Stonebrooke Leaves Few Stones Unturned
By Judd Spicer
Although the Native American translation for Shakopee is the number “six”, visitors to Stonebrooke Golf Club in this south metro golf pocket won’t be marking many of said scores on their card. That is, if the player brings a refined mid-iron/hybrid game and a confident putting stroke.
For what Stonebrooke lacks in length and testing off the tee, the track readily makes up for in adroit shot-shaping. Playing at a modest 6,475 yards from the tips (and a mere 4,830 from the front tees), longer players may jest that the stony title refers to the course’s lack of length and generous landing areas that can oft be had with a stone’s throw. But those of the Bubba Watson ilk are sure to find those smirks turned stone-faced when contemplating their approach shots toward Stonebrooke’s massive, undulating greens. Course designer Tom Haugen is rumored to be a superb putter, and it would readily appear that Stonebrooke was crafted to adhere to his strengths.
“The greens are the challenge,” says Head Pro Barrett Boe, who adds that good lag putting is a key to low scores. “The course isn’t overly long, but once you get on the greens that’s pretty much the defense of the golf course. They’re large and on a normal day they’re fast for a public golf course; just a lot of undulation and a lot of misreads.”
What won’t be misread is the exceptional greeting provided guests via Stonebrooke’s inspired clubhouse and handsome environs (and virtual visitors will no doubt appreciate the free cart rental with online tee times). April-though-autumn weddings are a weekend standard here, as are a regular cadre of golfing (and non-playing) diners that come to enjoy dishes such as the “Stonebrooke Divots” (Jack Daniels marinated beef tenderloin tips on a skillet) along with a fine collection of seasonal salads from the full restaurant menu.
“We focus on the experience of the guests,” says Stonebrooke GM Einar Odland,who has been at the course for 20 years (the last six as general manager). “Golf now is an entertainment dollar, so it’s a discretionary way for folks to spend their money. We try and involve a four-hour experience through our customer service and through our course conditions. We can say the same thing about the weddings. It’s a big, important day for people and we want the experience they have while they’re here for six hours to stand out and be something they remember forever.
“The clubhouse itself is a unique design,” Odland details. “Most of the time when the brides and their moms walk in, it kind of sells itself. The space has high-vaulted ceilings with high windows. The waterfall and the rock wall — they just fall in love with the scenery.”
Golfers are washed onto the course through the passage of that same setting, and the attractive combination of natural water and stone sets a tone for course aesthetics. Water is prevalent here, appearing on 14 holes in forms both subtle and stressful, formed by creek, pond and lake.
After segueing from the peaceful surrounds of the clubhouse, the course grabs one’s attention immediately with a 544-yard par 5 that presents a liquid tenor for the round with a creek running mid-fairway along with a notable change in elevation. A set of par 3’s (on holes 2 and 4) ensue before Stonebrooke again grabs your collar in par 5 form with a handsome and harrowing 550-yarder featuring a two-tiered fairway.
The third par 3 in Stonebrooke’s first seven holes is the highly entertaining 133-yard No. 7, which rests alongside Lake O’Dowd and requires black and blue tees to play over a tiny bay; the hole offers little (if any) protective from the wind, so depending on gusts the diminutive yardage may not appear so minute. Up next is hole No. 8, well known about the metro as Stonebrooke’s signature:
“The pontoon on No. 8 is a highlight for a lot of people that come out,” Boe explains. “You take the ferry after your drive over Lake O’Dowd; it’s about 180-yard forced carry and then you get the boat ride with one of our ‘Captains’, as people call them.”
On the back side, the par 3 No. 11 has to duel with power lines running parallel to the fairway, which is a small shame as the otherwise exceptional hole presents a fine mesh of landscaping combined with a readily intimidating two-tiered green. A par 5 on No. 12 and the course’s final par 3 on No. 13 follow, and threaten to lull the player to a point of placidity. Here’s a tip: keep your game sharp down the stretch.
The course presents two of its most challenging tests on No.’s 14 and 15, both par 4’s with a demanding degree of water to negotiate. The former has a double creek, while 15 has water to the left and guarding the same side of the green. And just when you’re nearing home, Stonebrooke presents a most stringent test on the par 5 17th, the No.1 handicap, 595-yard beast of a near close featuring ample water, bunkering and (surprise) a massive, undulating green.
The driver may be the biggest, baddest and most costly club in your bag. Yet the welcoming, aesthetically pleasing and genuinely engaging grounds at Stonebrooke serve at the perfect reminder that — at the close of a hole like the close of your round — the flat stick truly is the most formidable tool.