A Players Course – StoneRidge Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
There are those rounds we play where it feels like your sitting down to a blah, franchise type meal at a mall near you. I won’t name names. And then there are those rounds where you feel like you are sitting down for a fine dining experience with all the extras. Personally I lean towards a dry-aged porterhouse, medium rare. Well that is what stepping up to the first tee box at StoneRidge Golf Club feels like. Excitement, awe-inspiring, hungry, the need to be on your game… pure links pleasure.
StoneRidge touts itself as a semi-private course, which is open to public play every day. The members here are provided a full-spectrum of benefits, perks and service. While it has a first class restaurant, the team wants you to understand that the golf is paramount to their customer base. It is a hard-core golfer’s track. The groundskeeping crew strives to provide the best playing conditions humanly possible within a six month Minnesota season. Mission accomplished. It is a links course (although I learned technically speaking, links style courses are supposed to be near the ocean and a dune strewn beach). The StoneRidge sea of fescue is dotted with 154 bunkers and some 15 acres of sand. You will negotiate winding stretches of waste bunker as well as 40 acres of native, natural grasses. In two words, it is challenging and gorgeous. Jeff Girard, the Head Superintendent for the last 10 years is up at 4:30am all season long to insure those playing conditions and atheistic elements are top-tier.
The course ownership has recently brought in PGA Head Golf Professional, Mark Hetland. Mark has been a PGA instructor since 1999 and will bring his teaching experience and operations management to the StoneRidge team. Mark’s focus is on player satisfaction and overall playing conditions. He likes to see people use a variety of shots. Wind direction looms large in how aggressive you can play the shorter par 4’s. Several holes in this category include #1, #8 and #13 (appropriately named ‘Tease’).
The course property was originally a farmstead owned by the Splinter family. Roger Splinter is 81 years young and plays 150+ rounds per year. You will never see him OR his clubs in a cart. Maybe that is the secret to life. The ‘barn’ is located where his grandparent’s farm was centered. It originally had 10-12 buildings with the original house setting among the tall oaks south of the barn. Roger is fond of saying, “Stay out of Grandma’s kitchen.” In other words, don’t end up in the oaks. Apparently Grandma was a straight shooter.
The 311-yard, par 4 hole #1 is a great starter hole with an elevated tee that flows into a very tight green entry between two bunkers. Too much juice on the swing and you may be pulling the sand wedge on your second shot. The 350 yard #3 will also test your nerve with more out of bounds running up the right side. A fairway bunker beckons the big hitters to take it on leaving a short wedge in. With the prevailing winds typically out of the west the 526-yard 5th hole creates a classic decision point where you can go for the backstop lined green with a bomb of a drive and a daring second shot. Note there are some deep bunkers out front on this green. The short yardage number 8 is a bit misleading because it is all uphill. A sweeping fairway is deceptively narrow at the sweet spot and if you hit the fairway you will only have a view of the top of the flag from well below the green – a tricky, but fun hole that will require your mastery of club choice.
The back nine starts with a wonderful one-two punch. The par 4, 413 yard #10 curves downhill to the left. You may be tempted to shave some yardage by cutting the corner but that wouldn’t be advised. A well-placed drive will roll out down the right and give you a nice look into an oblong green. The signature hole is called ‘Barn.’ It’s a feature you can’t miss. I don’t mean with a golf ball, I mean visually. Some have been known to bet on hitting the barn but a good shot splits the gap between the barn and the large oaks on the right. This par 5, 489 yard hole plays steadily uphill and finishes in a scattering of bunkers out front. You may want to drive up and have a look if it’s your first time out. The large green has some serious tilt, which can make staying under the pin key to a birdie look. Great hole. The short number 13 is tricky to say the least. Many a good player ends up in the rough slope leading up to the undulated green. The round ends with a long, par 4 that can take the steam out of a good scorecard. You will need a good one-two shot combo to finish with par.
Danny’s restaurant has grown its reputation as the ‘go-to’ spot in the area by delivering on all fronts: great drinks and appetizers for the short haul, a creative dinner menu, amazing food and a relaxing, classy atmosphere for the long haul. Jeff Petrovitch, award winning Chef Ronald Bohnert and their staff take their cuisine seriously. Paired with a robust wine selection this makes for a romantic night out or a lively table of good friends. The patio is strewn with lights, a fire pit, comfy chairs and a view out over all that swaying fescue, perfect for evening cocktails.
This true-blue player’s course along with an exceptional clubhouse and a courteous staff easily exceeds expectations. Bring your ‘A’ game, because StoneRidge always brings theirs.