St. Croix National – Golf On A Grand Scale
By Gordy Ginsberg
Just across the Minnesota border, a few miles north of Hudson and across the river from Stillwater, is a land shaped by glaciers, scoured by water, inhabited by forests and home to a ski hill turned golf course called St. Croix National. If you have not yet played this course you owe it to yourself to give it a try. Elevation changes define this course which is spread out over a vast series of hills and valleys with no homes or development in sight. It all adds up to a quiet, challenging and enjoyable round of golf.
The clubhouse and event center are perched on a hill above the practice putting green which itself is set alongside a pond in a low area surrounded by hills. This is my favorite setting for a putting green in all of the metro and it sets the tone for the rest of the course. Even the path down to the practice area hints at the terrain yet to come. Enjoy the scenery, take a breath of fresh air, hit a few putts and then head to the first tee where you may swear you have suddenly been transported to Lutsen and the hills of Lake Superior.
The 1st hole requires a tee shot down a black diamond slope to a green set back in a grove of trees. This 346 yard (blue tees, 6,544 yards total) opening hole is a good way to ease you into the round. From this point on each and every hole will offer its own unique challenge, fantastic view or most often both. The 2nd hole is another short Par 4 with a blind uphill tee shot and a second shot over a pond guarding the green. And so the round begins.
Hole #3 is a challenging Par 3 whose tee box is at the highest point on the course. Be sure to drive to the top tier and look out in the distance. Across a number of hills, and what appears to be miles away, you can see the middle holes of the back nine. Truly a magnificent view and a stunning one when Fall colors arrive. The other Par 3 on the front is #7, a dramatic drop down a tree-lined chute to a postage stamp sized green. Long is dead, left is bad, right is sand and leaving it short…..well you don’t want to go there either. I suggest taking a club less, send it soaring into the sky and then praying to the golf gods for a straight and accurate shot.
The rest of the course takes you around, over and through the hills and ravines of the St. Croix Valley until you reach the final three holes, which are a true test of your ability to finish a round. The Par 4 16th hole measures 382 yards with a tee shot to a very wide and fairly flat fairway. The difficulty here is the second shot into a narrow two tiered green that angles away from you. Drives up the far left side of the fairway give the only easy approach to this severely sloped putting surface.
The 17th hole is one of the prettiest Par 3’s you can find. This is a challenging 182 yard test of courage. A wide but very shallow kidney shaped green has one large lobe to the right and one to the left with a narrow portion connecting the two. The front of the putting surface is guarded by a pond. Only well aimed shots with proper distance will find the green. Par here is a very good score. The finishing hole is a meandering Par 5 that starts high, flat and straight, then falls down hill and to the right before a final approach shot to an elevated green protected by a ravine, bunkers and a false front.
I hope this gives you a small feel of St. Croix National. Its dramatic topography, scenery and solitude make this a unique layout among our metro area golf courses. This is one course where the more you play it, the more you will appreciate and understand the variety of holes and the shots they require. It is worth the trip for either a fun round of golf or the perfect place to hold your next corporate event, family gathering or wedding.