My golf game is in complete disarray. And while my golf game seems to be at its worst, I happen to be playing some of the best courses the metro has to offer. The private club tour continues and I think I'm completely sold on joining a club next year (my wife is not on board...yet).
They say there has never been a better time to do it. Initiation fees are at an all time low and I've finally managed to play all the "public" championship holes in the Twin Cities. I know proximity to home is one of the biggest factors in choosing a club, but you've got to love the golf course.
Can a course be interesting if you play it 50 times a year? I think it can be, and it'll offer you a true measure of your ability. There are no surprises, and thus, there are no excuses. The clubs also offer plenty of member events to keep your competitive juices flowing.
Indian Hills GC -- This club, which sits on 400 acres just west of Stillwater, just turned 40. The course reminded me a lot of one of my favorite courses in the Green Bay area called Brown County. The thing about Indian Hills is it offers you a good variety. There's some water, the right amount of dog legs, scenic yet tough par 3s, and plenty of mature trees.
I liked the outward 9 a little better than the back. I felt like I was in a wildlife sanctuary. There were 5 shots of wild turkey waiting for me on the 2nd tee box (birds, not booze), I heard the call of crows, the knocking of woodpeckers, caught a couple of hawks high above, and noticed a fleet of turtles sunning themselves (why didn't spell check like this word?) near the pond between 6 and 7.
Here's what I really like about Indian Hills: the fairways are wide yet the holes are still challenging and it's all right in front of you. The fairways were in great shape and so were the greens. I need another round at the club in the fall. With the amount and variety of trees on the property, I can't imagine how cool it will look during the "Indian Summer."
Stillwater CC -- The gentleman in the pro shop asked me if I wanted a cart so I said sure. Bad move. I got out on the course and noticed that I was the only one riding. In my defense I was trying to get the round in before work, but I know why members walk. A round at Stillwater CC is like a fine wine or an aged scotch; it is to be sipped and savored, not slammed.
This is a traditional, old-school course all the way. Tight and fast fairways end at smooth, quick, and interesting greens. I loved the 10th tee box tucked tight against the club house patio, elevated above the fairway which drops of significantly before climbing to the crowned green. In fact, 10 through 13 offers the best stretch of holes; giving you a blind tee shot to a roller coaster fairway, a fun downhill dogleg, an elevated par 3 that's all carry over a pond and a monstrous par 4. A member even picked me an apple near the tee box on 12.
The hills and the trees provide a good defense against par here. It's short but tough enough to be timeless. Why did I take a cart? If you get to play out here, don't make the same mistake I did!
Golden Valley Golf and CC -- I have always wanted to play GVGCC. It's less than a minute away from the KARE 11 Studios, so I've driven by it hundreds of times. It's funny, you can see several holes from two roads driving by, yet while playing it, you don't even know the roads are there.
That's because designer AW Tillinghast gets in your head early and demands all of your attention. There are generous and rolling fairways seemingly clipped with a barber's razor and the greens are big and roll true. Hit em'. Trust me. Tillinghast's bunkers are deep; often times putting you lower than 6 feet under. Those bunkers can kill your score too.
I loved the par 5s here and a stream creeps through the property keeping you honest several times. The par 3 17th is the signature hole, with bunkers that are probably deeper than the greenside pond. It's crazy to think that within the chain-link fences, in the middle of Golden Valley, there's enough room for a course; GVGCC tips out at 7,000 and you don't get the feeling they squeezed 18 holes into the land given.
Final thought. I teed off at 4:40 on a Thursday afternoon on a night when the President was talking and the Packers were opening their NFL season. The place was packed and as I putted out with a member under the moonlight on 18, there were still several golfers behind me. Perhaps some got lost in bunkers, but most, I suspect, got lost in the game, which is easy to do at GVGCC.
Here's where I've "privately" played so far: Bent Creek, Dellwood Hills, Golden Valley, Hastings, Hazeltine, Hillcrest, Hudson, Indian Hills, Interlachen, Medina, Mendakota, Minikahda Club, Minneapolis GC, Northland, Somerby, Somerset, Stillwater, Tartan Park, Town & Country, TPC Twin Cities, Windsong Farm, and White Bear Yacht Club.