Riverwood National – Who New?

By E. Nolan

What is the newest golf course in the Twin Cities metro? (Not including renovations.) Any clue? I didn’t know. I had no idea it was Riverwood National, but the “like new” course conditions should’ve been a pretty solid clue. It has that “fresh out of the box” feel and appeal when you see it and pursuantly tee off on #1 (and the other seventeen). 12 years old or 12 years young (however you look at it), I love the Riverwood National sense of “novelty.”

I mentioned the impressive conditions. Did I mention there are actually 36 holes to play here? (Rhetorical question.) Okay, so 18 of those holes are on the executive (Par 58) course – “Vintage” – but you can seriously spend a full day golfing here and never play the same hole twice (or play the same course three separate times in one day). True story.

If you’re starting to wonder where this great “new” place to play is (and maybe why you’ve never been there yet) I can help you with that (the location part). Every Minnesota shopper knows of the Albertville Premium Outlets. It’s close to the Twin Cities’ newest course. Kind of a “perfect marriage” of amenities you might say… if you’re married to a shopper or a golfer.

Riverwood National is in the northwest corner of the Twin Cities, literally four miles north of the Albertville Premium Outlets (and I94), and just south of the Mississippi River. It’s a David A. Kirscht design, with four sets of tees that flexes from 4,700 yards (Reds) to just over 7,000 yards (Blacks). There’s a new clubhouse restaurant with a full bar and a sprawling patio that overlooks the 18th green, a well-stocked pro shop and a handful of signature holes spread over the wet and wild Otsego countryside.

I asked Director of Golf Operations, Chris Sauer, for some of the property’s most consistent and marketable traits. “Great conditioning,” he said. “It’s fun, fair and flexible.” (Cool, cool and cool.) “What do you look for in a great golf round?” he asked me. “The ocean,” I said. (He laughed.) “No, seriously, I love water holes. I love courses that test you on every hole. And I love great Par 3s.” “So you like Riverwood National then, don’t you?” Chris asked. (Don’t you know it!)

Riverwood National doesn’t have AN ocean… it has an ocean of water holes. By my count there was water in play on 15 holes (although that does include the ball washer I hit on 13). Even without my one (and only) extremely erratic tee shot, that (13) was the hardest hole on the course for me – a long, narrow, winding corridor of trees. In fact, my two worst scores were on holes without hazards. (Go figure!)

I’ll confess, I was struck by the incredible beauty of each nine. For the most part, I hardly noticed the master planned community the course meanders through – I was way more focused on all the more relevant “aquatic interruptions.” There was that (essentially) island green hole – the Par 3, third – and that (essentially) island fairway hole – the Par 4, fourth – with the great approach over (you guessed it) water. The 17th hole was another “island fairway” hole. Mr. Kirscht sure pulled some magic out of his designer hat on this nine. Wherever I looked there was water, which meant that wherever I looked there were fun shots to be had and (hopefully) made. (Very much my kind of course!)

The back nine continued the splish splash style, packed with a couple of pretty Par 3’s (over water) at 12 and 16, and a closer that perfectly punctuated the round with one of my favorite shots of the day – a pinched approach to a green surrounded by… yep!

Don’t overlook the other course on site – Vintage Golf Course. With similarly great conditions and a par of 29 on each side, Vintage is a great tune-up round, either for general practice or in prep for Riverwood National. I can’t visit the property without wanting to play BOTH the same day – they’re that different and complementary. Contractually, I must mention that there is (technically) water in play on 12 of the 18 Vintage holes too, but (seriously) if you hit the water on five of those 12 holes NOTHING is out of play for you!

Riverwood National is new, compared to all the other courses in the Twin Cities, and if it’s new to you (if you’ve never played it), don’t come here expecting that once will be enough. There are too many holes out here you’ll want (and potentially need) multiple shots at. Besides, if you run out of balls, there’s a great shopping mall nearby!

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