A Four Star Feast At The Wilds Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
It’s comforting to know that under the ‘new normal’ fairways will still climb and fall providing landing zones that challenge our accuracy. It’s also reassuring that greens will roll and tilt requiring a keen eye to read the nuances on slope. These are the basics, the same tests that have been in place since modern golf emerged from the Scottish Highlands in the 15th century. What’s changed is all the hard work behind the scenes to make playing a round possible. Scott Reuter and his crew at The Wilds have tirelessly set-up safety procedures and a layout that maintains the same top-notch, customer experience they’ve provided since they opened in 1996.
It’s a testament to 23 years of steady, committed ownership that this Prior Lake, Tom Weiskopf design has maintained an elevated position within the Minnesota golf community. Hallmarks of that reputation include quality consistency, continuous improvements and a management philosophy that encourages the best from everyone. A perfect example of this was at 2:00 PM on April 17th Governor Walz announced that golf courses would be allowed to open with proper protocol in-place… at 8:00 AM the next day, Scott and his skeleton crew opened for business. How is that for turnaround? His core team of Tom Heraly, Zach Buntrock and Al Brooks had an interim plan in place to open the doors and start generating revenue at the drop of a hat. It’s that type of smart work that saves small businesses during unprecedented times. Hat’s off to Scott and his high-performance team for pulling this off.
Some of that smart plan includes well-placed, well-integrated sneeze guards, a new floor plan in the Pro Shop to route customers safely in and out, additional trained staff to assist arriving customers with proper bag handling procedures and the on-course precautions common to these uncommon times. All of this extra effort adds up to a first-rate customer experience without a ripple. Keep in mind this is all happening as pent-up demand is extremely high (i.e. the tee sheet is very busy). Scott has seen plenty of highs and lows during his 23 years in the industry, looking back he cannot recall a season opening at this level of demand. Like he is fond of saying, “Every day is like a Saturday.” Proof that the hard work is translating into year-on-year growth.
The Wilds is an innovator. They introduced a ‘Pay The Temp’ special years ago to entice those of us who like to save a few bucks and still play one of the premier courses in the Twin Cities by paying a dollar per degree on those early spring and late fall days. I’ve been there, done that, it works beautifully. Another outside-the-box move introduced by The Wilds is the Swing King Challenge. This is actually a nationally based, insurance backed game where a small upfront investment of $5.00 could come back to you in the form of a 2,000% return on your investment. One little catch, you need to jar a hole-in-one. Scott shared a truly amazing thing happening at the par 3, #3 hole, which is a superb 150 yarder. He told me it has seen a jaw dropping 16 hole-in-ones over the last two years! What’s doubly amazing is not a single one of those players had signed on for the challenge. Another way to look at it is… nobody bet on themselves. Come on people, have a little faith. Note, there was another one scored this past week and that player did not take home the $10,000 prize money either. I guess I know where my next $5er is going because I’m overdue.
Playing The Wilds is such a joy as it has some of the best holes in the greater Twin Cities area (hole #8 I’m looking at you). The par 5 #8 plays 529 yards from the purple tee’s and starts out with a testy look off the tee. It finishes with a gorgeous, sweeping downhill look into a well-shaped, gently undulated green. The natural wetlands behind the green provide a beautiful backdrop and if you look back over your shoulder you can’t miss the stunning architecture on the homes that line these fairways. For this next hole I need to qualify the often overused term ‘drivable par 4’ by stating that most humans will need a little help with a tailwind to reach the #16 green from the purple tees at 295 yards. With that said, there is a berm that if reached can help direct a bounce or runout onto the green. For most of us, we’ll need a little lift and carry from the prevailing winds out of the southwest. These types of holes when combined with the exceptional course conditions courtesy of Superintendent Joe Berggren and his staff are the cornerstones of The Wilds reputation. These holes should be savored like a four-course meal with a perfectly grilled porterhouse entre.
To use an old metaphor – as a player sitting down to the table for some fine dining, The Wilds not only delivers on the perfection of your steak, they complement the entire meal with personal, table-side service. Then with a knowing wink they hand you the dessert menu to cap it off. That is a four start performance!