GOLDEN VALLEY, Minn. - I have always believed October is the best month for golf in Minnesota. The trees are colorful, the air is crisp, and usually there are fewer people out on the course. Theoretically, you would think after a summer of golf, your game would be sharp. While that's not often the case, it's still the greatest time to tee it up.
So I'm figuring we've got a good month left on the links. Now is the time to go crazy before we become stir crazy. Don't forget, the month of May was miserable so perhaps Mother Nature is paying us back for the time she borrowed from golfers earlier.
It's the second week in October and my goal is to get 4 more rounds in. It will cost me in the form of shopping trips and spa charges; a small price to pay before clubbing down to a snow shovel (though after last winter I'm considering a snow blower).
Wayzata Country Club -- This was a round I had been looking forward to all season and I'm glad I waited. Wayzata CC is breathtaking in autumn. There are two things on the front 9 that I won't soon forget.
The first is a massive willow on the par 5 6th. The 90 degree dogleg has water down the right that elbows along with the fairway. A bigger hitter can obliterate the water (I'm guessing about a 250 yard carry) and leave an 8 iron in. That willow, on the elbow, has likely swallowed many a member drive. I found agua, re-teed, and learned my lesson.
I also loved the bunker short of the par 3 8th, blocking a good portion of the green from view. When I asked Superintendent Jesse Trcka about the course's best feature, he talked about the huge greens and the beautiful bunkers, which were changed during a 2007 John Fought renovation. The greens were superb and the bunkers were some of the best I've seen. I've been telling my daughter not to eat the sand in her sandbox, but I might let her try a handful of WCC's finest.
14, 15, and 18 make up the best of the back and help showcase the variety here. I realized I had teed off with a driver, 3 wood, hybrid, and four iron on the par 4's. The challenging par 4 finisher, an uphill dogleg flanked by brilliant bright red and yellow trees, is a great closer offering the picturesque clubhouse backdrop.
When Trcka asked me what I liked best, I mentioned the routing. It's a pleasant walk and I was constantly looking forward to turning the next corner to see what kind of hole was waiting for me. It was a beautiful fall day on a memorable golf course; I found myself lingering on the 18th tee box, not wanting the round to end.
Midland Hills Country Club -- In 1919, legendary golf course architect Seth Raynor strolled 160 acres of rolling hills between St. Paul and Minneapolis. He left his trademark stamp on the land; producing holes reminiscent of the Biarritz (which I got stuck in), the Cape, the Short, and the Punchbowl.
To me, Midland seemed like a throwback golf museum that is still very relevant, challenging, and fun to play. It withstands the test of time just like Hugh Wilson's Merion East. MHCC has recently been updated while still keeping Raynor's mark. The course conditions were top-notch with fabulous fairways and great greens. The club itself was named the MGA Club of the Year in 2011 and it's not hard to see why.
Back to the layout and design, there is a reason Raynor is oft-talked about in the world of golf architecture. I read on the website about the classic holes he built in St. Paul and then conducted a mini-scavenger-hunt on the course to identify them. They are all interesting and thought-provoking holes, but a trio of par 4's really catches the golfer's attention.
On the 8th, the square tee box is snug up against the water that runs the entire length of the right side of the hole. It's a "bite off as much as you can chew" drive that ends with a severe uphill approach to the green. The 11th is a picturesque yet wild romp up and down a number of rolling hills with Minneapolis skyline views, but my favorite was the 14th, which ends with a punchbowl green. I tried to take a picture for you guys but a photo doesn't do it justice. It has got to be one of the best holes in state! There's nothing like climbing the mound that reveals the previously hidden green and its 20 foot tall pin. It would have been better if I was dancing, but it was still fun, nonetheless.
So here's the updated club list: Bent Creek, Dellwood Hills, Edina, Golden Valley, Hastings, Hillcrest, Hudson, Indian Hills, Interlachen, Medina, Mendakota, Midland Hills, Minikahda, Minneapolis GC, Northland, North Oaks, Somerby, Somerset, Stillwater, Tartan Park, Town & Country, TPC Twin Cities, Wayzata, Windsong Farm, and White Bear Yacht Club.
(Copyright 2011 by KARE 11. All Rights Reserved.)