A Golf Sanctuary – Deer Run Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
I’m guessing we could all use a dose of warm wind, pleasant sunshine and a bit of comradery these days. The smell of freshly cut grass somewhere in the background would be nice too. Someplace that has all the social distancing variables under control and still lets the good times roll. A place where the newsfeed on your phone is switched off and the fun meter is fully charged. In a word, this would be a ‘sanctuary’ in today’s Covid-19 landscape. There is such a place out in the rolling hills of the western suburbs… it’s called Deer Run Golf Club.
On a very recent visit in mid-May we rolled into the parking lot under the bright sunshine, we unpacked our clubs and were guided to our luxury carts under the new check-in procedures smartly in-place. We hit a round of warmup shots on the no-touch driving range and then sank a few putts on the large, well-spaced practice green. You could feel the positive vibe in the air. There was definitely a palatable excitement on everyone’s mind as we approached the first tee and were greeted by name with a friendly smile. A little extra time between tee times ensures nobody is crowding anybody. All of this customer-first, safety-first service made us feel like we were in good hands, which of course, we already knew. After all, this is Deer Run.
General Manager and Head Golf Pro Tom Abts has been handling his consistently busy tee sheet with this same care and quality for many years. Under Tom’s direction the Deer Run Team always has the service bar set high on operational excellence. It’s all in the details. Not only can you see it, you can feel it and play it.
The automated, no-touch, no bend-over, no-mess driving range is like taking a peek into the future. The balls pop-up at a custom set height by tapping the sensor and you’re all set to grip and rip. You can pull the ball to the carpet to hit your wedges with zero hassle which puts all your attention on swing improvement and keeps the flow moving. This is your first clue you aren’t in Kansas anymore. The second comes when you take a seat in Deer Runs’ new fleet of luxury carts. The E-Z-GO Elite RXV carts are fresh off the factory floor. These top-of-the-line models have all the on-board bells and whistles you would expect: USB plugs, flat-screens, detailed GPS mapping, coolers and seeding compartments, rain shields, quiet operation, peppy acceleration and the most comfortable, ergonomic seats you’ve ever had the pleasure of riding. Tom also makes sure he has the proper accompaniments on hand for his discriminating clients, like a proper top-shelf collection of spirits and a hand-picked selection of high-end cigars.
Tom’s wing-person Lori Money has been Assistant Golf Pro and Manager at Deer Run for the past five years. In that time, she has taken on many roles and responsibilities including championing the Tuesday Ladies League, which dedicates the entire day and all tee times on Tuesdays to the ladies. The league boasts a roster of 300+ players and has been a smashing success on every level. More testament to the Deer Run customer centric mindset and the resulting enjoyment that spills out across these fairways. The Men’s League claims the course on Thursday’s and that too is a full day affair with excellent participation and a long history. League Packages can be purchased that bundle multiple rounds and complimentary beverages at a large savings.
The course itself is a tale of two halves. This might not be obvious to all, but the front plays a little tougher with a collection of strategic, somewhat tight, not-so-long par fours and some sneaky elevation changes. The back nine lets you open up your swing a bit more and offers a few more wide fairways. Several holes require leaving room to turn a dogleg on the approach shot, otherwise you’re cutting off your angle into the green. Knowing adjusted distances for elevation changes both upwards and downwards is key on 6 or 7 holes. If that hole-in-one comes a calling you may not actually see it roll in the cup at 14 and 16 as they are a full club or more uphill. There is only one par 5 on the back and it’s a birdie opportunity, so if you’re teetering on the edge of a stellar round, the 18th gives you the chance to close out strong. Both par 5’s on the front also have birdie potential assuming your tee shot settles on the proper side of the fairway. You will be rewarded by playing smart golf, not gorilla golf.
Given the long history and ambassadorship that Tom has brought to this storied Victoria tract, it’s no surprise to find a Minnesota Viking or two on the next fairway over. It’s great cross marketing to find Deer Run is participating in the Elite 8 Golf Club with the likes of Troy Burne, Legends, Meadows at Mystic Lake and more where there are 8 premier courses participating at a single purchase point, giving players discounted rounds at all 8 courses far below rack rate. This is not a surprise given Tom has dialed Deer Run into that sweet spot between a really special atmosphere and a comfortable, relaxing setting from which good things happen. He sums up his philosophy on creating the right mix like this, “For most of my life, when I’ve liked the stuff – I haven’t liked the atmosphere. And when I’ve liked the atmosphere – I haven’t liked the stuff. So, one of the goals at Deer Run is to have good stuff… and a good atmosphere. Not exactly rocket-science, but unfortunately it seems to be rare.”
Given the current state of lockdown and the mentality that sets in after too many days in isolation, a run at Deer Run is just what the doctored ordered. Tom and his team are there for you. They have the tunes cranked, the greens rolling silky smooth, the fairways divot free and the carts powered up. Step into the sanctuary and let the good times roll.