St. Croix National Golf Club – High, Placid Times At St. Croix National Golf Club

By Judd Spicer

Mirroring the passage of Earthly time, the grounds of St. Croix National Golf Club in Somerset, WI were once dominated by snow, and cold and ice. But one need not search through the millennia to locate such traces of the past upon this undulating terrain, 30-years ago, this plot of hallowed nature was employed as a ski resort before it became a golf course. The resulting turf is a routing of literal highs and lows that count St. Croix National among the most unique courses in the region. The abundance of foliage and natural trimmings are complimented by the on-site, all-season event center that welcomes a regular stream of guests for weddings, meetings and holiday parties. On course, with dramatically elevated tee boxes accounting for nearly half the holes, St. Croix National indeed plays more Lindsey Vonn than Tiger Woods at times. Yet the views and wooded surrounds combine with an exceptional value to count this among the top “Beauty for Your Buck” rounds in all of the east metro and western Wisconsin.

“We’ve got an excellent golf course that’s in great shape with terrific vistas – and it’s affordable,” St. Croix National head professional Steve Dornfeld says of pre-cart rates that top out at $27.95 during weekday play. “It’s like going up north, but you don’t have to travel up north. And we’re only four miles from Stillwater. People sometimes think, because we’re in Wisconsin, that it might take a couple of hours to get here, but we’re right next to the metro.”

While the beauty indeed abounds at St. Croix National, the elevated tee boxes and blind looks will, on occasion, play as a triple black diamond run of a round for newcomers. “We’ve got some tricky shots out here,” says course superintendent Ryan Gauster. “It’s a course that you’ll need to play more than once. Your second time out here, your club selections will be so much different because you’ll know what’s beyond some of the shots that will, at first, seem blind.”

Vision and foresight come in the forms of pre-round preparation and consistent prudence. Those playing for the first, or even second time, will want to take advantage of the complimentary yardage book (with hole descriptions) and also download a free smart phone course application via GolfLogix; others may want to consider a small, $5 investment in SkyCaddie GPS rental at the clubhouse. Such prep will play on par to what the learned St. Croix National visitor already knows… patience will only add to the tranquility of these environs.

The breadth of the challenge, especially for introductory players, is navigating toward targets which one is unable to see. Gauster’s “club-down” mentality is readily apt and pairs well with coordinating oneself amid a continual host of dramatic views that require concentration.

Such elevated vantages are offered at the outset, as the 389-yard, par-4 first presents a drastic descent in which the nascent will be unaware of ample playing room to the left. The theme continues on a blind uphill tee shot at the diminutive par-4 second hole, which only asks for a 180-yard tee shot to a mid-fairway, guiding flag.

“I think No. 4 is a great hole,” Gauster says of a front nine favorite. “It’s a long par-5 with some water and some bunkering, but it’s pretty straightforward. And it has as much of an ‘island green’ as you can have without actually being an island. There’s water to the front and right with trees surrounding. It’s a birdie hole, but if your tee shot’s not there, it can be tough.”

“And the seventh is really fun,” Gauster adds of an exceptional par-3 perch. “It’s a very pretty hole where you can see out to No. 11, which is probably a quarter-mile away. You can see all the way through the valley from there – it’s very cool, especially in the fall.”

“No. 9 is a dogleg left, where you start up high, hit down, and then hit up to an elevated green. It’s everybody’s favorite hole,” smiles Gauster before adding, “The tenth is probably my own favorite hole on the course; it’s just designed so well. You’ve got an elevated tee shot, but if you play that well it should be an easy par hole.”

The turn presents a fine run of holes which culminates in the unique, uphill, 311 yard par-4 No. 11 that demands a studied tee shot before offering the back side’s largest green. Rounding home, the par-3 No. 17 plays over pond water to a palette-style green before the par-5 finisher presents a prime par opportunity to close with a sound drive to the left fairway. “No. 18 is a good finishing hole,” Gauster concludes. “It’s another elevated tee shot, and even though it’s not too long, you’ll want to lay-up and not try to go for it in two.”

An introductory visit to St. Croix National will provide moguls for some, but regular and return players are known to slalom through the course’s wooded undulations as if threading through downhill gates on a ski run. Resting quietly amid the serenity of Somerset, there are few courses in the area that can affordably offer the premier beauty of these green grounds.