The 5 best golf courses designed by golf course architect Joel Goldstrand

Goldstrand passed away Nov. 13, leaving a legacy of dozens of quality courses in the Upper Midwest, including his home state of Minnesota.
A view of a green with water coming into play on The Pines at Grand View Lodge.

Joel Goldstrand never made that jump from regional golf course architect to one with national acclaim.

Goldstrand, who passed away Nov. 13 at age 83, had all the credentials to do so as a former PGA Tour player for eight years in the 1960s-70s and designer of dozens of high-quality public and resort courses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. According to his GolfPass Architect Profile Page, almost all of his courses are rated four stars or better. His creativity was evident in North Dakota, where he built what might be America's first full-length reversible course in 2004 - the Sisseton and Wahpeton layouts at the Dakota Magic Casino and Hotel, owned by Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate tribe.

I've only played a single golf course designed by Goldstrand - The Pines at Grand View Lodge in Nisswa near Brainerd, one of the World's Top 100 Golf Destinations. I remember it being tough, yet fair. I'm honoring his impact on the game by looking at five of his best course designs. Click on the photos to read reviews of each course.

  1. The Pines at Grand View Lodge, Nisswa, Minn.

    The Pines has gotten national Top 100 recognition in the past. Its 27 holes debuted in 1990. Chicago Area GolfPass Local Advisor 'BryanTweed16' shared this review in 2019, calling The Pines "a solid Joel Goldstrand design that many consider the modern Godfather of the Brainerd golf boom. I played the Woods/Marsh combo, which is widely considered the best two-nine routing on the course. The Woods is the more scenic of the two nines, with two beautiful short, downhill Par 3’s and an eye-popping closing Par 5 9th with a pond (and wooden eagle nests) by the green. The Marsh nine is more sporty, with several downhill drives leading to uphill, tough approaches."

    What's your favorite Goldstrand design? Let us know in the comments below.

  2. Minnesota National, McGregor, Minn.

    The only knock on Minnesota National is its remote location, but that's also one of its strengths as it keeps green fees down. A review from 2020 by 'Bigpunfun' touts "a gorgeous course. Slightly harder than I normally play but happy to lose a few balls when the course is so nice."

  3. Superior National at Lutsen, Minn.

    Goldstrand built this stunner with views of Lake Superior in 1991, but it took a slight redesign and renovation in 2017 by Jeff Brauer to enhance its playability and routing quirks. Reviewer 'Billdsky' left a strong review in October 2022, writing: "Truly superior! The course is in outstanding shape. The best conditions of any course in Minnesota. The greens are fast! Played solo in 3 hours! Wished I lived closer than the Twin Cities. Fall colors are perfect."

  4. Geneva Golf Club, Alexandria, Minn.

    Goldstrand seemed to be especially adept at designing strong 27-hole facilities like this one built in 2000. Our most recent review from 2022 states: "Beautiful course. The 27 holes provides a variety of terrain which requires you to use most of the clubs in your bag. You will have shots in the woods, over water challenges and the rough consists of high grasses and marsh brush so bring a lot of balls!" 

  5. Blueberry Pines Golf Club, Menahga, Minn.

    This 6,700-yard course was designed in 1991. Our most recent review from 2022 states: "This course layout is phenomenal. Some of the fairways and greens need additional service but other than that, it’s a beautiful course!!"

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,100 courses and written about golf destinations in 25 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

I also like the Links at Northfork and Fox Hollow but Goldstrand has made several suspect designs that border bad and/or boring (Whispering Pines, Kimball GC, Grand Casino Hinckley come to mind) ...

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The 5 best golf courses designed by golf course architect Joel Goldstrand