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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Craguns 2017

Local Golf
June 23, 2017

GR8 Local Golf Architects
Golf legend Arnold Palmer, left, shares a chuckle with golf course architect Thad Layton as they look over the 18th fairway at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo.
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Golf legend Arnold Palmer, left, shares a chuckle with golf course architect Thad Layton as they look over the 18th fairway at Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo.
Tom Lehman gives Fargo Country Club's renovation his stamp of approval.
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Tom Lehman gives Fargo Country Club's renovation his stamp of approval.
By E. Nolan


Starship built their city on rock and roll. Joel Goldstrand built his on golf. Mr. Goldstrand designed about a billion golf courses in Minnesota, (okay... maybe a few less) and it's no stretch at all to call him the Godfather of Minnesota Golf (aka "The Golfather"). But because of our richly beautiful and dynamic landscape, and an ardently enthusiastic base of six-month stick swingers (seven months if we've been good), many other famous architects have sought to make their mark in our area as well. These... are the "8" names to know.

Jeffrey Brauer: If I could only be on one golf architecture team in the world today it would be Jeff Brauer's. Obviously it would be an honor to join Mr. Nicklaus or Mr. Palmer's crews for a week (or any of the master builders on this list), just to have a few unforgettable conversations with them, but - no offense to Gil Hanse - I'm not kidding in the least when I insist that this man should be the most overworked designer in golf. All you billionaires out there hiring architects to build your dream course... (Mr. Keiser I'm talking to you!) this is the guy you want. Mr. Brauer designed America's most underrated course - The Wilderness at Fortune Bay. He designed the behemoth beauties at Giants Ridge (30 minutes south of The Wilderness), producing the state's #1 ranked course (The Quarry - according to most publications) and the state's prettiest golf hole (Legend #17). Jeff is in the process of renovating one of the most panoramically stunning properties on earth at Superior National in Lutsen and he has lent his genius to many other projects across the globe, including The Legacy at Norwalk near Des Moines, Iowa and another of my favorites (further south) in McKinney, Texas at West Ridge Golf Club. Given the resources that the more popular designers get, this man would turn out national hits as reliably as Taylor Swift. Jeff, if you're hiring a PR rep anytime...

Garrett Gill: I took several architecture classes from Garrett Gill at the University of Wisconsin-Stout. It's no secret to him or anyone else in those classes the amount of respect I have for him, and clearly there are many golf developers who feel the same. Mr. Gill has created some of Minnesota's best courses, including a pair in Prior Lake (in the Twin Cities) - Legend's Club and the beautiful links at The Meadows at Mystic Lake Casino. As a golf travel coordinator for numerous national golf groups, I tell anyone coming through the Twin Cities to stay at Mystic Lake Casino (shares the property with the Meadows) and play those two Gill courses for sure. And then head over to check out Tom Lehman's Troy Burne. I call it my "TC BIG 3."

Tom Lehman: Tom Lehman is a PGA TOUR pro and local legend. He is perhaps better known for his work on private properties like the host of the 3M Championship, TPC Twin Cities, and the beautiful Somerby Golf Club (in Byron) and Windsong Farm (in Maple Plain), but I would contend his best work is across state lines in Wisconsin (at Troy Burne in Hudson) and in Nebraska (at the Prairie Club). The diversity in his brilliant designs is apparent in those five projects alone, where he flawlessly and consistently infused every beautiful and hazardous element of a golf landscape together in sublime sync. It is obvious to those who study his work that he and his team care very much about every aspect of their designs.

Kevin Norby: Another local design legend with his name to over 100 projects across the country, this man's best work may very well be in southern Iowa at The Preserve at Honey Creek Resort (on Lake Rathbun). If you are reading this article you are close enough to go Stay and Play at Honey Creek Resort (inside a state park) and absorb with awe the splendor of that design on the banks of Lake Rathbun. (FYI - A great family trip, considering they have an indoor waterpark!) Mr. Norby drew my attention (and respect) with his plans for my least favorite course in America (it's in western South Dakota) and provided solutions to existing flaws that I didn't believe were possible. I've since paid attention to ALL of his local work and with highlights like Greystone and the Refuge in the Twin Cities area, everyone can enjoy his own novel concepts on the game.

Joel Goldstrand: Back to "The Golfather." I looked up Joel Goldstrand designs on Google and the search engine timed out before it could find them all. He's worked on so many great courses in the area: Brooks Golf Club in the Iowa Great Lakes (Spirit Lake), Cannon Golf Club in Cannon Falls, MN, The Pines at Grand View Lodge, Superior National in Lutsen and The Bridges in Winona (finishing off a Robert Trent Jones project) among the many worth checking out. This is a man who either never tires, or never has time to get tired. Either way his extensive efforts yield the golfer a great many rewards.

Robert Trent Jones Family (Robert Trent Jones Sr., Jr. and Rees Jones): The Ryder Cup is being hosted at Robert Trent Jones Sr.'s Hazeltine National this year. You probably already knew that. What you might not have known is that Robert Trent Jones, Sr. had a slight conflict of interest while he was building it. He was working on another project in Minnesota at the time... the former Winona Country Club (currently The Bridges of Winona). His son, Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (clever name) left his own Legacy in the Brainerd Lakes area with a pair of GolfDigest lauded courses at Cragun's Resort (Bobby's and Dutch) and Rees (another son) - perhaps the most popular Casino Course builder in the world - made his mark at Dacotah Ridge (Morton, MN), Blue Top Ridge (Riverside, IA) and most recently at Grand Falls (Larchwood, IA) in our area.

Arnold Palmer: Scott Hoffman deserves props for his design work on The Classic at Madden's (a Golf Digest Top 100 course in America), but regardless of your preference between The Classic and Deacon's Lodge, I just can't (as a lifelong Palmer fan) leave my favorite golfer ever off this list... especially since his course - and tribute to his father - Deacon's Lodge, is among my 10 favorite courses in the entire Midwest (and belongs on any credible U.S. Top 100 course list as well). Mr. Palmer was instrumental in the construction of a few other area projects as well - TPC Twin Cities in Blaine and the Tournament Club of Iowa near Des Moines.

Tom Fazio: I know what you're thinking... Fazio designed a course around here? Yes... but you'll probably never play it. Sure, the two most well known courses in our region might be the former PGA Championship and current Ryder Cup host - Hazeltine National (RTJ Sr. and Rees Jones), and the former PGA Championship and NEXT U.S. Ryder Cup Host, Whistling Straits (Pete Dye), but there is little to no doubt that the most high profile area round of golf you can play is at Tom Fazio's Spring Hill in Wayzata. This is Minnesota's Augusta National and/or Pine Valley. If you've played here or can play here, you're extremely lucky. Spring Hill remains in the Top 10 on my GLOBAL "Bucket List" for the 8th year in a row... one of the few places in the world I'd consider playing with the temperature below 40. #otherwiseImApansy






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