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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Cragun's 2016

Fairways & Greens
June 25, 2017

Pioneer Creek Golf Course - Gotta LOVE It
By E. Nolan


The Ryder Cup is coming to Minnesota, end of the month. Tell you something you don't know? Fine. The Captain of America's Ryder Cup Team, as high in demand as his pre-tournament time is, spent the entire evening of September 12th (less than 20 miles from Hazeltine National) at Pioneer Creek - one of our truly great suburban golf gems. Why? Why not? There are many reasons to "LOVE" Pioneer Creek (pun intended)... many draws to the marvelous Maple Plain facility beyond just playing golf!

But I'll elaborate on why Captain America was there. In case you didn't know, Davis Love III and his wife, Robin, are wine connoisseurs, and (along with being guest speakers at PC's career and passion Q&A) they were on hand to hand out some autographed bottles of their South African - Love Family Farms - Val du Charron "Aledru" stock. Those are the kind and quality of signature events Pioneer Creek hosts (just hosted the University of Minnesota Gopher Individual Tournament as well).

Professionals and golfers of every level are welcomed and respectively catered to at Pioneer Creek - from PGA TOUR players, to college stars, to you. The stately log cabin clubhouse is surrounded by 200 acres of picturesque, rolling landscape, defined by (and aligned along) the namesake water feature. The staff is personable, hard working, and diligently accommodates a seamless mix of individual play, leagues, tournaments and events.

A course this popular doesn't have to do much to stay great and busy, but the owners and management are ambitious, annually tackling new projects and enhancements. In 2016 alone they purchased new Greens equipment (mowers, rollers, top-dressers and surface-brushes) to further improve those already stellar turf conditions - assuring consistent firmness and speed throughout the property. They upgraded their aeration equipment and process as well, a welcome, effective, and much less disruptive variation from many area courses. And they tackled a renovation project on the first hole, raising the fairway to improve both playability and drainage.

One of Pioneer Creek's many devoted regulars told me on my last visit that, "It's hard to find anything to complain about (here). And if I did find something, I'm sure they'd already be addressing it by the time I mention it." Another member of his foursome said, "They don't sit back and relax... so everyone else can." Presumably a writer. Either that, or every Jack Lemmon-looking Minnesotan is just that clever!

I get it. There's plenty to be lauded in proactive and passionate management, and those were just the first two people I spoke to at Pioneer Creek that day. I collected many more compliments and testimonials in my four hours and twenty-nine minutes there - reflections I appreciate in seeking out the best Minnesota golf values, and factors that make truth-based "go play" articles like this one easy to write. When my editor asked me if I remembered Pioneer Creek well enough to write this piece I all but laughed in response. "Remember it? I couldn't possibly forget it." It wasn't just the comments and shared experiences of others that made impressions. I had plenty of my own.

I'm a proponent of variety and fun in designs I love... just enough challenge... plenty of score-ability. Pioneer Creek presents those architectural attributes throughout - a scenic stroll or ride from the very first hole. Very walkable, good tee shots are never punished, driver can be used pretty much whenever you want (exception being the Par 3's), the greens are large and accepting, and general playability couldn't be better. The creek is an omnipresent hazard, but never really in your way. If I played 18 holes with the same ball, you can too! You could contend that water is in play on a dozen holes, but you can see most everything in front of you from every angle, and no two holes feel too alike. This is the perfect example of what Joel Goldstrand can do with an idyllic, tree-lined, prairie-land, golf property. Few (if any) flaws... plenty of thoughtful enhancements.

I love the two holes that close the nines here, the transitional bridges, topographical diversity and the collection of ace-able Par 3's. I don't like to do hole-by-hole recaps in stories (I try to keep my readers awake) but I easily could've made an exception with Pioneer Creek - a loop of many lookers - well worth your time and drive to visit.

Every September I do an end-of-season tour of my favorite Twin Cities courses - a dozen rounds at courses in optimal condition - The Jewel, Troy Burne, Territory Golf Club and yes, Pioneer Creek. Add it to your own list of "must-plays-before-it-snows" this year. Odds are, it will become a fixture on your own "Every Year" list, too.






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