Elk River Golf Club – Top Of The World
By E. Nolan
Have you ever been to the top of the world? And no, I don’t mean the Arctic. I mean Elk River, Minnesota. How and why is that the top of the world? Because the sign says so (Look at Google Maps). Top of the World Park is in Elk River… right next to Elk River Golf Club. There are plenty of great parks in Elk River, but (let’s be honest) you’re not reading this article to find a great park. You’re looking for the next great golf course.
By the time you read this, Elk River Golf Club will have a Drone Tour of their course available on their website. For the first time in… well… EVER you’ll be able to see every hole of the course exactly as it is today. You’ll be able to see the conditions, the features, the angles of approach and the beauty that no collection of ground shots can provide. You’ll feel like you’re on (wait for it)…Top of the World.
I don’t know what the whole “Top of the World Park” is really about. But I DO know what Elk River Golf Club is about. It’s about fun… great fun. It’s about a course that knows it is perfectly built to host large groups of golfers, and that it has the ideal mix of challenging holes for scramble and best ball ambitions. In 2008 Golf Digest listed it among it’s “Best Places to Play,” which tells you that over the years it has held it’s own among the city’s elite. The question is… have YOU played it yet?
Elk River Golf Club is an 18-hole, Par 72 course roughly 45 minutes northwest of Minneapolis. It’s member owned, which basically means they could make it private if they wanted to, but they seem to like the public being able to play their course. (And the public seems to like that too!) ERGC is in the general vicinity of the Albertville Premium Outlets, between St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. There are many great courses in the area, but not enough people have explored them. (So we still get to call them “Hidden Gems.”)
This particular course has plenty of small signature features, as in a series of small ponds and small, elevated greens scattered across the property. Fortunately, the fairways aren’t all that small, and the rewards for hitting good, accurate shots are pretty darn big. Every regular will tell you it’s not unusual to have to hit every club in your bag in a round. Plenty of drivers… plenty of “others.” Strategically placed water features and an attractive creek (attractive to the eye and to golf balls) keep you grounded and intrigued throughout the loop.
Off the course, the Caddyshack Bar & Grille is a popular hangout, with their own take on a house made pizza, a heaping Prime Rib Sandwich, great wraps and plenty of other options. Many come over daily just for the food!
The Wedding and Banquet facility stays booked throughout the year, with room for up to 150 guests and great views out over the golf course, and over 100 large groups (corporations, associations and private parties) take advantage of the special “Outing Packages” offered each season (which includes green fees, carts and range balls). They keep it “happening” out here, and the more people that come the more that return!
A facility would never stay so busy without a great product to offer though, so how about we turn our attention to that golf course? This is a scoring course for the straight and proficient iron shooters, with many long open chutes leading to unprotected greens. Most of the holes have no bunkering, meaning you just have to avoid the trees on both sides. (Easy enough, right?)
My favorite holes on the front are probably the Par 3, 4th hole, and the two long, winding par 5’s at #5 and #8, with the 8th requiring you to avoid a pond on final approach. On the back, 11 is another pretty hole with a short shot over a pond. 13 is one of the more intriguing holes on the course, a risk/reward short Par 4 that most should go at with irons, but a 270 yard drive with helping wind can get you an eagle if you can soar over or around that one protective tree. And, speaking of eagles, 14 is my favorite hole on the entire course, a manageable Par 5 with two protective ponds to pay attention to. All in all, like I said, Elk River is an “easy” course if you’re a straight hitter, with 90% of the challenges provided when you spray. (Appropriately) Many walk off the course, admiring their scorecards, feeling like they’re on Top of the World.