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Breezy Point

Fairways & Greens
August 18, 2017

Ramsey County Golf - Something For Everyone
The Ponds at Battle Creek
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The Ponds at Battle Creek
Manitou Ridge Golf Course
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Manitou Ridge Golf Course
By E. Nolan

Ramsey County Parks & Recreation has it all - the "all" being parks and trails, a nature center, an outdoor aquatic center and beaches - everything an outdoor enthusiast of any age could, would and should enjoy. Ramsey County also has golf - GREAT golf. The golf menu consists of a five-course selection (and the Goodrich Golf Dome) presented across a broad beautiful region from Maplewood and White Bear Lake to Shoreview and (almost) Woodbury. The best part about this collection of courses and practice facilities is the diversity. Need to work on your short-irons, there's a course for that. Putting? Check. Want lessons, family time on the course, or looking to join a league? Check, check and check. Or... have you had enough with practice and want to put your game to the ultimate test? Excellent. Step up to Keller. These facilities are for the opportunistic - those looking to begin, develop or enhance their game. Well maintained and welcoming, with community investment and great partnerships with the PGA and First Tee programs, this county makes it worth your while to find and fall in love with the beautiful game of GOLF.

Keller Golf Course: It's not often a municipal course garners national acclaim, but Keller managed to do just that coming off of a massive renovation and reopening (in 2014) that had everyone from Golf Magazine to Golf Inc. singing its praises. The original design opened in 1929 and claims an unparalleled rich history among public golf courses in Minnesota. Keller has hosted numerous PGA events, on both the men's and women's sides, (including the 1932 and 1954 National PGA Championships) and has been a popular draw for weddings, banquets and private gatherings for years.

The award-winning renovated course is an all-bentgrass, 18-hole, championship routing with a full-length range and diverse practice facility. The millions invested are most evident in the fantastic greens and The Keller Grille (located in the NEW clubhouse), which makes for quite the popular hangout post-round, where guests can take in the surrounding glory of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. (Interesting fact: The water hazard on #12 irrigates the entire course!)

Goodrich Golf Course: Keller's Maplewood neighbor (just a few miles apart) is an impeccably maintained 18-hole (par 70) course perfectly suited for walkers, with gently rolling hills and plenty of natural beauty. Goodrich is relatively short and tight, with water in play on five holes and smaller greens than most municipal courses, but with speeds and slopes that make them rather fun to take on. It is very playable across its four sets of tees and clearly a local favorite. One local regular called Goodrich "the perfect complement to any other Ramsey County course. It's straightforward," he said. "The vanilla to any other course's chocolate." Having experienced them all, that comparison made perfect sense to me.

The Ponds at Battle Creek: I've written articles on the "Best 9-hole courses in America" and featured The Ponds in a number of those pieces. This is a super-fun and extremely scenic little romp through parkland and prairie and around NINE ponds. Perhaps "little" isn't the right descriptor. The Ponds actually has three par 5's in its routing, to go along with four par 3's and a pair of challenging par 4's. In fact, the 500 yard par 5 is quite a beast. If only they'd had the land and budget for a full-18 on this property... it would've been quite the championship round. As it is, The Ponds deserves a little more love from the nation for what it is - a fun factor festival.

The Ponds is a multi-faceted facility in that it features a fifty-station lighted driving range, an expansive practice area, and partners with the First Tee of the Twin Cities to develop the game from the roots up by providing area youth with lessons, camps, league-play and great value rounds all season long. If you're looking to get your kids into the game, I'd strongly recommend bringing them here not just for the facilities, but to find others their age taking on the same adventure. The Ponds gives golfers of every level the perfect platform to progress, and it's worth noting that both The Ponds and Goodrich offer special weekend programs (mid-afternoon) where golfers 18 and under play FREE (up to three youth) with every ONE paid adult. Yet another reason The Ponds has secured my permanent endorsement.

Manitou Ridge: Over in White Bear Lake, spread across one of the highest points in Ramsey County is another 18-hole course (par 71) with another great practice facility and even more programs for youth and beginner development. Manitou Ridge offers many scenic city views throughout the round and a comfortable lounge to relax in (with full bar) afterwards. I mentioned the "vanilla and chocolate" comment earlier. This is the course that is the furthest thing from Goodrich in design - the "most chocolate" I guess you could say. Manitou Ridge goes up and downhill on both nines with plenty of doglegs thrown in there for good measure. Manitou will test more clubs and provide a broader variety of shots than Goodrich. Some of the friendliest people in Ramsey County work here, and the maintenance staff seems to be on top of literally everything. I can't say I've scored well yet here, but I've at least enjoyed trying!

Island Lake Golf & Training Center: Proving that Ramsey County covers every dimension of the game, Island Lake in Shoreview not only features another fantastic developmental facility, but real golf (in their 9-hole executive layout) and miniature golf to get the littlest of putters swinging. Large greens surrounded by ponds and wildlife... this property is as beautiful as it is productive. In truth, many of these holes feel the same, but that's never bothered me. I get to practice a lot of the same shots in succession, and as a result have really dialed in my short irons on these tees and greens. I use Island Lake Golf and Training Center as a tune-up for my other area rounds, and the mini-golf course certainly doesn't hurt my putting. (Perhaps Rory McIlroy should spend more time here.)

Bottom Line: You've no doubt noticed the "all-in-one" theme these properties share. Ramsey County Parks & Recreation is extremely proactive in making people active. They offer so many fantastic programs and opportunities for people to dive into the game, and (better yet) provide on-site PGA professionals with group lessons, private instruction and even coordinated league play. Whatever your level of interest, skill and/or time availability, there is a place for you at one (and all) of these facilities any and every day of the week.

Ramsey County Parks & Recreation is the envy of many counties, with a portfolio of programs and facilities most urban areas can't possibly provide. Thousands of metro residents take advantage of these amenities annually - reaping the invaluable rewards. You, obviously, are welcome to do the same - at least one of these facilities has something for you.

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