Willingers Golf Club – A Sign Of Things To Come
By Tim Cotroneo
Prior to teeing off at Willingers Golf Club, you’ll see a sign located just in front of the first tee box. If you take the time to read this sign in its entirety, you can’t help but be excited about what’s to transpire.
The first bullet point on the sign that grabs you is: “Top 5 Courses in America Under $50.” Think about that. Golf Magazine surveyed hundreds of courses throughout the U.S. where the greens fees are under $50, and Willingers is rated in the top five.
Maybe Golf Magazine steered you wrong with a golf tip a decade ago. You are a Golf Digest loyalist through and through. Never fear, Willingers is an equal opportunity over-achiever. Golf Digest has ranked this Gill Miller design as one of the “Best Places to Play” for 15 consecutive years.
Tree-mendous View: Some golf courses sweep you off your feet even before you’ve taken a swing. This is definitely the case at Willingers. It’s highly recommended that you step up to the outdoor clubhouse deck above the proshop before teeing off. At this vantage point, you can absorb the sweeping vistas that were major part of the vision conjured by the course founders in the early 90’s.
The preponderance of trees that frame Willingers is both a blessing and a curse. The thrust of oak, birch, evergreen, dogwood, and crab apple trees that are everywhere on this 275-acre plot makes perfect sense when you discover that this Audubon Certified site was originally a nursery.
The curse part of the equation becomes apparent the first time you hit a wayward drive. It can be frustrating the way the trees reach out like greedy Gold Glove shortstops. For some golfers, there is a silver lining to this foliage factor. Rick Mattson, an Inver Grove resident and frequent Willingers player, had an interesting take on golf ball excursions. “Most of the time, when you lose your golf ball at Willingers, you find three others,” Mattson said. Now there is a golfer who looks at golf as a glass half-full proposition.
Play, Enjoy, Repeat: Willingers takes great pride in their legacy of repeat business. General Manager Pete Stauffer attributes Willingers enduring success to the course’s value and consistently superior condition. “We challenge golfers to compare the Willingers experience with any other course at our price point. Keep in mind our cost isn’t a one-time special deal. It’s any time, any day,” Stauffer said.
Stauffer explained that the golf course annually competes at a very high level. “Golf Digest released a Top 20 list for Minnesota. We came in at number 15. All the courses ranked higher than us were either country clubs or northern resort courses. We work hard to stay in that kind of select company,” Stauffer said.
Tournament Treasure: Willingers has long been a favorite for tournaments, weddings, and special events. Tournament planners love the economics of playing at Willingers. The course staff places a premium in making sure the event, food, and service are exemplary.
“In addition to a great round of golf, groups can expect exceptional food and a beautiful facility. As for weddings, they’ve always been Willingers’ easiest transaction. Once the bride sees the vista view overlooking our golf course, this place is a pretty easy reception decision,” Stauffer said.
Once Played, Easily Remembered: From the water holes on the front side to the signature 12th and 18th holes on the back, Willingers is a challenging track where golfers are rewarded if they focus on course management. This 6,800-yard layout will punish those that shoot from the hip without considering risk and reward. The good news is that Willingers’ trademark scenery is something you can take to the bank regardless of your golf thought process.
Willingers is located 15 minutes south of Lakeville and just one exit off of Hwy 35 (take a right on Hwy 19). For a special golf experience, all GM Stauffer requests is to drive a few miles south of your Twin Cities comfort zone. “We ask that you try us once. What I regularly hear from first time golfers is that they can’t wait to come back and play again. Golf marketing guru, Steve Dowling, said it best about playing 18 holes here. ‘Once played, easily remembered,'” Stauffer said. Willingers, it’s tree-mendous.