EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - So after an extended layoff, due to non-golf related ACL surgery (basketball), I have finally dusted off the sticks and headed back to the course. Of course, I've got a nice little excuse going for me as I struggle to find fairways, greens, and any semblance of a putting stroke. I have also lost my ability to extricate myself from any bunker, be it fairway or greenside.
This excuse came in handy as I resumed my journey through the Twin Cities golf scene. I've got just nine courses left to play after I got the chance to play Olympic Hills in Eden Prairie. This may not have been the best place to begin my return to golf, for OHGC requires some precision both off the tee and on the approach.
My host, the club's GM, was more than willing to take a break from the office to sneak in a leisurely 18. We teed off at 11 a.m. on a gorgeous Wednesday. Members had snagged the morning tee times, yet we hardly saw another golfer after the 5th hole, and we were a twosome. The fact that a random Wednesday was full of eager members tells you all you need to know about the club; they love their golf here.
The first thing you notice are the very hills the place is named for. It's a lush and well-manicured ride up and down the fairways, many of which are tree-lined. The 4th hole was my favorite of a good group of par 3s, offering a sloping green fronted by a small pond that was quick to swallow both of our tee shots. The tee box was significantly elevated requiring you club down (doesn't matter if you hit a fat shot into the water).
One pretty cool feature about Olympic is the holes across Mount Curve Road (6 through 9 and 14 and 15) almost give you the feeling that you're on a different course. Neill Lake grabs your attention and is within sight on most of the holes. It is also the beginning of the end for fairway bunkers; there are none after the 6th hole. Near the 9th green, my playing partner showed me what the members call "Wedge World" which is a very cool short game practice facility that Dave Pelz would be proud of (it also a place where this guy needs to spend some time).
The closing 3 holes (a par 3, 4, and 5) offer a great place to settle a match among the hills. The course was in mid-summer shape in mid-May and the greens, which were far from boring, rolled fast and true. They'll all be replaced sometime in the near future as the course goes under the knife. A well-respected restoration expert (think Minikahda) has been on-site a couple times but hasn't really hinted to what changes he'll make. They'll add more tee boxes to cater to more member groups, but that's about the only sure thing so far.
Frankly, I didn't even notice the lack of fairway bunkers after the 6th hole. There was plenty of challenge here (think hills, trees, and doglegs) and the course requires precision, imagination, and the use of every club in your bag. It'll be interesting to see what changes they'll make.
In closing, the General Manager of the club mentioned to me that I seemed to like all of the courses I've blogged about lately. I couldn't agree more. I've been lucky enough to play some of the metro's best and most exclusive venues. Anyone who has the good fortune of joining one of these great private clubs should enjoy it; the enthusiastic members of Olympic Hills certainly do.
SIDE NOTE: My wife and I made a quick getaway up to Lutsen on Memorial Day Weekend and I played 18 at Superior National. Played the River and Canyon courses. I'll write more soon and I'll show you some pretty cool pics I snapped. BTW, also not the best place to try to ease back into golf, but beautiful nonetheless.