Killin’ It At Kilkarney Hills

By Rhett Arens

Some courses ease you into a round with a nice blend of easy holes to start things off. Then they show their fangs as the round unwinds. Kilkarney Hills is that type of course. Don’t get too comfortable because the action starts heating up fast.

Kilkarney Hills Golf Club has been a mainstay on the eastern side of the Twin Cities for many years. It’s one of a handful of courses in western Wisconsin that serves Prescott, Hudson, River Falls, Hastings, Stillwater, Woodbury and beyond. Having opened in 1994 it has seen several renovations and keeps reinventing itself with upgrades and continuous investment. Kilkarney has evolved into a top-notch wedding venue and it’s likely you will see a wedding party scouting the grounds or walking through on a tour during your round. In fact, the ride into the property feels a bit like a walk down the aisle with a beautiful line of maples on each side of the road as you approach the clubhouse perched high over the sprawling golf holes below. Talk about a picture perfect layout.

It might be the luck of the Irish or maybe it’s just one of those courses that align to my skill, but the collection of short par-4’s on this course usually result in a decent score. Like many, I love an elevated tee shot and Kilkarney doesn’t disappoint in this area. Let’s take a look at the course.

As mentioned, the back-to-back par 4’s on #1 and #2 are fairly straightforward. Come out of there at even par and the short par 5, #3 will put you to the test. A wide-open tee shot gives way to a very tricky risk/reward set-up. With a bomb off the tee you can take a shot at the green, otherwise you’d be wise to layup and use that short wedge into the tight, marsh surrounded green. The short par 4, #5 narrows down to a water carry shot that will have you gauging you’re wedge and picking your spot on the undulated green. The #7 par 4 is another elevated tee with a small green; rewarding a well-placed drive with a reasonable par opportunity. Late in the day #8 is a scenic par 3 with a decent drop into a large green with a cattail filled pond running up the right side of the green. Not a good spot to spin a ball to the right, but it is a good spot for a selfie. The back nine closes with a par 5 that climbs, dips and climbs again to a platform styled green. There have been a few eagle putt’s on this one if you’re able to put a good drive and 3-wood together. Its always fun to have a shot at that within your foursome.

Turning the corner you might want to stop in for a top-notch hot dog or Wisconsin cheese curds and a cold refreshment before heading out to #10. If you do, take a moment and walk to the western wall of windows that overlooks the course and practice facility below. It is one of the prettiest verandas in the business. I’m guessing the photo op’s for wedding parties are endless.

The back nine is characterized by some sharp doglegs and blind shots. The tough par 5, #11 is one of these. If you can master a 170 yard controlled fade, up a hill into a green with no wiggle room maybe you should be on the PGA TOUR. Only kidding, but if you do you might get to a par putt, nice work! That’s why it’s considered the signature hole. Don’t put your fade skills away quite yet (draw if you’re a southpaw), because the 250-yard par 4, #12 requires the same shot only much shorter. The short #15 is an elevated par 4 that gives you a peek of the green and if the wind is out of the south let it rip. That’s not the smart way to play it, but it is the fun way. The back nine closes with a long par 4 that has a steady uphill feel so you might be clubbing up. Highly recommended.

Kilkarney Hills has introduced an innovative online dynamic pricing option that essentially discounts rounds the closer you get to tee time – a nice tool for people with flexible schedules. But even without discounts the course is very reasonable and considered a great value course in this neck of the woods. They offer a wide spectrum of league play from couples to juniors to 3-person scrambles to His and Her leagues. The clubhouse lounge is spacious, always has a game on and is the perfect place for a post-game wrap-up with friends. If you’re not playing golf, the Friday fish fry is reason enough to make the trip.

It’s only a short drive over the Hudson Bridge and up the highway towards River Falls. Turn right before hitting town; wind your way through the line of maples. Enjoy the pure golf and Irish hospitality at Kilkarney Hills.