Willingers Golf Club – Pretty Close
By E. Nolan
The next person who justifies not going to Willingers because it is too far from the Cities is going to get punched in the big toe. It’s perhaps too far from Alaska… a tad too far from South Africa… and reasonably too far to walk from Hawaii. But too far from the Cities??? Come on. At $39 for 18 on weekdays and $49 on weekends, you better have a more legitimate reason than “It is too far.” Especially since it isn’t. 30 miles from the Mall of America; the perfect place to drop your wife (or husband) off while you play golf for 4 hours. There is honestly no better reason to schedule a visit immediately than I told you to. Actually, that’s not at all accurate. The best reasons are all on site at Willingers.
Tradition Golf, managers of Legends Club and other top tier facilities, doesn’t do mediocre. Their pooled resources allow them to provide equivalent maintenance equipment to each of their properties, and their staffs are always well trained in the arts of serving with a smile and exceeding expectations. Willingers is a challenging golf option, given its many elevation changes, sharp twists, camouflaged ponds, and tree-lined fairways, but they are always seeking to improve playability. They have recently removed large areas of brush and a few giant trees, one (according to a jovial pro shop attendant) because the owner got tired of hitting it on his approach shot. Had he asked I’d have cut it down for him, as I’ve hit it thrice myself. (On one visit.) One of my personal favorite aspects of the facility and hard-working staff at Willingers is that they typically open before everyone else, with tee times as early at 6AM, and close later than most, often after dark. They don’t waste daylight, or any of their other many natural resources, and make anti-golf environmentalists around the world look like fools.
If you’ve never played Willingers before I suggest you arrive early and take advantage of their driving range and practice facilities. Not just because they have them, but also because you’ll need them. Immediately. Being unprepared on the first tee, here, is as intelligent as kissing an angry porcupine. In fact, the unnerving view from its every tee box is a collage of what you can expect to find, in some capacity, on every single hole of the course. A long water carry, dogleg right, approach to a bunker guarded green. Good luck. As it should be on all golf courses, the level of difficulty increases as you move back in tee selection. And the reverse is also true. Willingers encourages each golfer to play from their appropriate (skill level) tees, not just because you always should, but because you won’t lose as many balls here and will enjoy yourself much more. Leave your ego in the parking lot, and enjoy one of the most scenic courses within 100 miles of the Twin Cities. If you think I’m over-hyping it, you obviously haven’t been here.
Allow me to take you for a quick tour. Once you get past the menacing beauty that is #1, your senses will be bludgeoned with serenity at the short downhill (pond guarded) par 3 – 3rd, piqued by the picturesque panoramas on the 6th tee, and seduced with the swampy substance and style of the all-carry par 3 – 7th. I’ll tone down the adjectives on the back, but that doesn’t mean the course lowers the demand for them. When you get to #12 you’ll understand (and appreciate) why they took down that tree. (They should mark it with some form of tombstone.) The 13/14 sequence of holes is all risk/reward, adjacent to more wetlands… and many a person claims the downhill closer, to another pond-guarded green, to be their favorite hole of all.
Willingers is definitely a course you take your camera to. (And extra golf balls.) While you can safely work your way around the course without a driver, and score quite well, your ability to hit driver (or any club) straight will be your greatest advantage, and several holes definitely reward accurate driver length. Your first time out I suggest you disregard scorecard distance and play the white tees. And if you haven’t yet had that first time out, I suggest you schedule it today.
As an added (and significant) bonus, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the spectacular deal they are currently offering through Costco. This limited promotion has been so huge that they’ve already started seeing serial #4000’s of the 6000 they released in Minnesota just a month ago. $70 for 2 rounds/2 carts and range. (A $120 value.) Think of the $50 savings as a free Costco membership for your wife (husband). How incredibly thoughtful you are!