Feeling Good At Kilkarney Hills
By Rhett Arens
The regal drive up to the clubhouse should be a dead giveaway that you are about to embark on a special round of golf. With those enticing fairways on both sides of you framed by the mature maple trees lining the drive, you will find yourself in a picture perfect, dare I say Irish countryside setting, be assured Kilkarney Hills will deliver on your anticipation. The golf will surprise you with elevation changes that swing to the left and right, undulating greens that roll true and several tee shots that allow you to firmly grip and rip. All of this adds up to a platter full of reasons for making the short jaunt into Western Wisconsin for a round of challenging golf.
Sitting just north of River Falls, Kilkarney is a breeze to get to by simply crossing the I94 bridge into Hudson, turning south onto Highway 35 toward River Falls and then watching for the golf course signs which will come up quickly. The course lies about a mile off the highway in a beautiful stretch of rolling countryside. There are no houses on the course, which only enhances the rural feel and pastoral vibe.
The entire layout, size and natural setting is perfect for weddings and banquets which have been a big part of Kilkarney’s business for years. The course ownership and management team haven’t sat on their laurels in this area at all, they are constantly upgrading and renovating to bring a first class event hosting venue to the greater Twin Cities area. An example of this continuous improvement is the addition of brand new Bridal and Groom Suites this spring, which enhances their hosting capabilities. They have the ability to easily customize layouts for larger or smaller groups as well as set-up both inside and outside ceremonies and receptions. You have options. No surprise that Kilkarney has a built a well-deserved reputation within the wedding industry. The proof is in the accolades that have come in the form of award-winning recognition. To call-out a few recent examples: Best Reception Venue by WI Bride in 2016, Best of Wisconsin by Wedding Spot in 2017, Couples’ Choice by WeddingWire in 2017, 2018 & 2019 and most recently The Knot Best of Weddings in 2019. With its all-in-one convenience and an eye on exceptional customer service they are always ready to deliver on one of the biggest days of your life.
Let’s talk about the golf. Your round will warm up gently with a couple of straight-up par 4’s. Not too much trouble on these. The par 5 third has a safe feeling tee shot, but the excitement comes in the risk reward second shot where you’ll have to decide if you go for the protected green or lay-up and take your chances with a short wedge. I’d lean wedge here as the water front and left, the lack of bail out area and the trees on the right make sticking it very tough. The front nine closes with a couple of interesting holes. The par 3 eight plays off of a scenic tee box into a large, pond fringed green. At 178 from the whites, it becomes a matter of club selection. The par 5 ninth takes you up and over a hill and then up again to an elevated green. It’s a large green that given the pin placement makes for a challenging second shot or the need for an accurate wedge. This hole will see a few eagle putts throughout the year.
The course will feel long as you start the back nine. Number 10 is one of those grip and rip type par 4’s. Number 11 is the signature hole at Kilkarney Hills. It lays out flat until you get to the corner where a strong left to right fade is the ideal shot. The green at the top is larger than it looks, but there isn’t much space to miss around that green. Par is a good result here. A nice 1-2 punch follows as the short par 4 #12 takes a sharp right at the bottom of the ravine. The middle range yardage on the par 3 thirteenth will provide some target shot opportunities into a berm ringed green. Number 16 is one of those par 4’s that separate the ‘hero shot’ dudes from the ‘play it safe’ dudes. Yes, the green can be reached by cutting the corner. No, you likely won’t get that done. It’s a really fun hole!
After the golf, Kilkarney offers up one the best clubhouse atmospheres around. Sitting up high with a wonderful view off the deck the spacious clubhouse feels welcoming. The great line-up of craft beers and cold refreshments is the perfect finish to your round. Like the exceptional wedding catering, the clubhouse dining is done right – you can’t beat their juicy burgers, tasty appetizers and selection of handmade sandwiches.
Everything feels right at Kilkarney Hill’s and after a full day of golf and a post-game wrap-up with friends you will wind back down that splendid drive fully satisfied.