Area Golf: Hole-in-one contest to hit 3 local courses

SmartPin technology uses a camera on the flagstick and if a golfer hits a hole-in-one at three area courses with the camera on they could win $10,000 of prize money.

Hole 7 at The Pines Lakes course
Hole 7 at The Pines at Grand View Lodge Lakes course is one of the holes using SmartPin technology.
Peter Wong Photographer

The odds of a hole-in-one are 12,500 to 1 according to

If a golfer is lucky enough to make an ace at three area courses they could win some serious prize money.

James Leary is the chief operating officer of SmartPin which is based out of Lake Elmo and a nationwide hole-in-one and closest-to-the-pin contest.

The SmartPin technology uses a camera which gets built and put into a standard flagstick.

The holes where the SmartPin technology is being used in the area are hole No. 7 on the Lakes at The Pines at Grand View Lodge, hole No. 2 at The Preserve at Grand View Lodge and a hole at Gravel Pit Golf.


The contest runs through the fall season and will start again in the spring.
How the contest works is when a golfer plays a course with a SmartPin hole, they have the option through the SmartPin app on their phone to turn the cameras on for a $5 fee per shot.

If a golfer makes a hole-in-one and is the only ace for the day, they win at least a $10,000 jackpot. If no one wins, the jackpot grows. If there’s multiple aces the pot is split.

More from Conrad
Brainerd hosts Sartell/Sauk Rapids Monday, May 29
Pequot Lakes senior earns area athlete of the week
PRB senior earns area athlete of the week
Brainerd hosts Sartell/Sauk Rapids Wednesday, May 24

“It’s like a powerball for golf,” Leary said. “Just instead of having to buy a ticket you just have to knock it into the hole.”

Leary said a consolation prize is called the gimmie game in which any golfer who hits their tee-shot inside the 6-foot wide orange circle, which is digitally drawn on the SmartPin app, wins a $250 gift card to the courses’ golf shop. Like the hole-in-one contest, if there are multiple gimme game winners the $250 gets evenly split.

“What’s fun and engaging is that it’s a nationwide contest,” Leary said. “Right now, we are based in Minnesota and we only have a handful of them operating, but as we continue to grow that jackpot will continue to get exponentially bigger. And one day someone might hit a hole-in-one at The Pines or The Preserve and it could be worth up to $50,000.”

When Leary was the director of golf at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo he was approached with the SmartPin idea and came aboard.

“We spent a year developing the proto type and then we applied for a US patent which is pending,” Leary said. “We then spent the next year through the pandemic doing field testing and getting feedback. Then this year we’ve been testing the gimme game and the beauty is the pin can detect the ball on whether the ball is in the hole or close and send me a text message wherever it comes from in the world and I can see the video 90 seconds after to verify it.”

Right now, SmartPin is set up in five courses nationwide with three of them being in the lakes area. The other courses are Black Sand Golf Course in Beulah, North Dakota, and Timber Creek Golf Course in Watertown. They are set to operate in 10 states.


Besides the money, if a golfer makes a hole-in-one through SmartPin, they’ll get a video sent to them to relive the experience free of charge.

Leary added for a limited time there is a free local contest for golfers playing at any of the area courses for $1,000 grand prize.

Chuck Klecatsky, the director of golf at Gravel Pit Golf, said having SmartPin at his golf course will bring in more business.

“We’ve known them for a couple of years now,” Klecatsky said. “We saw them at a section event a few years back and we just love the technology and a chance to hit an ace and win a prize. We feel like it matches up well with our par 3 golf course.

“Right now, we are going to try it on one hole and in the future we might try multiple holes. Once people start to become familiar with the technology and the experience we feel like it could draw business.”

CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or Follow on Twitter at

Started at the Dispatch in June of 2019.
What To Read Next
Get Local