Classic Fun At Deer Run Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
There are so many things to like about Deer Run Golf Club that it’s hard to single out any one highlight. The entire golfer experience at this Victoria, Minnesota course is carefully thought out and designed to exceed the highest player expectations. At the helm of this grand golfing ship is captain Tom Abts. His crew are always on hand, wearing smiles and ready to assist at a minute’s notice.
A little warming-up is always a good idea and Deer Run has a world-class driving range that provides an excellent start. While visiting St. Andrews, they came across the Power Tee. This automated pop-up hitting station provides an efficient and ‘fun’ way to swing your way through a pre-loaded bucket of balls. No bending, no scrambling, no mess just pure range time at a variety of hitting heights. The range offers a series of targets at varying distances, all of it designed to ready your game for the real thing. A stop by the spacious practice putting green to dial in your putter and you are all ready for the first tee.
Tom and his team work tirelessly to give you that private club experience with public course access and none of the high-brow attitude that seems to follow the country club crowd. Walking that fine line takes experience and a subtle touch in all the right areas of a golf operation. Tom is a surgeon at finding those levers and fine-tuning an exceptional golfing experience and clubhouse vibe.
The round opens with a blind dogleg left that asks just how much corner are you comfortable taking on? The answer to that question is usually less than you think, in this case pars and even birdies can be had with a well struck fairway landing. The par 3, 2nd hole plays downhill and typically into a slight headwind while the challenging par 4, 3rd hole plays uphill around a corner into a shallow, tabletop green. The hole-to-hole design variety is very much in evidence as the round unfolds.
The beauty of all this elevation and yardage challenge as you are riding in first-class comfort in Deer Run’s new fleet of golf carts. They are always sparkly clean, in tip-top condition after spending the night in the new cart barn (another investment aimed at player comfort). The new, ultra-quiet electric EZGOs feature special comfort bucket seats, attached coolers, multiple USB ports and a large built-in GPS screen to help navigate those tricky uphill, downhill, side-hill yardages around all the hazards, hidden or otherwise. Another benefit to providing these high-quality carts is the expected pace-of-play, which is held to 4 hours. Keeping the round on pace and player focus on the game is paramount to not only playing well, but also being respectful for the entire tee sheet (which will likely be full).
The front nine features a couple of ‘gettable’ par 5s. Birdies can be had with long, straight tee shots and a solid wood into the green complexes. It’s comforting to step-up to holes like these knowing there are a few tight spots later in the round that simply won’t surrender birdies. The front closes with a par-4 that looks innocent enough from the tee, but then plays into a restricted opening requiring a water carry into the tilted green. Shot making is at a premium here as well as not getting too wild off the box.
The back nine starts with a deceptively long par 4 that plays uphill the whole way, the wide fairway beckons for a big swing but somehow, I always end-up compromised. A long-iron, second shot is the norm here which tends to keep the par making tough. Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen are all workable par 4s. Like an inverse version of Amen Corner at Augusta, there’s a good chance of getting on the ‘par train’ through this stretch. Both par 3s on the back play uphill with the big question being is that a 2 or 3 club adjustment? The wind direction might help you answer that. Either way they present a formidable challenge. The round closes with a classic par 5 that leads you straight into the beautiful clubhouse setting. There will likely be someone cheering you on for the 10-foot birdie putt from the comfortable, shaded patio overlooking the 18th green. Sink it and take a bow. Now it’s your turn to have a seat, order some food and enjoy a post-round beverage or two with your foursome.
Augie’s Pub seems like a mirage straight out of the Irish countryside, which, if I’m not mistaken, is exactly the way Tom envisioned it. Named after the legendary basketball coach Augie Schmidt who played and charmed the Deer Run fairways for years, Augie’s offers Guinness on tap (no surprise) and a splendid selection of bourbons, scotch and other belly warming liquors. The food menu is no-nonsense, high-quality, fresh basics in the sandwich, burger, and appetizer realm.
Tom is the very definition of golf ambassador. He pulls for anyone who aspires to play the game he loves. He is inclusive of the full spectrum of players who test their skills against the centuries-old game. He insists the game be fun at all costs – which by the way, even in these inflationary times, has not changed this year at Deer Run Golf Club.