SHOREWOOD, Minn. -- There are few things that feel better than a well-struck golf shot. We use the term "solid" to describe a flushed iron or a compressed driver off the tee. We use the term solid to describe golfers who have a good all-around game, whether it's from the tee, fairway, or greenside rough. I came away from my round at Minnetonka Country Club thinking it was a solid course.
Just pulling in to MCC gives you the feeling like you might be stepping back in time a bit. The club's been near the shores of Lake Minnetonka since 1916. Renowned architect Tom Bendelow, of Medinah fame, laid out the original nine. The current routing offers challenges at every turn; only twice do holes run parallel to previous ones and the up and down roller coaster ride gives you plenty of different lies that will force you to hit every club in the bag.
Before I headed out, an amiable chap (it just seemed right to use the term "chap") named Charlie suggested that I at least stroke a couple putts on the putting green before teeing off. It was solid advice. The greens here were excellent; amazingly fast and true even after the course took on some significant rain.
The course is set in a bowl and I was half-expecting a soggy jaunt upon first inspection, high above on the 1st tee box. Minnetonka has spent some time, money, and energy to improve the drainage and I have to say on this pleasant morning it seemed well worth it.
I thought the course really got interesting on the fourth hole, a short downhill par 4 with a great elevated green framed by two massive trees and two punishing bunkers. This is where the course fights back by forcing you to not only hit the fairway, but hit it in the right spot in the fairway. I did neither.
6 was a 167 yard par 3 that looked pretty easy. It wasn't until I got up to the green that I found 2 of the smallest bunkers I've ever seen, barely the size of the rugs in my kitchen. It was just enough to test a member off the tee; the bunkers made me smile, having just missed the left-side one by a few feet, as it guarded a pin snug to fringe. 7 was my favorite hole, a tough dogleg that forced not only an accurate tee shot, but also an exact approach to a tree-surrounded green with a spine running through the middle of it. The mounds around the green could be found on other holes, and 7 was matched by 8 and 16 as great dog-leg lefts.
The back starts uniquely with a pretty par 3, and after passing by the tennis courts, a little tree tunnel reveals the par 5 11th. Number 13, one of several shorter par 4s, brings trouble around the green into play. There are 4 great bunkers near the putting surface, and a tall Dikembe Mutombo-like tree towers nearby to swat away the errant shot. A fabulous hole that could force you back to your bag a time or two before hitting your tee shot.
A few things that really stood out to me at Minnetonka were the hills, the willows, and the deer on the 14th tee box that didn't flinch when I hit my drive. There is also a great short game practice area near the 9th green and 10th tee box. My guess is it gets a lot of use because the greens here require a good short game.
I would call MCC classy and classic. It may not be long, but it's still demanding, fair, and fun. I hit my handicap on the number. The only hiccup I had during my round was on the 6th tee box; I'm blaming an extremely loud woodpecker for my errant tee shot.
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