Mississippi Dunes GolfTales RJSmiley

Mississippi Dunes Golf Links – Was Almost A Golf Masterpiece

Among the best golf courses in the world - almost. After years of hard work and millions of dollars this golf course became a housing development.

Believe it or not, golfers are really just like other people. People get stuck in a rut doing the same thing day after day. They get up at the same time, they drive the same route to work everyday, they have lunch at the same restaurant everyday, etc., etc. Golfers play the same course every Wednesday and Saturday with the same three players.

Do something different! Take a new route to work, try a new restaurant for lunch, and play a round of golf at Mississippi Dunes. Come to think of it, play several rounds at Mississippi Dunes. “Why?” you ask. For the same reason you try a “new beer” from a microbrewery. Because it is there, because it is different – no, not the proper adjective – because it is “truly unique”. No other golf course in Minnesota can match Mississippi Dune’s unique qualities. “The Dunes” as owner, designer and developer, Dr. William C. Doebler, “Doc” likes to call it, will never be considered boring.

Doc was a private club player who became chairman of the greens committee. He quickly learned first hand about moving dirt and solving problems on a golf course. When he realized that he was daydreaming more about golf courses than radiology, he knew he had to build “His Golf Course”.  

Doc finally discovered the perfect spot to build his golf course along the Mississippi River in Cottage Grove, MN. With 3,000 feet of river frontage and perfect “green mix” as the natural soil, he knew he had found utopia.

Using the same brain it took to reach the medical summit as a radiologist, Doc shifted gears into the golf business. He designed the course from its routing plan to fairway bunkers, he installed the irrigation system and operated the heavy equipment. In a construction project that rivaled the building of the pyramids of ancient Egypt, Doc, his son and his nephew, with one dump truck, one front end loader and one bulldozer spent four years of relentless, but gratifying labor building The Dunes. During the final two years of construction, Minnesota golf legend, Dave Tentis, who would become The Dunes first golf professional, became an artist with the bulldozer, doing much of the finish grading.  

When the course was opened in September of 1995 the clubhouse was a trailer with no electricity and the parking lot was a combination of rocks and mud. The design was so radical and the brush-lined fairways were so intimating that many golfers were not impressed. In fact, noted Star Tribune sports writer, Patrick Reusse had written an article “ready for print” about the “impossible-to-play” golf course, Mississippi Dunes. At Doc’s prompting, Reusse agreed to play 9-holes at The Dunes, with Dave Tentis. The story goes something like this: Dave birdied the first, while Reusse was hitting 7 balls into the Mississippi River (raising the water level all the way to New Orleans) before picking up and heading for the second tee. On the second hole, the short par-3, Reusse was commenting to Doc, “In all my days on the golf course, I have never seen a hole-in-one.”

Doc smiled back at Reusse, “Well you were looking in the wrong direction today, Pat, because Dave just knocked it into the hole.” Tentis followed the ace with another eagle on the par-5 third. He was 5 under par after 3 holes, taking only 7 shots (the same number of swings as Reusse used on the 1st tee, never getting a ball in play). When Dave holed his putt on the 9th hole for a 9 under, 27, Reusse reached into his pocket and in front of Doc and Dave, tore the story about the “impossible-to-play” golf course into small pieces.

Every season since 1995, playing conditions at The Dunes have gotten better and more player friendly. Last summer most golfers who played Doc’s creation commented that the fairways and greens were the very best they had played anywhere. Repeat players praise the work the maintenance staff has done cleaning up the rough. One commented, “These days it is hard to lose a ball at The Dunes.”

As spring approaches and the Masters just around the corner, golfers are planning their summer schedule. Be sure to include a round or two at The Dunes. As you wind your way around this construction masterpiece, view it not as a golf course, but as a work of art. Remember Picasso’s works were considered quirky in the early days. When you play The Dunes and are trying to make a par, imagine Dave Tentis shooting 27 on the front (and word has it that he matched that score on the back a day later). Observe the terrain changes and try to visualize how just four men, with only three pieces of equipment, could accomplish this.

The more time you spend at The Dunes, the more you will come to appreciate this truly unique golf experience.   

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