Firing Up The Fun At The Wilds Golf Club
By Rhett Arens
This corner of the Twin Cities is blessed… blessed with golf. In the upper reaches of this southwestern suburb sits a classic, elite level course that provides impeccable playing conditions coupled with a fun Tom Weiskopf consulted design. The 18-hole championship layout was brought to life by course architect Jay Morrish, under Weiskopf’s guidance. Jay apprenticed under the Robert Trent Jones Golf Design Team and has left his stamp on many courses around the world, several are found on top 100 lists. As you can see, The Wilds Golf Club was born with pedigree and rest assured, it still has its swagger.
The layout and entire facility are stacked with amenities – full-service locker rooms, a beautifully appointed sports bar with all the HD screens you can handle, a spacious patio that overlooks the 18th green (and if you stretch your neck a view of the Minneapolis skyline), a large pro shop brimming with Wilds apparel and any last-minute accessory needs. The practice range sits downhill from the clubhouse, but still high on the Dakota County map which only adds to the fun of watching those long, arcing warm-up drives cut through the air. The spacious practice green and practice bunkers sit alongside the range which makes for a seamless start-up. The starter is always somewhere nearby to greet you, offer a little encouragement and point you towards the first tee.
The relaxed tone for the whole experience is set by Head Golf Professional Scott Reuter. Scott and his team are not resting on the windfall of dramatically increased rounds that most courses have seen the last few years due to COVID. The course has always been held to high-standards and The Wilds’ ownership continue to invest in improvements on a yearly basis. Soon, more investment and playability upticks are in the works. While the course has always attracted a large following of low-handicap players, Scott has seen a welcoming trend where ‘fun’ is taking center stage. Where the whole experience from check-in to the last round of beverages is being appreciated and embraced with a smile.
Few things are more pleasing than pulling up to the first tee box and the ‘I got this’ feeling comes over you. The par 4 opening hole at The Wilds offers you a bit of that, enjoy it while you can because the par 5, 2nd hole will test your mettle. Don’t get me wrong, the 2nd hole is a beauty, a dogleg left that rises to the corner only to give you a slight downhill look into the green. Plenty of OB trouble on the left and some tricky bunkering around the green, however a stiff drive and smartly placed wood can put you into easy par territory. The par train can continue with the next par 3 and the short par 4 that follows. Weiskopf uses some visual game play on both of these that will keep you on your toes. The 5th hole is the number one handicap for a reason. It plays a sneaky uphill over its long (429 yards from the championship tees) steady climb into a bunker complex that leaves very little room for mismanagement. The par 5 8th may be one of my favorite holes in the state. A good drive uphill into the wide fairway (beware of a bunker in the wheelhouse) provides a downhill second shot that will have you favoring the right-front of the green. What a view!
The back starts sort of like the front with a wide look from the box which bodes well for the scorecard. The long par 3, 11th (180 yards from the purple tees) usually plays into the wind and is intimidating. The green plays large front to back but too much spin and you may find yourself in the drop zone. The challenging par 4, 14th teases you to bite off more corner than you need to. With that said, if you have a nice draw shot in the bag, now is the time to use it. After numerous rounds at The Wilds, I’m still not sure if you should go for the green on the short par 4, 16th or lay up. Honestly, I’ve had good luck swinging away. Bunkers abound in the landing zones, but luck may be on your side, the birdies are here to be had. A fun hole indeed.
The Wilds Pub is a must stop after your round with its broad, inclusive menu offering sit-down, full-meal service, year-round and/or quickie take-out sandwiches ‘to go’ at the turn during the golf season. The restaurant is known for its elegant, but casual atmosphere featuring filet mignon, Atlantic salmon and even a walleye hoagie, all of it given locally sourced priority using local producers, family farms and suppliers. Like everything at The Wilds – it is done right and done well… and served with a dose of fun.