I don't consider "Happy Gilmore" a golf movie, yet every time I'm flipping channels and I run across it, I watch. There is a scene where former golfing great Chubbs Peterson is giving a lesson on the driving range. There is a lady top-dribbling range balls off a rubber tee, and without looking up from his Golf Digest magazine, Chubbs mumbles some tips.
My first golf lesson in 20 years was much different than what the man who lost his hand to an alligator was offering. After a brief chat about my goals and a well-deserved scolding about my lack of practice, my instructor asked me to hit some 6 irons.
The teaching pro was 10 years my junior, but as far as swing knowledge, he was easily 100 years my senior. My fear, after clogging my head with golf instructional articles for years, was that this would all be too detailed and beyond my limited attention span. Luckily, all it took was one swing thought, two well placed tees and a skinny pole; my ugly push-slice was a baby draw with 40 minutes of repetition. Next step? Finding a fairway so I can get a clear shot at a green.
I had the chance to play two great metro-area courses in the past couple of weeks. Both have been changed under the watchful eye of Minnesota golf legend Tom Lehman, who's work at the Prairie Club (Valentine, Neb.) and Troy Burne (Hudson, Wis.) is exceptional, at least in my limited golf mind.
Edina Country Club -- When head golf professional Marty Lass confirmed my tee time with an email, he simply wrote: "The course is fantastic." While I didn't take his word for it, I agreed with him two holes into my round.
I teed off late in the afternoon on a cloudy day. The weather couldn't chase me away; nor would it intimidate the dozens of other golfers on the course. I played a very carefree round, getting lost in the game, trying to navigate the challenges in front of me. Aside from being in tremendous shape, from tee to green, the layout is superb.
While every hole seemed to be lined on both sides by tremendous ball-swallowing trees, there was a great variety here. Plenty of elevation changes, the right amount of dog-legs, and even a couple of tempting par 4s and 5s for big hitters. My favorite hole was the postcard-worthy Par 4 9th; a short downhill par 4 with great looking bunkers (the cool looking bunkers on most holes were what stood out to me).
Tom Lehman recently renovated this old school classic by changing the green complexes, fairway contours, fairway bunkers, and tee boxes. The white "Ohio Sand" bunkers really stand out against the emerald green, and it seems like Lehman put them in all the right places. Golf Blogger Jeff Shelman was lucky enough to play the before and after-course and he simply said "the course is way better now." I will take him at his word. I found a stroll around Edina CC makes for a great and memorable day.
North Oaks Golf Club -- I usually try to recall my round on my drive home. Sometimes holes are tough to remember if they seemed bland or boring. Having said that, it was very easy for me to walk through North Oaks in my mind a week later. Every hole was memorable and it seemed like they kept getting better and better every time I stepped on to a tee box.
North Oaks was originally designed by famed Canadian course constructor Stanley Thompson, whose Banff Springs course is featured in just about every golf course coffee table book ever printed. While he wasn't working with massive mountains for a backdrop near Shoreview (you can see KARE 11's transmission tower a couple of times), he did have a fair amount of elevation changes to take advantage of. He did, throwing in a beautiful lake backdrop on the stunning 10th hole to boot.
I'm usually not a big fan of blind shots, but a pair of hidden greens on numbers 4 and 7 made up two of the most fun holes I've had the pleasure of playing this year. I'm also assuming Lehman's 2007 renovation helped shape the awesome looking rumpled and rough bunkers that frame many of the holes. And the greens were as interesting as they were true and fast. I wore out my phone battery taking pictures at this course.
Don't feel guilty if you are jealous of the members of Edina CC or North Oaks GC. Anyone who gets to play these courses whenever they feel like it is lucky indeed.
My updated list on the metro's private courses: Bent Creek, Dellwood Hills, Edina, Golden Valley, Hastings, Hillcrest, Hudson, Indian Hills, Interlachen, Medina, Mendakota, Minikahda, Minneapolis GC, Northland, North Oaks, Somerby, Somerset, Stillwater, Tartan Park, Town & Country, TPC Twin Cities, Windsong Farm, and White Bear Yacht Club.
So I have 13 private courses left to play (I played the 101 public metro area courses). I'm also working on my boss, aka my wife, to approve a trip to the Oregon coast to play the courses of Bandon Dunes sometime in the near future. I'll give it a shot; my chances of booking this trip still seem better than me finding a fairway off the tee.
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