The Pines throughout the duration of the project, and all 27 are expected to be open in mid-May or June 1 next year (until the Marsh closes later in the fall for its work).
“We didn’t want to make the course easier by any means,” Haugen said, “but we wanted to make it strategic to fit players’ eyes and also be good for mid- to high-handicappers coming up for the weekend.”
Haugen said the goal of the project isn’t just to refresh some sand, but to improve the shot values of each hole. Done well, a bunker project like this is a major change. Bunkers moved to new areas add additional strategic elements and reward good shots.
Haugen used the Lakes nine as a good example of what they want to accomplish.
“Standing on the first tee box with what we already did, the footprint isn’t different but the visual is drastically different,” Haugen said. “They will be able to tell this is new, that we have done something. The biggest goal was to make it something that was visibly noticeable that we did work and that was exceptionally pleasing, and for our maintenance staff to make it more maintainable and playable.”
Mission accomplished? That snow can’t melt fast enough.