Still trying to play the Twin Cities; 'golf blogger' goes private

9:31 PM, Sep 4, 2011   |    comments
Hole #5, Tartan Park Blue
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So I've been toying with the idea of purchasing a membership at a local golf club. Now is the time; many clubs are conducting "membership specials" to attract players in this economy. While there is something to be said for getting out around the metro and seeing new courses and holes, there is also something to be said for knowing a course intimately.

Advantages at the local country clubs? They are less crowded and the fairways and greens are always in superior shape. In fairness, that is the end result of less play.

In my quest to play all the championship courses in the cities, I've had the good fortune to play at a lot of local clubs. I always find that members and staff are quite proud of their course.

I'm making my way around the East Metro before I start heading west.

Hastings Country Club -- A buddy of mine, who is a really good player, joined Hastings this year. It told me a lot seeing as he's a great ball striker who likes to play challenging courses. He wouldn't commit to one club unless it was worth it.

From the first tee, which is way above the first fairway, you get the sense that you're going to have a fun round. Hastings delivers. The holes are interesting. There are chances to gamble and there are required targets you need to find off many of the tees. My round was interrupted by the horn as we walked down the 8th fairway. The sky literally turned black at 4 p.m.

I'm glad I came back to finish the round. The back 9 was better than front. There was more a little more variety and it was a bit more challenging. I wouldn't mind a second chance at the "S" shaped par 5, where I was lucky to escape with a snow man. I really liked that the back tees on this course weren't too long but on many holes you got to drive through a "chute" of trees. The sound of a well-struck driver is amplified (a rarity in my case).

Hillcrest Country Club --Teed off at 8 a.m. on a Saturday. There was a guy walking it, so we offered him the first tee. We didn't see another golfer on the course til' we got to the 12th hole. We had the whole place to ourselves!

Tucked into the Northeast corner of St. Paul, the course sits on 112 acres. Even though it's surrounded by busy streets, you feel like you've escaped it all walking beneath the towering and mature trees. An interesting thing about this historic and classic club (opened in 1921) is that it was recently purchased by the local steamfitter/pipefitter union this winter.

Not hard to figure out why they call it Hillcrest; lots of ups and downs. It's a very fun ride and the holes are different enough to keep members happy for years. The fairways are immaculate and I would challenge you to find better greens. If you get an invite from a member, don't hesitate to say yes!

Tartan Park Golf Course -- Before I even found the first tee I decided I really liked Tartan Park. I was thinking of the concept; huge corporation (3M) grabs a beautiful 480 acre plot of land so its employees can get out for a little recreation. Architect Don Herfort made the most of the land he was given.

I started on the "blue 9". No sooner did I get my peg into the tee box before I noticed a dozen wild turkeys in the middle of the fairway. They must have known that would be the safest place to stand. I really like the blue course. The stretch from 3 to 6 was the best of the bunch; offering the threat of water. The bunkering around the 4th green was more than memorable.

I was feeling really good about my game when I arrived on the white course. The first two holes had elevated tee boxes with water running along one side of the entire hole. Postcard holes. The white 9 was a lot of fun to play; never seen a hole like the par 4 5th hole. Elevated tee box with a tree in the middle of the fairway and water right if you hit it too far. The play is to bank it off the slope on the left and let it feed down (if I had only known).

This is a fun course with generous landing areas and challenges at every turn. One of the best features about Tartan is they have a 3rd nine (the red course) so even if there's a tournament, members can almost always still get out and golf.

Much thanks to Jennie at Hillcrest and Steve at Tartan.

Here's where I've "privately" played so far: Bent Creek, Dellwood Hills, Hastings, Hazeltine, Hillcrest, Hudson, Interlachen, Medina, Mendakota, Minikahda Club, Minneapolis GC, Northland, Somerby, Somerset, Tartan Park, Town & Country, TPC Twin Cities, and White Bear Yacht Club.

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