Having It Both Ways At Territory Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
Somewhere between the rolling berm meadows of an Irish countryside and the deep northern woods of upstate New York lies the Territory Golf Club. You will know the exact moment when the switch gets thrown between the two. I won’t spoil it yet because Territory is designed to surprise and exceed expectations.
Just east of the greater St. Cloud area lies Territory Golf Club. Laid out across 260 acres of splendid prairie and a slice of deeply wooded marshlands a combination that throws enough curveballs and changeups for two courses. The course plays fairly and challenging which is a source of pride for Head Professional, Chad Seim. He has dubbed a stretch of holes on the back nine the ‘sanctuary seven’ and says the layout reads like a tale of two courses. In fact, you might feel compelled to check your GPS to insure you are still on the same course at the 11th tee box, the change is that dramatic. Chad is a much-in-demand, golf instructor, so he knows a thing or two about golf course design, proper pace of play and creating player compatibility.
Chad’s partner in crime is Dan Stang. Dan is the General Manager and Head Superintendent. Dan’s dedication and long hours have paid off in a set of course conditions that can only be described as immaculate. Both Chad and Dan wear multiple hats within the operation and have clearly orientated their staff to take care of customers. I personally experienced this on a recent visit where I was treated like royalty.
The front nine is full of winding, variable fairways that widen and narrow at just the right yardages. There is usually a sweet spot that requires a bit of courage but will reward those who execute a quality long drive (as it should be). I must say the front reminded me of another open course in the eastern suburbs named Troy Burne. The fairway to berm ratio was similar and the greens were large with some dramatic undulation. The pin placements were not always in the easy areas. Darn.
A special call-out should be noted on how playable and fair this course is from the forward tees. I play a lot of golf with my wife and without hesitation I can say most courses do not allow enough yardage advantage for the ladies. She can drive the ball and clip a nice 3-wood and still not be on the green in regulation. That’s wrong. That is not the case at Territory and I applaud the design. In fact, I give it a standing ovation! More courses should take note. I did notice quite a few couples playing the day we visited.
Several stand out holes on the front are the back-to-back tandem of #7 and #8. Seven is dog-leg right that will try to entice into cutting the corner but the best approach is to stay on the left half and play your odds with a longer iron into the green. While long par 3’s are typically frustrating for most golfers (myself included) the longish #8 is aesthetically a beautiful hole. It looks and plays so smartly. Yes, it could very well end up a bogie but you won’t mind given the elevation change, the rolling hills, the large green and the overall look/feel of this great hole.
When you come around the corner and approach the par 3 #11 your jaw may drop. Several things going on here, first and foremost TREES! – lots of trees. The view from the tee box has the green perfectly framed by all those mature maples. I would imagine the colors in the fall are stunning. Secondly there is ‘the bridge.’ Or should I say engineering marvel that transports you through time and space to the 11th green and into the Sanctuary Seven. Either way you will shake your head in disbelief.
The back nine continues with some target holes that wind between a fair amount of water hazards and mature trees. The 390 yard par 4 #14 is a good example of the intimidation factor at play on this stretch of holes. Slightly elevated but not much room left to right from the tee. Gorgeous surroundings, even more so if you keep your ball dry. Eventually the round returns to the open meadows and finishes with a tactful par 5 that slopes downhill into a forced carry and then onto a wide, shallow green. The prevailing westerly winds may not allow you to hit the green in two so dial in that distance on the second shot to minimize the wedge into the green.
Having made the drive from the Twin Cities I would definitely encourage you to do the same. If you like variety and playing different courses, this is well worth the trip. In fact, as Chad likes to say, “It’s like two courses in one.” But at less than $50 for the round it is a great value. Post round can be summed up on the large deck or the small gazebo below with an appetizer and a cold refreshment. Sitting there you might feel like a member at a private club but your wallet won’t.