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#7 - Top 10 Public Courses in Minnesota

Top 10 Public Courses in Minnesota

By Mason Savage, A Good Walk Spoiled contributor

For those of you who missed it, three 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. 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.

Also a friendly reminder from 2 weeks ago on our Number 9 Course, Stoneridge. Last week after the post went live we received some inside information from a Reader that will require us to reassess the score given to Stoneridge. We are not amending it now, but in future posts, expect Stoneridge to make another appearance as we revise the score and ultimately the position of these courses. But for now, let's dive into the next course on this list.

#7 - Pioneer Creek - Maple Plain, MN

Pioneer Creek, the People’s Windsong Farm! This public track is located out at the end (probably not in) of the Twin Cities Metro Area. This Joel Goldstrand course features some of the firmest conditions in Minnesota Golf and some awesome natural land movement. The combination of these two factors make for a fun and memorable round of golf. Additionally, this course can offer a proper challenge to any golfer as this course has co-hosted (in partnership with Windsong Farm) past Gopher Invitationals. The Gopher Invitational is an event held by the University of Minnesota Golf Team where some of the best Ametuer golfers in the world tee it up. To be able to co-host an event of that caliber means that a certain threshold of quality and challenge needs to be met so right off of the bat, you know that Pioneer Creek is special!

The 16th Green at Pioneer Creek - A FANTASTIC short Par 4

Culture - 7

The culture at Pioneer Creek seems to be great. On the website and in the clubhouse, the club boasts of all of the possible leagues that the club offers. Ladies, Mens and Seniors and then different variations (9 Hole, Partner, 18 Hole) within those divisions is also offered. There is something for everyone at Pioneer Creek. Additionally, since this course is a ways out from the metro, it does seem to have loyal, local support from the community. That is always important for a good golf course.

Place - 7

The sense of place is good at Pioneer Creek. Being just down the road from one of the elite private clubs in the state means that there are similarities in the land that the course occupies. The terrain is mainly gorgeous rolling hills and the property features a creek that weaves through the entire property (there has to be a body of water if your course is going to be named Pioneer Creek, right?). It is the exact type of land that you would expect to see west of the Metro. Central Minnesota and westward is typically the start of the “prairie” type of land that you see in the midwest. Think of the rolling hills of the Oregon Trail and that is the land that you find Pioneer Creek sitting on.

Quality - 8

The quality of Pioneer Creek is definitely not the eye test. A lot of the time that we at AGWS have played Pioneer Creek, the turf is muted with some patchy brown spots but pure greens. Unfortunately, in today’s world, a lot of the golfing community thinks that courses need to be over watered and Green. If the maintenance of the course does not meet these expectations then the general golfing public seems to think this course is bad. That is not how golf works and it is a product of the glorification of Augusta National and the “American-ization” of Golf. Look at any course in Scotland or Ireland, they are not lush and green. Despite this, the courses in Scotland are brilliant!

The lush green conditions that we in America associate with golf are not environmentally sustainable, expensive to maintain (higher green prices) and create boring and static golf where the ball does not roll out. Thankfully this is a trend that is starting to get bucked in the last 3-5 years in America. All this said, the maintenance in Pioneer Creek fall into this newer thinking (or old depending how you look at it) that golf courses do not need to be entirely green and lush. The result is a beautiful and firm course that takes advantage of its rolling terrain and additionally passes the savings of these practices on to the players in the green fee. Anyone that has not experienced a firm golf course needs to check out Pioneer Creek!

Price - 8

As was just mentioned in the quality portion of this review, due to the maintenance practices at Pioneer Creek, the green fees are extremely affordable! Pricing at Pioneer Creek does not get much better than this. While the drive is not as far as last week's course (The Jewel, check out that review here), the pricing at Pioneer Creek makes the drive out there worth it.

Architecture - 7

As was stated previously, Pioneer Creek is designed by the late, great Joel Goldstrand. Goldstrand did a myriad of courses in the State of Minnesota and while not every course of his is a home run, his resume is long and has some great top courses. While Pioneer Creek might not be on the top of any list that you see from typical golf publications, Pioneer Creek does display some very good golf course architecture.

One of the first holes that comes to mind is the second hole. The second hole at Pioneer Creek definitely gives us Lawsonia Vibes (Check out one of our favorite photos we have taken of Lawsonia Here)! There are rolling mounds littering the fairway and a large pushed up green that spells trouble on the right side of the green. You can hit Driver to take on the mounds in the fairway but you are left with a blind wedge shot up to the green complex. Otherwise you can lay up off of the tee short of the fairway mounds and have a longer shot into the green but you will be able to see the flag. This simple use of elevation is a great example of interesting golf course architecture.

Our love for Short 4s cannot be stressed enough. A well designed Short Par 4 factors in some risk/reward aspect and allows the hole to be played multiple different ways. We would me remiss if we did not mention the 16th hole at Pioneer Creek. This 290 Yard Par 4 is absolutely drivable (especially with the firm and fast turf conditions) but going over the back of the green with your drive can leave you scrambling just to make par due to the intense slopes on the green. It is a fun and exciting hole that can be played numerous different ways.(See the first picture in this post for a picture of the 16th Green.)

The reason why the architecture score is not higher than some other courses on this list is because while we have praised Joel Goldstrand for his work at Pioneer Creek, there are some bad holes designed out there. The first hole that comes to mind when thinking about bad holes is the 9th hole. If you read our review on The Royal Golf club, you will remember that we were critical of the cart path placement. At Pioneer Creek, the cart path placement on the 9th hole is abysmal! The 9th hole is par 5 that requires you to take on the risk of water to approach the green. The landing zone for your second shot is small which requires a thoughtful lay up and means you need to pick your spot. However there is a cart path that snakes through the landing zone that makes the landing zone even smaller. If you miss your lay up by even a yard and hit the cart path, your ball will most likely bounce in the creek in front of the green.

Value - 7

The value of Pioneer Creek is great! Like we stated earlier, the greens fees are wildly affordable that help make the long drive out from the metro worth it. Pair that with some of the firmest and fastest conditions in the state and some great golf course architecture from Joel Goldstrand and you have the recipe for a hidden gem course.

Overall - 44

We feel that this is one of the first courses on this list that jumps out at readers. Pioneer Creek is not usually a top course in the state that jumps to people’s mind and while there are certainly arguments that it has no place in the Top 10, one must remember the constraints on which we are ranking these courses. Check out the details of how our Ranking System works Here. To summarize an overarching theme to this list, this ranking is going to heavily favor the Value a course has to offer and that is by design. We want this list to be reflective of the everyday golfer, the one that does not have $100 to spend on a greens fee and that is why Pioneer Creek is up here. It is a great course at a great price and frankly, for those two reasons alone, this course is probably flying under most people’s radars.

So if you are in the area, be sure to check out Pioneer Creek. You won’t be disappointed!

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. If you liked the content, 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.


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