FOREST LAKE, Minn. - Here's the great thing about this obsession I have with playing all the courses in the Twin Cities metro. Had I not been so obnoxious in my quest, I might not have ever had the chance to play Forest Hills Golf Club in Forest Lake. I hadn't heard much about it before I made the half hour drive north. It's a great layout; a little-known gem round' here.
So when I got there at 4 p.m. on a Friday it was 106 degrees. I thought I'd have the joint to myself. But there were plenty of twosomes and foursomes throughout the course. That's awesome. Golf nuts are everywhere around the cities.
The first two holes grab your attention, both doglegs left demanding some well placed shots off the tee. I also really liked the 9th, a short par 4 to a severely elevated green. It sits right in front of the dining patio so an accurate wedge is even more important.
The finishing stretch is fantastic, starting with a fun downhiller on the par 3 13th. The water in front requires a cleanly struck iron into a green surrounded by an amphitheater hill. The fourteenth, in my opinion is the toughest hole on the property. At 553 yards, it's a three-shot hole and the third shot has to clear some scary water snug to the front of the green. Shields Lake comes into view, and it's beautiful, especially when the par 4 15th wraps its arms around its western shores.
The closer, number 18, offers a fun finish with another dog left with a steep bank in front of a small green. Like the rest of the course, it's fair, but it's no pushover.
When I putted out, a storm was starting to roll in. There was a nice breeze and it was about 78 degrees. Nice and cool, just like Forest Hills.
WEST ST. PAUL, Minn. -- I know a guy. Former media type who's a good golfer and a good, avid golf blogger. He's played everywhere around Minnesota. He's played great tracks all over the country. And he calls Southview Country Club his home.
The well-known Tapemark Tournament also calls Southview home and that also says a lot about what kind of a course and club it is. When you see the money-looking landscaping with the club's crest from the first tee (it's also your aiming point) you think this place is a charming tree-lined jaunt. Don't take the beauty for granted, because the teeth can be sharp if you don't pay attention.
For example, I hit a great drive on the third. I could see the flag but not the green on my approach. I hit a decent wedge to the middle and thought I was in great shape. Problem was the green. Slants hard from right to left, leaving me a knee-knocker.
It wasn't the last time the course got me when I strutted forward after a good shot! You have to hit good shots in the right places on many of these holes. Also, the two par 3's on the front total 425 yards so don't expect to make up strokes there.
Southview offers a good golfing challenge and for a first-timer, there are some pretty cool moments. Climbing fairway hills on 6 and 8 offer some excitement. I know some people who are anti-blind holes, but if they're at a private club, you've got no excuses. I generally like them. I think they add fun moments of anticipation and revelation to the round.
The other thing I quite liked about SCC was its location. It is amazing to think a piece of property was preserved in this hectic retail and business district for one of life's simpler pleasures. It is truly an oasis. The Home Depot caught my eye once. It made me appreciate teeing it up on immaculately groomed grounds instead of shopping for paint for a project I want no part of!
Head Professional Phil Anderson told me to wait til' I got across the street for the closing five holes. The 14th offers you a "wow" moment, high above a tumbling fairway featuring a couple of cool willow trees. The 15th is a par 3 with water in front and a gorgeous view of a small lake not found on most maps. The 16th is a rear-end-kicker at more than 450 yards with trouble throughout before you get to a green surrounded by gumdrops.
This is one of the original clubs on this side of town. It's an oldie AND a goodie. The head pro was proud to show it off. Not hard to see why.
GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - In TV we use teases to tell you what's coming up after a break. Here's my tease. Just finished an excellent book that has everything to do with these great clubs I've been playing. I'll tell you more about that. I've got two tee times at two courses I'm super excited to see, and I'll run through the updated list of the quest.
Until then, hit em' straight and pack another sleeve!
(Copyright 2012 by KARE. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)