Monday, September 24, 2018

Minnesota Trip

A few years ago I took my maiden voyage to the great state of Minnesota.  I played every single noteworthy course I could in six days.  It was one of the best trips I've ever taken in terms of overall quality.  Every course was unique, fun, and had excellent architecture.

The trip began right off the airplane with perhaps the most famous course in Minnesota, the Donald Ross designed Interlachen Country Club in Edina.  Re-designed by Ross in 1921, the course recently had some restoration work done and the results were spectacular.

5th hole
10th hole

13th hole
The second course I played on my first day in Minnesota was the Seth Raynor designed Midland Hills Country Club.  This is one of those courses that falls into the "good bones" category.  There is not a whole lot of Raynor left in the course but I have heard that they recently discovered the original routing plan and a significant restoration is being discussed.
8th hole
Day two of the trip began with another lovely Ross course, The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis.  Another Ross re-design, this one in 1917, the club was recently given a proper restoration by the Ross restoration expert Ron Pritchard.  As usual, Ron's work was excellent, thought I would like to see them go a little farther with tree clearing.
3rd hole

10th hole

13th hole
The day continued at the Seth Raynor designed Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights.  Many of the Raynor templates exist at Somerset but they have been modified over the years to the point that they are shells of their former selves.  It was still great fun to play the template par threes.
5th hole

6th hole
The last course I played on day two was the Town & Country Club in St. Paul.  One of the oldest clubs in the country, Town & Country has been at its current location since 1890.  The club credits E.J. Frost with the design of the first nine holes in 1895.  Back to back par threes and fives make this a very unusual routing on a tight piece of property.
2nd hole

11th hole
The third day of the trip began at the very highly ranked Spring Hill Golf Club in Wayzata.  Designed by Tom Fazio, the course is surprisingly hilly.  I applaud Fazio for utilizing the existing topography in his design.  That decision is what makes this course one of the best Fazio designs in my opinion.
3rd hole
6th hole

16th hole
The second round of day four was with my friend and host for the week at his club, Windsong Farm in Independence.  Opened in 2003, Windsong is a John Fought design, that like Spring Hill, utilized the excellent rolling topography to create a challenging and fun golf course.
4th hole

18th hole
Day four was one of my more extraordinary 54 hole days of golf.  I spent eight hours in the car round trip from where I was staying in Minnetonka.  The drive was worth it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.  The day started with a two-and-a-half-hour drive to Duluth for an early morning round at the Donald Ross designed Northland Country Club.  This course was everything I love about Donald Ross designs and had amazing views of Lake Superior.
14th hole

16th hole

18th hole
After a wonderful morning at Northland, I made the drive north to the town of Biwabik and the Quarry at Giant's Ridge Resort.  Designed by Jeff Brauer and considered by many to be his best course, The Quarry is a tremendous course on an exceptional piece of property.  I particularly enjoy Brauer's artful bunkering.
1st hole

7th hole
The last course I played on this exceptional 54 hole day of golf was The Wilderness at Fortune Bay in Tower.  Also designed by Jeff Brauer, this casino resort course is similar to The Quarry but unique enough that it holds its own.
3rd hole

7th hole
Day five of the trip began with the highlight of the trip and one of the most fun golf courses on the planet, White Bear Golf & Yacht Club in White Bear Lake.  Donald Ross is credited with the design of the course though there are those that say it was Willie Watson that laid out the original course.  No matter who designed the course, it is one of the most original and wild golf courses I have ever seen.  The dramatic fairways were laid upon the land without much earth moving and the result is a course with no flat lies that is much more challenging than it appears.
9th hole

10th hole

15th hole
The afternoon on day five presented me with a very pleasant walk around the Donald Ross designed Woodhill Country Club in Wayzata.  The course would really benefit from a chainsaw, but overall it is a very solid Ross design.
8th hole
16th hole
The last day of my trip began at the major championship hosting Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska.  This 1961 Robert Trent Jones design was getting ready to host the Ryder Cup the following year.  I was privileged to play with the head professional at Hazeltine who I actually went to college with.  He was a tremendous host and I really enjoyed him telling me all about what was being done in preparation for the Ryder Cup and all the different decisions that went into presenting the course for match play, such as re-routing some of the holes for the benefit of match play drama.
8th hole

10th hole

17th hole

The last course I played on the trip was Golden Valley Golf and Country Club.  Designed by A.W. Tillinghast, this course is unique in that it has five par fives and plays to a par of 73.


17th hole
The Minneapolis area has one of the strongest collection of great golf courses in the country.  I played the great majority of the highlights but there are still great courses like Minnesota Valley, Minneapolis, and Rochester that I need to get back to play!

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