Interview: Jeff Brauer discusses Superior National renovations

  • Lovely Golf Course

    Brauer describes the rushing rapids of the Poplar River as being one of the most spectacular features he has seen on a golf course

  • Lovely Golf Course

    The course features regular views of the nearby Lake Superior

  • Lovely Golf Course

    Brauer has worked to reduce the difficulty of the courses at Superior National

  • Lovely Golf Course

    The seventh hole on the River Nine at Superior National

Sean Dudley
By Sean Dudley

A major renovation project at Superior National in Lutsen, Minnesota, recently reached completion. GCA caught up with architect Jeff Brauer to hear his reflections on the recent work, and find out what other projects he has on the go.

What do you think golfers will enjoy most about the renovated holes at Superior National now the project has been completed?

The original course suffered from a reputation of being unintentionally unfair, and for being too wet until summer and then too dry, with fairways plugging or sending good shots off to the rough. 

We added irrigation and drainage, and widened and flattened some of the narrowest corridors and bad cross slopes, so it will be much more playable. 

It had steep putting green slopes, so we reduced those to 2 per cent. Being near the mountain and lake, they are still hard to read, and by no means easy, but no longer causing multiple three putting. 

Were all the initial aims of the project reached?

I think so. In addition to fixing long-standing problems, we targeted the design to support resort play, including a higher percentage of female and ‘twice a year golfers’, by keeping difficulty within reasonable levels. 

We also expanded course yardage, which was short, both forwards and backwards to broaden its appeal. Between the spectacular scenic beauty and some interesting shots and holes, it will also be perfect for those classic male buddies golf trips. 

Superior National is a very aesthetically pleasing course. How did you work to ensure the natural beauty of the site was maintained?

It is, because every hole has a view of the mountain, Lake Superior, orrp the rushing rapids of the Poplar River, which might be the most spectacular feature I have ever seen on a golf course.  

However, Superior National had the reputation as an average golf course on an outstanding site. We brought the golf feature aesthetics up to the natural ones, including new white sand bunkers to improve looks and playability and provide more definition.  

On most holes, the basic character was good, so we only made changes to tees, bunkers and greens. On the club’s River nine, we rerouted holes six to eight slightly. The sixth was a par three, and by clearing the trees between it and the seventh to create a long par four, we opened up one more vista to Lake Superior, while turning awkward holes into better ones. The old eighth hole, a short par five, was converted to a drivable par four and downhill par three, each of which is more attractive than the old holes. 

On the Canyon nine, we elevated and shifted the seventh and cleared trees behind the green to open up another spectacular view.  

Do you have any other exciting projects on the horizon?

We have an exciting renovation in Gladewater, Texas, called Tempest, which should open next year. The owner’s goal is to create the best course in East Texas, and it will certainly be a contender. 

It’s really a new course, built over the old Southern Hills Golf Course, which was an amateur design that wasted such great land. We kept the bones of six hole corridors, but the rest is completely new, routed through rolling hills reminiscent of North Carolina, which the previous owner had reserved for housing off the golf course. Now, golf and community are integrated together, but golf is the first priority. 

I also recently consulted on the design of a new course in St George, Utah, called Copper Rock, which should also open next year. The owner, builder, and prime designer is Dale Beddo, Jr. However, a second course is planned next door, which will be of my own design.