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#9 - 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, two 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.

#9 - Stoneridge Golf Course - Stillwater, MN

Stoneridge Golf Course is a Bobby Weed designed golf course that is located in Stillwater, Minnesota. Often lauded as one of the best Public Courses in Minnesota, this property definitely lives up to the hype. The difficult, yet brilliant design of the course coupled with the unique and pristine course conditions is a combination you will not get anywhere else in the State. This makes Stoneridge a must play in the Twin Cities Metro Area.

The 10th Green with the Iconic Barn on the 11th Hole in the background at Stoneridge Golf Course

Culture - 8

Similar to the Number 10 Course on our list (The Royal Golf Club, check out the review here), Stoneridge has a “bigger hitters' ' vibe and somehow is able to conjure a country club feel at a Public Golf Course. If you recall though, The Royal had a lower culture rating than an 8 so why does Stoneridge get a better score for similar attributes? Because the identity of the course is in the golf course itself rather than the amenities and names on the building. This distinction creates an authentic feel on the course and makes you feel like you are truly playing a special golf course where you are welcome. The Culture is authentic big game players and it is fun to be around.

Place - 4

Unfortunately for Stoneridge golf course, there is not a ton of “Place” on the property. While yes there is the culture created that helps create the sense of place, the physical property is completely fabricated leading to an inauthentic feel. First off, the course is located no more than 700 feet off of Interstate 94 and to help limit the noise, there are large artificial containment mounds along the entire south side of the property. Despite these mounds, the sound from the free way can still be heard if there is a lot of traffic.

However, the main concern is the fabricated environment of the course. According to my research for writing this article, I can not confirm what the original use of the land was. Given on the signature hole (11) there is a large barn and the surrounding landscapes and properties, my assumption is that it was a farm. With that established, Stoneridge feels alienated from the surrounding land because of its extremely sandy soil and its large, rugged manufactured elevation changes. It feels disconnected from what you would see in Minnesota along the St Croix river.

For these large reasons (and more smaller nit picky things) the Place score for Stoneridge Golf Course is relatively low.

Note: Thank you to an anonymous reader who informed AGWS that portions of the back 9 used to be a Gravel Pit. This will help the "Place" score. a Revision will come in a future post.

Quality - 9

The quality at Stoneridge is unbelievable! If we are talking from a pure maintenance standpoint, Stoneridge might be the best Public Course in the state in that regard. While the previously mentioned sandy soil hurt the “Place” score, it helps the “Quality” (and later the architecture) score as the firm and fast turf conditions at Stoneridge are a rarity in the state. In a state with lots of lakes and soft soils, it is a true treat to have a “firm and fast” golf course that is open to the public. It plays unlike any other course in the state. Combine that with extremely well maintained bunkers (which are massive), Stoneridge’s maintenance in quality is unmatched.

Price - 3

The price to walk Stoneridge on the weekend is $130. While it is disappointing that the course is that expensive, what is even more disappointing is the course's lack of dynamic pricing. Despite what it says on the website, the price never really waivers whether you are looking at late season rounds or looking for a discounted twilight round. For that reason, we decided to hurt the score a little bit more than would normally be of a course priced in this range.

Architecture - 9

Stoneridge is designed by Bobby Weed who has done lots of work in career including a handful of PGA Tour Courses in the TPC variety. Coming from the Pete Dye architecture tree, you know that his courses are going to provide players with a challenge and Stoneridge is no different. Stoneridge is a difficult and yet fair test of golf. One of the great features of Stoneridge in my opinion is the use of the landscape and angles to create “intimidating design” that is playable. Do not get me wrong, Stoneridge is a tough course (probably one of the tougher ones on this list) but what I mean by creating “intimidating design” is that Bobby Weed makes shots look tougher than they actually are. He does this by tricking you into taking on adverse risk or making it look like target lines and landing zones are smaller than they are.

One specific way that Bobby Weed does this is the use of drastic and abundant bunkers. It is impossible to walk the grounds and not be distracted by the bunkers. The waste areas litter the grounds. It is safe to say that most of the bunkers at Stoneridge are not in play but rather, they are used to create the “intimidating design” that was mentioned earlier. With that said, some of these bunkers are used wonderfully in proper architecture. One that jumps to mind is the large green size bunker on Hole 4. This bunker is the perfect punishment for players that try to get too aggressive with a wedge into this Par 5.

The Green side bunk on the 4th Hole at Stoneridge Golf Course

While we are on the topic of Par 5s, Stoneridge has the greatest collection of Par 5s in the state of Minnesota. Each of them is so different and requires different shots. One has to mention the signature 11th hole which is best known for the Barn (which is in play) that resides left of the fairway. The ideal line is as close to the barn is possible without actually hitting it. However, aside from the Barn, this is a fun Par 5 that creates scoring variety from Eagle to Double Bogey. This is done with a fun, heavily contoured green creating some fun funnel pins for low scores but also some extremely well placed bunkers create opportunity for high scores. This is an extremely fun and entertaining hole to play.

The 11th Green at Stoneridge Golf Course - This picture does a great job showing off the awesome contours that allow for fun and creative golf shots

As was mentioned in the previous post, Architecture is something that I could discuss forever and with the high quality architecture that Bobby Weed displayed in designing Stoneridge, this means I could talk about all 18 holes and what makes them all so great. I will spare you (the reader) and end this segment now.

Value - 7

The value of Stoneridge is, as you could have probably guessed, about average. While we have lauded the culture and awesome architecture, it is hard to get entirely past the authenticity and the stagnant pricing.

Overall - 40

Stoneridge is an all-class golf course. The fast and firm turf conditions, paired with great culture and amazing Bobby Weed Architectural design make for an outstanding golf course. The only reason this course is not ranked higher is due to the heavily manufactured environment (tough to win them all) and the tough price point. While it is true that lots of people are able to regularly afford the steep green fees, for most people that price tag is a big deterrent and means that they are only to play this course once or twice a year (if at all).

Similarly to the post on the Royal Golf Club (course #10 in our list of the Top 10 Best Public Courses in Minnesota) I would like to end with some personal and opinionated antidotes. To me, StoneRidge is probably the best designed course that is public in Minnesota. The more I play, the more intricate and technical the details of the course become. Despite that high praise, it is not a course that I would want to play everyday given the severe punishing nature that is possible out there. Tons of waste areas way offline from your target or even large areas of long, thick fescue are lingering and ready to pounce on any mishit that you may have. The penal nature of these hazards is most likely 2 to 3 shots as opposed to other milder hazards at other properties that may range from 0.5 to 1.5 shots. This difference can be taxing if you are having a rough ball striking day.

One last personal note on this course, you may notice that this post lacks the cool drone photos that we were able to provide last week in The Royal Golf Club post. That is because we have not had the privelege to fly the drone out there. Of all of the courses that I have played, this is easily a Top 5 Course that I want to fly my drone at so Stoneridge Golf Club, if you are reading this, let's make it happen. Photos on me!

Thank you for reading the second 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.

Thank you again for the support and we look forward to revealing the Number 8 Course on our list next week.


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