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$ 8 Million Golf Course Opens at Black Bear Casino

by Diane Ambro

I just love being the bearer of good news.  Another great golf course has opened up just south of Duluth at the Black Bear Casino and Hotel.  Gamblers will be familiar with the casino but not too many of us north of the border were aware that a golf course has been in the works behind the hotel for the last five years.  The course opened at the beginning of July and I had the opportunity to play it on July 14.  I must say, I was really impressed with the superb condition of such a new course.  Apparently the grass did not go in until August of last year but you wouldn't know it by the healthy progress I saw a few weeks ago.
The picturesque layout is the property of the Fond du Lac Band of the Lake Superior Chippewa and this group should be proud of the positive development they've brought to their area.  Back in 1993 they opened the casino and it's profitable operation paved the way for the $10 million construction of the hotel two years later.  The golf course was always in the minds of tribal leaders but it took many years to plan and construct.  One of the biggest obstacles was obtaining permits from the Environmental Protection Agency who wanted to ensure that the land and the wildlife within the 160 acre golf course would be protected.  The EPA and other government agencies put limits on how much land could be displaced from wetlands.  If they filled 40 acres of wetlands they had to create 40 acres elsewhere.  A protected trout stream runs through the course and the band made it a priority to work in harmony with the environment.  The Fond du Lac Band has visions for the future that include hotel expansion and the building of a gas station and convenience store.  All of this progress bodes well for residents of the reservation.  Here's an interesting note: the median household income on the reservation in 1990 was $27,250.  In 2000 it jumped up to $38,190.  As for the course itself, my advice is to bring lots of balls.  Measuring in at 6476 yards, you'll be challenged by narrow fairways and landing areas and plenty of water.  Some of the men that I spoke to said they had to use irons off some of the tees to keep the ball in play.  There's not much rough and orange stakes on several holes indicate environmentally sensitive areas that you must stay out of.  The course was fun to play and I highly recommend it.
General manager and director of operations, John Woodhall describes the venture as a 'destination golf course'.  It's proximity to Duluth and local attractions at the casino and hotel will attract those seeking a multi activity vacation.  John, who is experienced in developing golf courses, is under contract with the Gilmore Graves Golf Management Division of Phoenix, Arizona.  He will work with the tribal leaders for two years before turning the operation over to the band.  Minnesota boasts many fine golf courses and this one is no exception.  We Canadians are fortunate to have access to some of the most beautiful courses in the US within a half a days drive from Thunder Bay.  The Black Bear Golf Course is a bargain with prices ranging from $24 (weekdays walking) $36 with a cart.  On weekends the price is $28 (walking) and $40 (cart).  Definitely worth the 20 minute drive from Duluth.

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