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#1 - Top 10 Public Courses in Minnesota

By Mason Savage, A Good Walk Spoiled Contributor

For those of you who missed it, 10 weeks ago, we at A Good Walk Spoiled released "The Completely Unbiased 100% Scientific Golf Course Ranking System." The point of the system is to create a ranking system that was geared to the Everyday Golf. If you missed that post, please check it out in the link below so that you can understand how these rankings work and what each category represents in the system.

Before we dig into the Review/Ranking, these are the Top 10 Public Courses in Minnesota so a couple of notes. 1. As the title states, these are Public Courses, there are no Private Courses on this list so please do not ask why courses like Interlachen are not on this list. 2. These are courses that we at A Good Walk Spoiled have played. If there is a good public course that is not on this list, that means we do not think it is in the top 10 or we have not played it. 3. Most important note, this is the Top 10 so all of these courses are GREAT and we would recommend any of them to out of town travelers. That said, we are critical when it comes to analyzing Golf Courses so any negative comments or points of critique in these Blog Posts come from a place of Love and wanting the courses to better themselves.

Additionally, this is the last blog post that we will have regarding our Top 10 Courses in the State of Minnesota. This was a fun, yet difficult exercise not being a writer by trade. So thank you to everyone that has followed the journey, discussed differences in opinion regarding our list and a special thank you to everyone that has shared our posts with their friends and family. Stick around to the end of this post as we do a debrief about the list. For now, let’s dive into the final post, the Number 1 Public Golf Course in the State of Minnesota.

#1 - Keller Golf Course - Maplewood, MN

Historic Keller Golf Course - Just north of Saint Paul, MN

Keller Golf Course! The number one course on our list and it is so deserving. Keller Golf Course is a municipal course just north of Saint Paul and it is not only a great course today but it has character and historical relevance in the history of Golf in the state of Minnesota. Anyone that has played Keller Golf Course knows how great this course is and for those who are not from Minnesota or have not played Keller, we hope that the greatness of this course shines through this article.

Culture - 8

The culture at Keller Golf course is fantastic. As is the case with a lot of courses that are in the Top 5, they meet this happy medium of culture where they are set up and framed to be courses for the hardcore golf fan but at the same time, remain open and welcoming to new players. This is a hard middle ground to hit but Keller does a fantastic job with this. Add to this lots of leagues to play in and a full tee sheet every single day of the week and you are left with a club that has excellent Culture for all players and guests.

Keller Lake sits in the shadows of Keller Golf Course

Place - 9

The sense of Place at Keller is really great. Despite being right next to a busy U.S. Highway, it still feels like you are removed from the urban landscape and in a sweet golfing oasis. To access the property, you drive on a winding road that climbs a very high hill. Perched at the top of the hill is the beautiful Clubhouse which casts a shadow down on the Golf Shop sitting eloquently beside it. The beautiful bold architecture and the hill seem to erase any feelings you previously had that you were in a run down urban hellscape and instead, supplant you to a simpler and cleaner place where golf and having a good time is the priority.

The rumbled terrain, parkland style of Keller is a staple of an old historic golf course in Minnesota

Keller being an older golf course with history also helps invoke a fantastic sense of Place on the property. The unconventional (but excellent) golf holes, timely towering trees and an extremely walkable layout are characteristics of a great historic golf course and Keller is no different. However if you are new to golf and those things are not immediately jumping off of the page to you, then take a step into the Clubhouse. Right next to the bar there are tons of pictures of some of the All Time Golf Greats, such as Arnold Palmer (who designed the #10 Course on this list, check it out here) who regularly played in the Saint Paul Open. The Saint Paul Open used to be a regular PGA Tour stop and Keller Golf Course was the host course. It is cool and unique to be able to walk a property that is so historic and important to the history of Minnesota golf because it is open to the public and wildly affordable.

In addition, the sense of place is magnified in the uniform design of the course. More on this detail later when we get to the architecture portion of this article (my favorite to write about and often the longest categories in these reviews).

Quality - 9

The Quality at Keller Golf Course is some of the best in the state. Perfect greens that are consistent throughout the property, great lush fairways and tee boxes (as is to be expected with Parkland Style Golf Courses) and awesome native areas that the county is restoring on the property at Keller Golf Course. It is extremely impressive to achieve such as high level of quality while being a Municipal Golf Course but Keller Golf Course shows that it can be done. Kudos to the Superintendent and all involved with the day to day operations at Keller Golf Course!

The greens at Keller Golf Course are pure and consistent throughout the property

Price - 7

The Price of Keller Golf is honestly less than you would expect given how awesome the property is, how well maintained it is and the historic impact it has on the game of golf in Minnesota.

Architecture - 9

The architecture at Keller Golf Course is awesome! The old school charm mixed with a recent renovation means this place marries the classic feel of a golf course while being adaptable to the modern day game of big drivers and highball flights. There are a lot of holes on this golf course that you could not design today because people would complain greatly about the golf hole.

One item that needs to be discussed is the trees in the Fairway or in the line of play for two of the holes out there. It is a highly controversial topic and we will not go too far into the weeds on this topic in this article. Instead, watch this brief YouTube video that we put together covering this topic.

Now to discuss the rest of the architecture on the golf course. Like a lot of courses that have been on this list there is a lot of variety at Keller Golf Course. None of the holes look the same from the tee box which means the round never feels dull or repetitive. Additionally given the unique designs and the difference in distances for the holes, you are guaranteed to hit every club in your bag during a round at Keller Golf Course.

Because this is one of the true older courses on this list, it may also have the best layout of public golf courses in the state of Minnesota. Despite being a relatively small piece of property, the architect was able to squeeze every ounce out of it which is evident by the course touching every corner of the land it occupies. Despite touching every corner on the property, this course is also one of the most walkable on this list. The longest walk from Green to Tee is from 11 Green to 12 Tee Box and even in that walk, you pass right by the clubhouse giving you an opportunity to get refreshments or use the restroom before hitting the final 7 holes in your round. Other than this walk, the tee boxes are just a quick walk from the previous green which leads to an intimate layout and provides a manageable walk.

In addition to the holes from the YouTube video above, there are a couple of other holes that I want to cover. Given the length of this segment, I will limit myself to discussing just two holes but know that every hole at Keller Golf Course is worthy of a paragraph (at least). The two holes that I will highlight and focus on here are Par 4 8th Hole and the Par 5 12th Hole.

Slightly biased here but from the tee box, Hole 8 at Keller Golf Course might be one of the most picturesque holes. Some awesome rolling hills, some handsome bunkers that surround the fairway and a green that is perched up on the hill that will ultimately lead you back to the clubhouse on the next hole (9). It really is beautiful but in addition to its looks, it also comes with a great design that requires proper golf shots. From the tee box there appears to not be a ton of room to hit or miss shots with the fairway framed by bunkers. However, due to the horizon line, visual deception is created making the landing area appear to be smaller than it actually is. You can fly the left bunker to leave yourself a great angle to the green or go short of the right bunker and have a more difficult shot in. That said, either angle presents a difficult shot into the green because as was stated earlier, the green is perched up on a hill which will reject left and short misses away from the green. Overall, just a really fun hole.

View from the 8th Tee Box at Keller Golf Course

The Par 5 12th hole is a great and rewarding Par 5. From the get go, you are faced with a large hill that slopes right to left and if you can hit a huge drive, you can catch the slope over the crest of the hill to make for an easier shot into the green. When you have your second shot, you can lay up or go for the green like any Par 5 but there are two features on the 12th Hole at Keller Golf Course that make this hole unique. The first and most obvious feature is the centerline bunkers. These bunkers divide the fairway into two sections and also great a barrier into the green. If you want to drive the green, you will need to work the ball around the bunkers or have enough distance to carry the centerline bunkers. The other feature that goes unnoticed is the water on the left, but it is not just the water that is in play, it is the angle of the fairway on the other side of the water. Between the water on the left and the angle of the fairway on the right, the further you hit (or the closer that you get to the green on 12) the more narrow the landing zone becomes. That means the further you hit it, the less room for error you have as the OB on the right gets closer and the water on the left get closer to the target line. The beauty of these factors (the bunker and narrowing landing zone) is that they not only impact players that want to go for the green but they impact the lay up as well. If you want to get closer to the green, you need to choose what said of the bunkers you want to end up on and if you want to eliminate that risk entirely, you play short of the bunkers and you are left with a longer shot into the green. This is an example of a great Par 5 that makes players think and properly rewards outstanding golf shots.

Richard Mandell, who you remember designed our number 3 course (Braemar Golf Course) was responsible for the redesign of Keller and is responsible for the awesome design that is out there today!

A look at the centerline bunkers and the green on Hole 12

Value - 10

The only 10 on this list and if we are being honest, it is probably one of the only courses that are worthy of a 10 in the state (public or private). There are courses on this list that cost double what it costs to play Keller Golf Course and you could debate that just the golf course alone (not the entirety of the golfing experience) is just better than some of those courses. It is for this reason that Keller Golf Course is deserving of the only 10 for Value on this list.

The iconic centerline tree on the 17th Hole at Keller Golf Course

Overall - 52

If the article did not make it evident that this is the best Public Golf Course in the State, then we highly encourage you to get out to Keller Golf Course this summer in 2023. This course we believe is not only underrated in our area (the state of Minnesota) but is also nationally underrated. There are numerous metropolitan areas in the United States that would kill for a golf course to have the history, quality, architectural interest and accessibility that Keller Golf Course offers the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. To have one in the state of Minnesota should be celebrated and we hope by giving it the number one spot, we are doing our part in celebrating it's greatness and giving it the highlight that it deserves. One thing that cannot be stated enough about Keller Golf Course is the value that it offers. The price of this course could be 1.5 or even double and I still believe that it would get adequate play because the totality of the experience is just that great. The fact the price point is where it is at should be acknowledged and that is due to the awesome leadership of Ramsey county (who owns the property). We cannot say enough good things about Keller Golf Course.

Top 10 Recap

And with that, we conclude our Top 10 Public Courses in the State of Minnesota for 2023. It was an exercise that was more difficult than initially perceived. Figuring out the scores and how to weigh certain aspects of different courses were just a few of the hurdles to clear to create this list. Not to mention the 2000-3000 (or more) words that were written every week for 10 weeks. Not being a writer by trade, I hope that these articles conveyed my thoughts accurately and that you, the reader, were entertained by the articles. It was a great exercise for me in personal growth and discipline. I also want to thank everyone that has read these posts, shared these posts, commented on instagram, reached out to discuss certain courses and just the overall support for this list. While it is not a perfect list, it generated some great discussion about Golf in the heart of one of the snowiest winters in Minnesota Recorded history so I am going to call that a win. Now we just need the snow to melt so we can play more courses that could be contenders for this list next year as well as all of the great courses on this list.

To recap, here are our Top 10 Courses in the State of Minnesota.

Again, we acknowledge, this list is not perfect. It is just courses that we at A Good Walk Spoiled have played and there may be some scores that we improperly assigned. That said, I personally feel that this list is healthy, creates some talking points and really makes people think about what they value in their golfing experience. It is for these reasons that everyone's list is going to be different and that is the beauty of golf, that it is a sport that caters to a wide variety of people. I want to keep the discussion going on best Public Courses in Minnesota. Head to this Instagram post and drop your favorite courses or your own Top 10 in the comments. Are there courses that we did not include? Did we have certain courses to high? Certain courses too low? I want to know.

In conclusion, I just want to say thank you again for reading the final post in our Top 10 Public Golf Courses in Minnesota. To stay up to date as we continue posting the list, be sure to Subscribe here so you are notified when some of our new content goes live. If you liked these articles, consider checking out our other mediums. Over on Instagram, we post great photos of golf courses, post engaging instagram stories and post Short Form video content. On our YouTube page, we have many videos that highlight certain golf courses. We look forward to creating new content and the exciting stuff that we already have on the schedule for 2023. Now we just need the snow to melt in Minnesota so we can get out there and play some golf.

Thank you again for all of the support on this series!


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