St. Croix National – Scenic And Steep
By Rhett Arens
This is one interesting golf course. At times you will feel like your deep in the northern Minnesota woods, other times it feels like you’re braving the windswept fairways of western Minnesota. There might even be a moment or two where you feel like a mountain goat. Welcome to St. Croix National! It is undoubtedly the most ‘elevation’ orientated golf course in the Twin Cities area. You’ll be confronted with one challenging tee shot after another and to make things even more interesting there isn’t always a lot of wiggle room along the fairways – just pristine woods. I’m of the camp that appreciates that type of variety and the differences that Mother Nature can offer to a golf course design. Don’t try to tame it… instead use it and embrace the shot challenges it gives you.
St. Croix National is located exactly 4.9 miles into Wisconsin across the Stillwater Bridge. It’s so much easier to get to than most people imagine. A new focus on opening up the heavy tree areas and bringing the tee boxes and greens back into the sunshine has really improved the overall quality of both. Rock star superintendent Michael Paape (formally of Midland Hills fame) is working hard to bring a private course quality to this public track. The addition of new Club Cars with GPS Visage Technology is great for tracking course pacing and not to mention food ordering and play accuracy. Many vista views have been opened up as well giving the golfer plenty of pristine scenery to admire while winding the elaborate cart path system.
The action starts right out of the gate on hole #1 – a short par 4 free-fall that requires a peek over the edge to get your bearings and set your line. The hole sees plenty of birdie putts and lots of pars. Go easy on the cart ride to the bottom. Another blind tee shot greets you at the 320 yard second, which climbs to a left turn. Hitting the landing area will reward you with a beautiful look over a scenic pond into the small green. Holes #4 and #6 are a pair of par 5’s in the middle of the front 9 that offers par/birdie opportunities with long tee shots, possibly an eagle putt.
The back nine starts off with a stunning par 4 that sweeps widely to the right from a broad elevation. Watching a well struck driver arc up and out along the stand of towering pines is a site to behold. Number 12 is a classic par 5 with well-placed fairway bunkers and a rolling, tilted fairway that will likely deny any flat lies. Avoiding trouble on the fairway is step 1; step 2 is managing the two-tier green to your advantage. A tremendous hole. The back nine closes with a nice par 3, par 5 combo. Both holes require accuracy and putting skills. The longish #17 is a water carry to an undulating green. The closing hole #18 will take a second shot layup at the corner and a long wedge into the tilted green. Not a lot of bail out area around this green, but it’s all situated within a marvelous wooded setting.
At the helm of St. Croix National and Golf Event Center is Chief Operations Officer, Kristine Botelho. She oversees both golf operations and the busy Event Center calendar. The cozy grill serves great food and a variety of top-shelf craft beers. The recently added outdoor patio (dubbed the 19th hole) sit’s high over the practice green and provides just the right amount of sunshine and vista-like views for you to enjoy a post-round refreshment or two. All of this will be a short commute from the eastern suburbs when the new Stillwater Bridge opens in August 2017, effectively bypassing the slow, downtown traffic.
St. Croix National offers an array of special offers and clever deals that creates an affordable, and fun round for your foursome. There are two membership plans that are geared either towards a limited-play style number of rounds with select benefits or the full-on unlimited play and a host of privileges. Both the Men’s and Women’s leagues come with complimentary bells and whistles as well. Thursday night is ‘Nine & Wine’ night for the Ladies, and a weekly Skin’s Game with a premium tap for the Men. Tuesday’s are Scramble with a 6-pack, after all, we are in Wisconsin.
The 250+ seat guest Event Center is spacious and loaded with first-class amenities. The two outdoor ceremony sites offer beautiful water features, private bride and groom lounges, lighted trees, Chivari chairs and crystal chandeliers. An elegant venue in a natural setting.
This course offers the best of both worlds, sophistication and rugged topography. So if you like your golf stimulating, filled with loft and natural elements, then make the short journey across the river and play the best kept secret in the river valley, St. Croix National.