Old Meets New At New Richmond Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
I’m not sure why, but the short 30-minute drive into Western Wisconsin always feels like a step-off the busy hamster-wheel into a quiet sanctuary. Hitting the links at New Richmond Golf Course is no different, in fact, there is a layer of history on top of the classic countryside feel that permeates through the clubhouse and attitudes of the NRGC staff. The word ‘friendly’ comes to mind. The word ‘courteous’ comes to mind. This hospitality sets your focus for a golf round full of mature trees, undulating greens, challenging elevation changes and that famous twisting and turning creek (actually the Willow River) that seems to show up on many of the holes at just the right or wrong moment. And that is only one of the two courses that are built into New Richmond Golf Club’s complex. More on the newer (1998) Links course later, which is a completely different experience than the Old, traditional course.
When you pull into the Old Course, you will notice a large practice range on your right. The investment in this practice facility is quite extensive and has resulted in one of the highest rated practice facilities in the greater Twin Cities and Western Wisconsin area. The Joe Swanda Learning Center offers a full swing, multi-discipline practice opportunity. Opened in 2007, the facility has been collecting accolades ever since it was voted the “Best Practice Facility” in Western Wisconsin. It provides 32 hitting stations at a total length of 320 yards, so you can grip-n-rip every club in the bag. For working on your short game there is the huge 8,000 sq. ft. putting green with chipping available as well as the smaller 4,000 sq. ft. putting green with practice bunkers to fine-tune that sand game. Who doesn’t need more practice with bunker shots? The answer is everybody!
The round at the Old Course opens with a downhill look as the par 4, 362-yard hole is an appropriate opener to ease into the round. Hopefully you took advantage of the practice bunker area as the next stretch of holes (2, 3, 4, and 5) either have sand in the fairway landing zones or surrounding the greens. It does seem like the sand wedge gets a good workout at NRGC through much of the round. The short par 4, 4th is a great hole that will tempt you to nuzzle up to Willow River’s edge from the tee box which allows for a short wedge into the tilted green. It’s picturesque and challenging, a very fun hole overall. The front nine closes with a birdie opportunity on the short par 5 that plays well with a right-handed power fade off the tee box and a hybrid or short wood uphill into the flat green. It’s not a bad idea to have a look at that green before swinging away on your second shot.
In keeping with the great food and beverage service at NRGC, there is a service shack at the turn that offers great hot dogs, sandwiches, and plenty of beverage options. This saves you a trip to the clubhouse and keeps the pace of play moving well. It’s a hopping place on weekends.
The back nine begins with a one-two punch starting with an elevation challenge on the par 4, 10th and a pure target golf challenge on the par 5, 11th. Both throw so much variety at you that your head may be spinning when you finally pull-up to the straightforward par 3, 12th. The 11th will have you zig-zagging and trying to gauge yardages while trying to avoid the snaking water hazards that find their way to both sides of the fairway. It’s a really fun hole even if a few golf balls are sacrificed along the way. Things feel like they change gears when you move onto the 13th. The pines and fairways takeover from the more classical park-styled course design and suddenly you feel like you’re playing on the outskirts of Brainerd. This northern feel to the final set of holes is a great change of pace and gives the old course plenty of character.
The ‘new’ course is set-up down the road with its own clubhouse and bar. It is a reversible par 9 links styled course that offers a completely different golfing experience to the old course, and that’s the idea! Different is good! The total yardage if played to 18 holes is 6,700+ from the blues which isn’t an afterthought of a course. In fact, with the resurgence in links style course design in favor these days, it’s highly recommended you take a run at the open wind exposure, fescue roughs, scattered sand traps, large greens, and well-maintained fairways. It’s bold and challenging just the way links golf is supposed to be.
The New Richmond Golf Club can be thought of as a two-for-one where old traditions meet the new game. In fact, it offers more than that, it offers a challenging round in two distinct settings for a great value.