Flora, Fauna, Boat Rides And Great Golf

By Gordy Ginsberg

No other golf course in our area, and few in the world, have a scenic lake cruise included in their green fee. The catch? Before they let you board the boat, you have to launch a tee shot over a lake to a distant land…well more on that later and welcome to Stonebrooke Golf Club in Shakopee, Minnesota.

This long time favorite Southwest metro complex is home to 27 holes of challenging golf including the exciting eighteen hole layout plus a nine hole executive course and driving range. The two courses, along with a spacious clubhouse, pro shop and friendly staff make this a perfect venue for your regular foursome, corporate event, banquet, wedding or charity outing.

Einar Odland, Stonebrooke’s General Manager, invited me to take advantage of the early spring weather and test my game on the eighteen hole regulation course. At 6,475 yards from the back (138 slope, 71.9 rating) and four sets of tees, the par 71 layout is very playable yet challenging enough for all. “The course came through the winter in great shape,” said Odland. On a perfect 70 degree day in April I was about to find out for myself.

For those who haven’t played Stonebrooke, the first hole gives you a preview of what will come into play during your round: elevation changes, water, mature trees, excellent course conditions and the need for smart play and good shot making. This is not the longest course you may play, but buyer beware, there are many and varied challenges over eighteen holes. Two stand out from the rest. First, water is in play on 14 holes. The dangers masquerade as benign babbling brooks, wandering creeks, calming lakes and natural marshlands. Second, the greens can be the great equalizer at Stonebrooke. Most are large, undulating and, just to make it more challenging, sneaky fast. Sound fun?

Your first shot of the day is from a tee perched high above the 1st fairway. A pond looms to the left and a creek crosses the landing zone. Lay up? Go for it? Either way is challenging. Once you have safely negotiated your opening shot, this 526 yard par 5 turns left and uphill through a stand of trees and then on to the first of the many large and undulating greens.

My favorite holes on the outward nine are the #5, #7 and of course the signature hole, #8. The meandering 519 yard par 5 number five starts with a forced carry over a cattail marshland to a two tiered fairway that banks left at the landing area. Conquer this dangerous looking tee shot and you are faced with a creek crossing the layup area of your second shot. If all goes well, your approach is slightly uphill to a wide green surrounded by bunkers.

The 7th hole is a wonderful par 3 alongside O’Dowd Lake. From the forward tees your tee shot is over dry land to a green guarded on the left by the lake. The back tees present an entirely different look. From tee to green there is nothing but H20 with a small bail out area of terra firma to the right. Par here is an excellent score but resting now is not an option.

Leaving the seventh green you arrive at the back tees of one of the Twin Cities’ most iconic golf holes – the “boat hole” par 4 number eight at Stonebrooke. Standing on the back tees, one looks out over 200+ yards of lake to a distant stretch of fairway gently rising out of sight and to the right. If one could summon Moses to once again part the seas and provide safe passage for a tee shot this would be the time. When that doesn’t happen, tee it up, let it rip and whether you reach dry land on the other side of the lake or not, pull your carts onto the pontoon boat and enjoy one of the most unique lake crossings in all of golf. Depart the boat and if your ball found the fairway only a short iron is needed to reach a green that is protected left by a waterfall and long by another creek. What a hole!

The back side continues where the front left off. The par 3 number eleven features a green with two levels, one just a short escalator ride in height above the other. Find the wrong part of this green and a four putt is quite possible. Holes fourteen and fifteen are very nice par 4’s of medium length requiring accuracy and nerve. The fourteenth demands a well placed tee shot between water left and a creek dividing the fairway. A safe tee ball sets up a good look at this back to front sloping green.

The fifteenth, one of my favorites, is a dogleg left with water guarding the entire left side. The green angles left and away from you and is tucked in behind the water. Tee shots long and to the right side of the fairway offer approach shots over land. Anything left off the tee will require an all or nothing approach shot entirely over water. Good luck here. The uphill eighteenth plays just under 400 yards, ends right below the clubhouse, and is a challenging finish to one of our area’s most interesting courses.

Stonebrooke Golf Club has everything you expect from a good golf venue. Course conditions are excellent, the design is interesting and challenging, and you have the choice of championship or executive layouts. In addition, the clubhouse and facilities are first rate. Their trained staff offers golf and special occasion planning for up to 250 people. Visit their website (www.stonebrooke.com) for complete golf and event services. Then, give them a try. You’ll be glad you did.

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