The Royal Club Rocks
By Rhett Arens
Royalty can be a tight rope walk. It requires that you put on a good public face while taking care of business in the back end. To accomplish this, you need to have your ship in order. You need a plan, you need a team, you need to execute. The Royal Club in Lake Elmo is just that, a well-oiled golfing and events venue juggernaut guided under the steady leadership of GM and Director of Golf, Kent Blaschko. Let’s not forget that this course was built on the solid bones of the former 3M Tartan Park Golf Club’s three nine-hole courses and was completely rebuilt through an extensive renovation and then… supercharged with a big dose of design expertise by two of golfs’ all-time greats – Annika Sorenstam and Arnold Palmer.
Arnie’s and Annika’s Army have been filling the tee sheets at the Royal Club since its opening in 2018. Featuring the Queens Nine (front nine) and the Kings Nine (back nine), the 18-hole Championship layout plays seamlessly. Challenging putting contours sit within bunkered green complexes adding to the give and take dynamic that makes the Royal Club a design showcase. There are five sets of tee boxes and generous fairway landing zones that will allow golfers of all skill levels to test their mettle.
Located a few miles south of the Lake Elmo village center, the Royal Club has an ‘accessibility feel’ to the course with private club playing conditions and amenities. This is exactly the sweet spot owner Hollis Cavner and his team were shooting for. Ditto for the exquisitely finished clubhouse which was renovated along with the course. The ‘escape from the city’ feeling of the reconfigured clubhouse offers many amenities including Arnie’s Restaurant & Bar, a multi-level outdoor deck/patio that overlooks the practice green, several tee boxes, several fire pits, and a walk-up food service window at the turn. Sounds a bit like a private club, doesn’t it?
A relative newcomer to the Minnesota golfing ‘must play’ list deserves a brief walk through on some of the more compelling holes that feature dramatic elevations and some well-placed water features. Speaking of water, the par 4 #1 brings plenty of it, as in… all along the left side of the fairway. Such a testy start, a very bold Annika move. Playing the par 5 2nd hole (Annika’s favorite hole), there it is again. Only this time stretching up the right side adding a wetland dynamic to the landscape. The question is how close do you want to take this water on? The hole finishes steeply uphill which again proves Annika has some innovatively cold blood in her veins. One of my favorites is the par 4 #5 which plays blind downhill right to the water’s edge, when it’s played correctly it leaves a 120-yard wedge over water into the narrow green. Some of this sounds scary but keep in mind with 5 sets of tee boxes starting at 3,907 yards and pushing back to 6,901, anyone’s skill level can be dialed in.
Continuing your way into the back nine you will find the fiendish, longish, par 4 11th which requires nerves navigating the fairway and possibly sonar readings on the tilted green but it’s rewarding to card a par on this persnickety hole. Moving on, you’ll find the short par 3 12th is all about pin position and wind estimating. At 122 yards from the whites please be careful, it can turn ugly fast, trust me, I know. Arnie’s nine finishes with back-to-back par 5’s on #17 and #18. If you need a few birdies to win those ‘net bets’ from your pals and gals, this is your time to do it. I’m guessing the Royal’s new partnership designation as ‘Official Golf Club of the Minnesota Wild’ sees a few greenies exchanging hands on the 18th green. I hear Boldy might be winning most of those.
The membership inquiries keep rolling into Kent’s desk at a white-hot pace, proof the plan is working. The Royal Club owner Hollis Cavner (who also owns ProLinks Sports which in-turn owns the 3M Open, Wells Fargo, and Valspar PGA TOUR events in addition to several other PGA TOUR Champions events) has built the success of this venue and its formidable events calendar through his long-time relationship with Arnold Palmer. The King is smiling down, very proud.
Coupling with the events schedule, the Royal Club is also an elite golf tournament machine. To name a few of the key tourneys in 2023 there is the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Tournament, the MPGA Public Links Championship, Annika Intercollegiate Girl’s D1 Tournament (best women’s college field in the country), Minnesota Wild “Off the Tee” Tournament and the MIAC Girl’s Championship. You get the idea; the Royal pedigree is attractive for tournament planners and sponsors.
Off the course, the clubhouse is the perfect events space and will host nearly 80 weddings and receptions in 2023. The Knot Magazine has awarded the venue top honors in the Twin Cities three years in a row. With so much to offer, this space also sees many other types of gatherings from Holiday Parties, Anniversaries, Retirement Celebrations, Family Reunions, Corporate Meetings, etc. For more details on getting started for your event, contact Event Director, Meredith Wieland.
It’s nice to experience Royalty getting things right and staying on the high road, if you read the daily newspaper you know that’s not always the case. Annika and Arnie joined forces with Hollis and transformed this slice of the cultured landscape into a sparkling gem that consistently exceeds expectations on all levels. Keeping the hospitality bar set at a private club level while maintaining public access is an astonishing feat, Kent and his team are doing a Royal job.