The Wilds Golf Club – Realizing Their Potential
By E. Nolan
If a change can do you good, then several changes should make you really good, right? The Wilds Golf Club is primed to find out. Head Golf Professional Scott Reuter is an ambitious man, and success has followed him throughout his golf management career. When he moved his family to Minnesota and joined General Manager Shad Gordon to lead The Wilds team, I asked what his primary goal was for the club. “Realizing our potential,” he replied. Scott knew the company the course had always maintained in the upper echelon of Twin Cities courses and what it took to remain there. “Great membership (which we have) and a little extra time, love and tenderness.”
You, the Twin Cities golfer, are a savvy one. You know the metro has a solid “Top 6” of elite public plays, and you know your own preferred order of those courses. (Where does The Wilds sit on your list?) Scott knows all their competing elites, too, and he is certain that the degrees of separation between them are measured in simple elements like customer service, course conditions, playability and pace of play. “They’re all related,” he says. “As we work hard to improve our course conditions, the playability increases and the pace of play picks up. That makes people happier and our numbers go through the roof. We saw hints of it last year and expect an even greater surge in rounds this year.”
Those correlations could be coming from any course operator, and they’d be right. Service is critical. Course conditions, playability and especially pace of play are extremely relevant today. But when you’re running golf operations at the only Tom Weiskopf signature course in Minnesota… those words mean more because more people really want to play your course.
Tom Weiskopf, winner of the 1973 Open Championship, is one of the truly great names in modern architecture. Since serving as an apprentice for Robert Trent Jones, Sr., Tom and his design partner Jay Moorish have built approximately two dozen golf courses around the world (including my favorite public course in Michigan) and are always movers on national Top 100 lists. It was a “big catch” for The Wilds to get their team as the architects. Weiskopf knows how to build a course to challenge the best players and entertain the rest of us.
Throw in a clubhouse with locker rooms (with showers), a sports bar with big screen televisions, wedding and banquet facilities, a well-stocked golf shop and an extremely popular restaurant and you’ve got a club among clubs, to be sure. With GM Shad Gordon, PGA Director of Instruction, Craig Merriman, Executive Chef Anthony B. Willis, and a strong team of golf and dining staff members, The Wilds is built for long-term success. If you haven’t visited yet, it’s worth mentioning that this course was designated Minnesota’s #1 Public Course by BOTH Golf Digest and Golf Magazine in 1998. The bones are there – all 7,028 yards of them – and some bones they are!
The Wilds features four sets of tees leading to over 150 feet in elevation changes throughout the property. There are more than 70 bunkers and water is in play on most holes. Those characteristics imply a rich beauty that is consistently realized. Yes, the course carves through residential areas on some holes, but there is more lakefront, wetland and open space than anything else, and you’re certain to find plenty of photographic moments (if you like that kind of thing).
The opening four holes are strong, with lake views and water carries. It’s hard to pick a favorite among those, especially with a number of other strong front holes vying for your attention – from the split fairway 6th, the all-carry Par 3, 7th and the stunning 8th with the dramatic approach to the lake. Weiskopf has a great sense of balance in his routings, with more rewarding holes on the back, including one of my favorite holes at 15, with the green pinched between ponds. Suffice it to say, 18 comes way too fast. The wide-open fairways are so much fun to play, and the extra mow width definitely increases the speed of rounds. They’re on the right track here… no question.
The Wilds Pub Restaurant & Bar is always open to the public with lunch and dinner menus and, on Sunday, (drum roll please) “The Largest Brunch South of the River.” The great patio overlooks the 18th green and the Minneapolis skyline, and is so popular it caters to thousands of non-golfers each season.
Having visited The Wilds a number of times over the past decade, I am thrilled to see the ship (under Scott’s golf captaincy) pointed in the right direction. This course deserves to be a must play for the Twin Cities golfer.