This Jewel is a Gem!
Hale Irwin Design in Lake City One of Minnesota's Finest
By Glen Turk
High above the 10th and 11th holes at The Jewel in Lake City, Minnesota is mammoth bluff that presides over the entire property. If you look closely you will see the face of "The Chief" in the rock formation. Legend has it that when God created the earth he put "The Chief" in place to watch over the river valley to make sure the natural beauty of the land would be protected for eternity.
What the mighty Chief started, legendary golfer Hale Irwin amplified, creating an astonishing layout that will stand the test of time. In short, the Chief need not worry - the area's natural beauty has been preserved in the form of The Jewel Golf Course. When three-time U.S. Open Champion Hale Irwin first saw the property, he knew he was going to be part of something special. "We were all very pleased to see the land that was to become the golf course. There was great excitement when we decided to have a mix of different holes and perspectives," stated Irwin. "It became our intention, with costs in mind, to give the golfer and homeowner something of everything that we could -challenge, views, playability, and beauty. If the resident, visitor, or golfer can enjoy their experience and come back for more, then we did our job."
I first had the opportunity to play the 7050 yard, par-72 masterpiece in May of 2006, less than 9 months after it had opened. I was immediately impressed with what Irwin had done, taking a diverse landscape and designing a glorious sequence of holes that proved fair, yet challenging. No two holes are remotely close to each other and no two views are duplicated-a true sign of a championship course. The most amazing aspect of the finished product is that The Jewel from day one was designed with golf course living in mind. First Assistant Golf Professional Cody Buck discusses how planning the golf course first, then the homes around it led to a win-win situation. "I think this was a great advantage to Hale and The Jewel both. For Hale, he had the freedom to plan a golf course that would use the natural beauty of the surroundings in a way that would maximize the quality of the golf course. He was able to go throughout the plot of land and determine what physical features such as certain trees like on holes 8 and 18 would fit well into a golf course layout. The benefit and advantage to The Jewel is that we have a golf course that has 18 beautifully laid out holes that take advantage of all that natural beauty that surrounds the course. The holes are not crammed together and each one has its own distinct feel," stated Buck.
Before we discuss the here and now at The Jewel, it's important to recap the unique history of the city and the land before it became Hale Irwin's gem. First of all, Lake City is located 40 minutes north of Rochester and an hour and half from downtown Minneapolis and is the birthplace of water skiing. Ralph Samuelson was the first to don the skis on nearby Lake Pepin in 1922. You may also wonder where the name "The Jewel" came from? It's because the land housed The Jewel Nursery for a whopping 132 years. The course was opened July 2, 2005 and immediately made Golf Digest's list of the top new public courses with green fees under $75 for 2006. In October of 2006, a three person ownership group led by Glen Hasse did something very 21st century -- they purchased The Jewel site unseen on an internet auction. Fortunately for Glenn he was a native of nearby Plainview, Minnesota and had great childhood memories of the area. "Even though I had not seen or played the course before I was very familiar with the beauty and the attraction of the Bluffs and Lake Pepin. I was also very much aware of the great golf course that Hale Irwin designed in Lake City. The first time I saw the course was the day we purchased it and obviously we could not wait to see it. From that first viewing I could not be more impressed with the layout and the way it sets right next to the bluffs," explained Hasse.
Now let's get down to why you need to travel to the border of the Badger and Gopher states and play The Jewel in 2008. First off, it's the fact that three distinctive styles of golf are present within your four hour round. A handful of holes could be described as classic links holes, while a larger number can be classified as tree-lined, country club holes. Finally, a few holes including the par-4 18th could best be likened to mountain golf vistas found in Colorado. Cody Buck believes that three-for-one experience doesn't happen anywhere else. "I think it is very rare especially for this area. Lake City and The Jewel have such a distinct terrain with the rolling bluffs and wooded areas that it provided such a great canvas for Hale to work with. I think by Hale being able to mix the three distinctive types of holes it gives the golfer a new challenge, as each and every hole will keep them guessing as to what is coming next. I think it goes back to what we discussed earlier, the fact that Hale had this open plot of land to work with and was able to use the natural features of the land in the best way he saw fit," explained Buck.
The two best representations of links style golf are found at holes 1 and 2. The 584 yard par-5 first features a generous fairway and copious amounts of fairway roll -- two great factors that should allow elicit a solid birdie chance. The 447 yard par-4 2nd is a beast from the tips, but is wide open and gives you a shot of confidence off the tee. Just watch out for a devilish bunker short and left of the putting surface!
As you make your way to the par-4 388 yard 3rd you'll begin to see the genius of Hale Irwin. The standout Champions Tour player shows you where to hit your tee shot, but asks you, "Do you have the conviction to hit it there?" If you can carry a massive sand bunker down the left side, your ball will roll to a down slope that will make this hole a lot easier than it looks. Bail out to the right with your drive and you'll be left with a blind second shot to a well-guarded green. It's the first classic case of risk/reward found at The Jewel and it won't be the last.
Other incredible holes of note on the front include the isolated 474 yard par-4 4th and the drivable 312 yard par-4 6th. I've gone on record saying that every course should have at least one tempting short par-4; a hole where 2 or 8 can just as easily come into play. At The Jewel it's the sixth and it's even better for women, as the par-4 measures a mere a 195 yards from the forward tees. The next hole is the 163 yard par-3 7th, a stupendous short one whose hole location determines its difficulty level. I have to confess I made bogey the old fashion way on this one. I hooked by initial 8-iron into the woods to the left of the putting green and then proceeded to hit my second 8-iron to 3 feet and made the putt. See, I knew 8-iron was the club after all!
One hole later is Cody Buck's favorite on the front side, the par-5 8th. "From the black tees the hole is listed at 493 yards, so most players look at this hole like one they can score very well on. Even after stepping to the tee the hole is not very intimidating but it is the green that makes the hole so difficult. The putting surface is elevated and falls off on all sides which makes putting a challenging thing. As for the beauty of the hole, there is a picturesque tree located along the left side of the rough that makes number 8 one of the signature holes at The Jewel," stated Buck.
A remarkable collection of nine holes begin as you stand on the elevated 10th tee. I struggle here as I want to describe all nine in succession, but your first experience of this nine should be your own, and not my opinion. What I will say is the inward nine at The Jewel is one of the most complete, pure tests of golf I've ever had the chance to enjoy. I'll instead let the pictures throughout this feature serve as proof of what is in store for you when you make the trip to Lake City. I will though let our resident expert Cody Buck discuss two of his favorites on the back side. "Hole 14 is a 437 yard par-4 that runs along the foothill of the bluff with the native grass along the left side of the fairway and woods surrounding the right side of the short grass. The natural beauty on this hole is outstanding with the bluff loaming large along the entire hole. Hole 14 has no bunkers or water anywhere, yet the pristine surroundings make this hole one of the more challenging of the golf course," explained Buck. "And finally, the 18th encompasses what a finishing hole should be. It is challenging and provides the golfer one last chance to soak in the naturalness of the course. The bluffs along the Mississippi River can be seen in the background of the 18th. Many people may not realize it, but when you are on the tee looking down the fairway at these bluffs, you will see the inspiration for The Jewel's logo," concluded Buck.
An amazing setting and an inordinate amount of first-class holes would not be as epic if The Jewel didn't feature one of the finest staffs in the Midwest or immaculate course conditions. From the moment you pull into the parking lot their staff takes care of your every need. And if high-class dining at affordable prices wet your appetite, then make sure to check out the stellar menu prepared by Head Chef Jeremy McDeid. Throughout the week The Jewel offers nightly specials such as a pasta bar, prime rib, Friday fish fry's and a Sunday brunch.
When asked what The Jewel's number amenity is, Cody Buck didn't mention the double-sided driving range or their Tour-like short game area, instead he mentioned the biggest intangible in golf. "The Jewel's number one amenity is our focus on customer service. We want the customer to get lost in the golf course and to not worry about anything outside their golf game and what they are having for lunch when they get out of their car," said Buck.
I promised I wouldn't wax poetic on the insane quality of the back nine, but I must reminisce before I conclude. It's not too often you get one of those "Wow" moments in golf. If you've ever been to Augusta National or St. Andrew's in person or played the 17th at TPC Sawgrass, you'll know what I mean. A similar feeling of awe has come over me both times I've stood on the 11th tee at The Jewel. It's a challenging 209 yard par-3 over water that is guarded by three evil bunkers on the hole's right side. The hole is so simplistic yet so complicated - I'm sure just how Mr. Irwin wanted it. But all that doesn't matter, as when the sun sets on the bluffs formed by Mississippi River and created a reflection on the water, you'll think "Does heaven look this good?"
I say Hale no.
For more information on The Jewel and to inquire about their real estate opportunities, visit www.jewelgolfclub.com or 1-800-738-7714.
Revised: 12/19/2011 - Article Viewed 30,592 Times
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About: Glen Turk
Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native and is the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine. Midwest Golfing Magazine was formerly known as Pub-Links Golfer's Magazine and is a free publication distributed four times per year throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.
His duties at MGM include writing course features, facilitating product testing, and overseeing the overall content and look of the magazine. But clearly his most important task is playing as much golf as his wife allows. Fortunately for him, she plays also and loves out-driving him even with a 60 yard head start.
Glen plays to a 6 handicap but once set a record by having his ball retriever regripped 15 times in one calendar year. It was a December trip to Guam that ultimately did him in. Finally, if you haven't caught on by now, the two most worthy weapons in Glen's writing arsenal are self-deprecating humor and pithy one-liners.
My signature line, "Be A Force on The Course" and now more recently, "Hit 'Em Where They Mow!" can be reused at no charge.
Contact Glen Turk:
Midwest Golfing Magazine - Senior Writer Editor