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#6 - Top 10 Public Courses in Minnesota

By Mason Savage, A Good Walk Spoiled contributor

For those of you who missed it, four 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.

This is the week where we are going to amend our ranking of Stoneridge so be sure to stick around to the end of the review to see what information we were provided and how it impacted the score.

#6 - Southern Hills Golf Course - Farmington, MN

Southern Hills Golf Course - Farmington, MN

We have some great courses on this list that remain to be revealed but when we are discussing the Top 10 Public Courses in the state of Minnesota, Southern Hills is a course that probably never crosses people’s minds and that is assuming that people have actually played it. When you think of the individual components that this course has to offer, nothing jumps off of the page or really stands out as “Top 10 Material” in the State of Minnesota. There are great golf holes, but nothing that is breathtaking. The small town vibe is awesome, but that is what you get at a lot of small town courses. The conditioning is good and the greens are pure, but they aren’t the best even in the south metro, let alone the state. So why is this course all the way up here in our number 6 spot? Because the sum of this course is greater than its parts. When you think of the entirety of the experience of playing here, it is as strong as any in the state.

We hope in this review we are able to adequately articulate why, despite a lot of its components being average, the totality of the course is one that you will for sure want to play.

Culture - 7

The culture at Southern Hills is welcoming and at the same time, feels tightly knit. With Farmington being a relatively small suburb located on the outskirts of the metro, the city supports its local businesses and the same is for its golf course. The small clubhouse house has great amenities, is clean and the architecture of the building matches the vibe of the course.

Place - 8

Farmington, as you would imagine, has a lot of farmland. The land and the movement of the topography feels like it blends in seamlessly into the farm land that surrounds the course. The rolling terrain you associate with a countryside is the very land that you find Southern Hills resting on. The routing of the course and experience when you are on the property feels like Southern Hills was simply laid on top of the land rather than moving dirt and earth to create a golf course (though there is clearly some dirt that was moved to create the course). It cannot be stated enough how natural this course feels.

Quality - 7

The quality of Southern Hills is nothing to write home about but at the same time, they have consistent and smooth greens. At the end of the day, Greens are really the only thing that matter in terms of conditioning on a golf course. Whether they are slow or fast, the most important thing is that they roll pure and that they are consistent in speed from surface to surface. Southern Hills absolutely checks this box.

To accommodate the course conditions, the club house is quaint and clean which adds a layer of craftsmanship and cleanliness/quality to the overall golf course experience.

The clubhouse at Southern Hills Golf Course. Everything you need, nothing you don't.

Price - 7

The price of Southern Hills is very fairly priced and offers one of the most generous twilight rates in the State. Definitely add it to your summer list of courses to play at Twilight, you will not be disappointed!

Architecture - 7

So you see the score of 7, which is barely above average. Yet I am the most excited to write about the architecture at Southern Hills. Aside from a few holes, if you were to look at each hole individually, in a vacuum, the architecture is probably closer to a 5. However, with utilizing the land and the routing, the sum of the individual holes is greater than its parts. There is great variety in shots hit, in the types of holes and nothing is egregious when it comes to punishing you. Fair and fun, what else could ask for in a golf course?

As was mentioned earlier, the land at Southern Hills is ideal for golf. It is rolling hills nestled in between farmland and it has a central creek that runs through the center of the property. The result is rolling hills on the exterior of the property and some low lying areas around the creek. This on its own creates diverse and unique golf holes. In addition to that, the property that Southern Hills sits on is not entirely large either. Factor in a driving range and the total acreage available for design golf holes is restricted. When Goldstrand was laying out the course on the limited land, it means that you have to get creative and create holes that are a little atypical. None of the holes feel unfair but the result of these atypical holes is a variety of holes that are different and some unique holes that present challenges that you won’t find anywhere else. The smaller property also adds to the intimacy of the course which makes it feel cozy, but not cramped. This is the part of the blog where originally I was going to write about all 18 holes. More or less, I was going to highlight the routing with its “big picture” implications of each hole and then stop at certain holes that I felt were worthy to highlight. What ended up happening was me wanting to break down every hole because as stated before, the individual holes are not necessarily going to blow you away at Southern Hills, it is the culmination of them that will get you. I have completely scrapped that monologue and I am just going to highlight two of the holes here that present awesome Golf Course architecture.

The 5th Hole at Southern Hills is on the exterior of the property. As has been mentioned, these outer holes have lots of rolling terrain as is seen in this photo.

Right off of the bat, you have the 1st Hole, a reachable, but tricky Par 5. Starting with the Tee shot, there is OB down the left side and the aforementioned creek on the right. The Creek chokes off the right side gradually meaning the further you hit your tee shot, the tighter the landing zone gets. However, if you want to get to the green in 2, this is a risk that you need to take on. After the tee shot, the second shot also provides you with a variety of options. You can lay up to the left and take on the creek with your third shot, hit a more aggressive lay up to the right and take on the creek with your second shot or you can take on the green, the ultimate risk and reward. This is the perfect opening hole in golf! (Aside from maybe having the first tee back up due to it being a Par 5)

The 1st Green at Southern Hills. The aforementioned creek can be seen as well as the lay up area for both the left and right side of the green. This hole allows you to strategize however you want.

The other hole that comes to mind is the Par 4, 13th hole. A relatively short Par 4 that boasts some interesting bunkering, a cool green complex and shows off the natural terrain. The tee shot has a bunker all down the left side but what is maybe more interesting when it comes to the tee shot is the left to right slope of the fairway. The 13th hole is near the exterior of the property and is a transitioning hole from the valley in the middle property to the hills on the exterior. This transition creates a left to right fairway slope that punishes misplaced drives. However, because the hole is relatively short, a tee shot that barrels down the hill to the right is not completely punished. You can still hit it on the green; you are just robbed of your line of sight because of the very slope that puts you there. Once you are up by the green, there is a pot bunker to protect a lower bowl on the green. The upper side of the bowl creates a sort of two tier green that has a twist to it. While short, this is no easy Par 4 and it has multiple ways to punish you if you are not careful.

Not the best picture of the individual hole but the green in the lower right of this photo is the 13th Green. You can see the Bunkers down the left side as well as see the left to right (right to left in this photo) slope that is in fairway.

One final motif that is woven throughout the entire course design at Southern Hills is how playable it is. Is the course forgiving and does it allow for lesser players to compete and have a good time? Absolutely! However, that does not mean that every hole is super easy and proper golf shots are not demanded. In reality, it is quite the opposite. The theme for the course is that Birdies are well earned and bogeys are easy to come by. That is the perfect design for a public golf course and the true mark of a well designed golf course. It separates the talent over the course of the entire 18 holes.

Value - 8

Obviously for the bulk of this review, we have been raving about Southern Hills. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to see that the Value score is very high here. The total experience at Southern Hills supremely outweighs the price you pay to play. Of all of the courses that we took the time to use the "The Completely Unbiased 100% Scientific Golf Course Ranking System" on, Southern Hills ranked tied for 2nd in the Value department. If you are looking for the most efficient way to spend your money and get a total golf experience, look no further than Southern Hills.

Overall - 44

Overall, Southern Hills may be one of the most underrated courses on this list. While last week might have been a surprise to include Pioneer Creek on this list, including Southern Hills (let alone this high) on this list is definitely a shock! No where does this course ever get recognition and yet, I have never heard anyone say that they have not had a good time out there. The course embodies what a good golf course should be. Affordable, community driven, challenging yet accessible and in an environment that makes the most of the land. It cannot be stated enough that all of the aspects of Southern Hills individually are not particularly special but the entirety of the experience and the way that the individual golf holes play off each other make for a great golf course experience!

The 9th Green at Southern Hills - One of the many fun Par 5s on the property

This is also the week that we would like to amend our rating of Stoneridge Golf Course. If you recall, the original ranking for Stoneridge had a miserable score in the “Place” category. This ultimately led to Stonerdige being placed lower than people thought it should have been. The reason that we gave Stoneridge a bad place score was for two reasons. One of the reasons remains unchanged, the artificial mounding on the south side of the property to block out the noise and view of Interstate 94. That is sadly still present to I guess Stoneridge can join Oakmont as great courses that are tarnished by the Interstate System. The second reason that we gave Stoneridge a poor Place score is due to the artificial feel while on the grounds. You are surrounded by farmland and wooded areas and yet, the ground on Stoneridge is very firm and sandy. However, we got word from a reader that the land (at least portions of it) used to ba Quarry. This means this artificial feel is misled as quarries are usually rugged, rich with aggregate and firm due to all of the sand. This is an error on our end and we are amending the Pace Score to be 8 which gives Stoneridge a final score of 44. With this revision the Top 10 Public Courses in MN Ranking looks like this.

6. Stoneridge

7. Southern Hills

8. Pioneer Creek

9. The Jewel

10. Royal Golf Club

While the new score of 44 is technically a tie with Southern Hills, we are going to give the tie breaker to stoneridge for being harsh to them on incomplete information.

Thank you for reading the third 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 our next course goes live. As you know, every Wednesday since the New Year we have been releasing a new course on our Top 10 List. Next week we are going to take a week off and then hit the Top 5 hard the following week. So to recap, No Post on February 8th but we will be back with our Number 5 course on February 15th. To help bridge the gap in our Golf Course Ranking Posts, 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. Thank you again for reading and see you back here in two weeks when we kick off the Top 5 Public Golf Courses in Minnesota.


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