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Cragun's 2016

Fairways & Greens
June 25, 2017

StoneRidge Golf Club - A Marquee Monopoly
StoneRidge Golf Club #11
+ click to enlarge
StoneRidge Golf Club #11
StoneRidge #10 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
+ click to enlarge
StoneRidge #10 Photo Courtesy Peter Wong Photography
By E. Nolan

There are few courses in any state that command the same level of respect for their food as they do for their golf. Right off the bat, it's important you know that is absolutely the case for StoneRidge. As a golf club, StoneRidge is not only a front-runner in the Twin Cities field, but solidly stamped as a "Best in State" contender as well. And then Danny's at StoneRidge (as their website clearly establishes), "Is an upscale casual dining experience like no other." Two, one-of-a-kind highlights in a single place... that's as good as a monopoly in this market. They don't have to worry about packages in the sense that other high-end courses up north do. Just a short drive to the east metro and StoneRidge covers the rest.

There's plenty more to be said about Danny's, given its local "celebrity" status, but I'll treat the restaurant as the story's dessert, and whet your "get here" appetite with what drew me in the first time -the golf course.

StoneRidge has a storied history, and stellar reputation, for a club that is actually quite new. The Bobby Weed gem exploded onto the scene on the 4th of July in 2000 - a star-studded declaration on Independence Day. It wasn't that Minnesota was lacking in prestige or power in the "signature" golf course department - not at all - but Twin Cities' residents longed for a public-access marquee that wasn't just in their state, but in their own front yard... a golf track they could legitimately stack up against any of America's best metro courses. And StoneRidge didn't just presume to do that, for sixteen years America's premier golf publications - like Golfweek - have lauded its achievement of doing exactly that.

I remember my inaugural round like it was yesterday... though (sigh) unfortunately it wasn't. (I was outlining this story and daydreaming at the auto repair shop instead.) The clubhouse made a significantly strong first impression as I pulled up to the bag drop, and the superb service began to live up to the impressively strong word-of-mouth expectations before I even stepped out of the car. I remember a fantastic and fresh chocolate chip cookie (had to be homemade), being treated like I was a member at a private club, and plenty of laughter and smiles around the clubhouse. Those are the things that stick with you when you're a national golf writer because - I assure you - you sure don't find them everywhere. Fortunately, (for all of you reading this) those operational strengths are the bread and butter of StoneRidge. And that is clear before you even set foot on the golf course.

The golf course itself is a memorable ride of scenic, links-style, peaks and valleys. The downhill first gets you rolling, a straightforward birdie opportunity in a round with several such chances. The front nine takes you across gorgeous tree-lined fields of fun, with broad fairways and wide greens, fast, perfectly manicured surfaces. The risks are less evident on this side, the rewards more attainable, and then - as you ascend to the clubhouse to take on the back, you're greeted with the holes you see coming the entire round... the beautiful 10th and 11th around the pond and barn. It's there that the visual rewards begin to outweigh the significance of your scores. It's there that you really acknowledge your appreciation for the round - you thank God for your opportunity to play courses like this one.

The back has some bunkers that just blow you away - so cavernous they seem more like quarries... so much sand it's almost Saharan. When you put all the colorful elements together - the fescue, fairways, sky and sand - it really makes for quite a quilt... a staggering display of natural beauty around every cart path corner.

I could cover the golf in so much more detail, and with so many more alluring words, but Danny's merits equal literary compensation. We don't have to golf every day to survive, but we have to eat, and if you have to eat anywhere, you must at least savor one phenomenal meal at Danny's (especially if you're in the area on a Sunday). Danny's combines intimate settings with stunning views, live music (Patio Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays) with daily food and beverage specials. It's not often that "upscale" and "casual" belong in the same atmospheric description, but Danny's executes that coup to perfection. I don't have the space to break down the entire awesomeness of their Sunday Breakfast, but - suffice it to say - the Apple Blueberry Ciabatta French Toast and Breakfast Burger are both worthy culinary ovations. Chef Ron Bohnert is a jack-of-all-flavors and master of "WOW." It's almost unfair that StoneRidge hosts banquets and weddings as well on these premises. Can you imagine having to compete with all of this? Trust me... few can.

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