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Minnesota's Most Underrated Golf Course - Wildflower Golf Course

By Mason Savage, A Good Walk Spoiled contributor

Wildflower Golf Course is one of the most underrated golf courses in the state of Minnesota! When it comes to elite Northern Minnesota Golf, all eyes go towards Brainerd and in my opinion, generally speaking, the golf in Brainerd is extremely overrated. The prices do not line up with expectations and the properties are forgettable, cart heavy golf courses that all bleed together in a slate of beige. When it comes to Northern Minnesota Golf no one ever mentions Wildflower! Wildflower is tied to a historic family resort and features a bold, dynamic and memorable golf experience. Even 6 months later I can recall intimate details about specific holes.

Culture - 8

The culture at Wildflower Golf Course is what you would expect at a resort course. In the past, I have been harsh on such setups as they tend to be shallow and lacking in personal touches. This is where Wildflower differentiates itself. The resort (Fair Hills Resort) is family owned and operated. Add to that with the cabins and quaint amenities, it feels more like a friends cabin than it does a major snooty resort. This is what sets the tone for making the Culture at Wildflower fantastic and stand out above the rest of the resorts. It feels personable and welcoming which is great for creating golf culture.

Place - 9

The Place at Wildflower is hard to describe. Similarly tied to the culture, there is that small town course vibe mixed with the mild resort vibe but really, the “Place” of Wildflower is in the dynamic landscape it finds itself in. Prior to my visit this Spring, I had not been in the Detroit Lakes area. I assumed that the landscape would be similar to that of other portions of western Minnesota or that of Fargo. Littered with Lakes and relatively flat with lots of farm fields. I was right about the two of those things, there is a lot of farm land and there are lots of lakes. However, I was very wrong about how flat the property would be. There are rolling hills galore and some very stark elevation changes. It was completely unexpected. Add to that the lake of trees on the edges of the property and you have vast feel that I have not felt anywhere else on a golf course. Wildflower truly has a unique sense of place.

Quality - 7

In the past, I have heard the quality of Wildflower is not up to snuff with large popular resort courses. While I was there, some areas may have been patchy but nothing that distracted or took away from the overall experience while playing golf. The greens were consistent and rolling true and as I have said numerous times on these rankings, that is about 80% of the score on this section. The rest of the points are for the elite, flawless courses. Wildflower is trending in the right direction and I wouldn’t be surprised if I went back next summer and thought the conditions were that of a 9.

Price - 8

The Price at Wildflower is what it is. The ranking does not change and it is hard set by a scale based on Weekend, Walking Greens Fees. What is worth noting is how significantly more affordable Wildflower is compared to its other resort counterparts but more on that in the ‘Value’ section as that is the area of the review where Wildflower thrives.

Architecture - 8

This portion of the review PAINS me to write. Wildflower was designed by Joel Goldstrand and as readers and followers of this blog know, I am a big Joel Goldstrand fan. So much so, I made a documentary about him which you can check out here. That aside, Wildflower, in my opinion, has the potential to be a solid 10 out of 10 in the architecture front but there are some portions of the course that cannot be overlooked.

Let's remain positive and start with the good. I will have to keep this portion concise as I could ramble on and on what I love about the architecture at Wildflower. The stretch from Holes 2 through 7 might be one of the best stretches of golf that I am aware of. The holes are routed masterfully over harsh, wavy terrain that are capped with excellent, different and interesting green complexes. The wide open feel and the crests of hills that seem to go into infinity create an awesome environment for having variety and options available for attacking golf holes. I believe a reader of this newsletter described Hole 3 as his “happy place” and he is right. The view from the Tee box features the sprawling landscape of the front 9 with views of Pelican lake out in the distance. I think if I had to pick a favorite, I would select Hole 3 as my favorite. Off of the aforementioned tee box you have to navigate risk. With a tree guarding the left portion of the green, you want to favor the right side of the fairway. However, off of the Fairway there is a bunker on the right forcing you to take on risk. The question is when do you want to take on the risk? Do you want to face it with your second shot and have to navigate the towering tree or do you want to face it with your first shot with the bunker off the right leaving you an easy second shot? This option of selecting “when” to take on the risky shot is optimal golf course architecture. That is just one of the many holes out there where this design concept is at play.

Now I need to address the elephant in the room, the bad portions about the architecture at Wildflower. When talking about the Bad there are 3 holes that come to mind and all three of them share their faults in common. The 3 holes are 8, 10 and 11 and the common flaw is overgrown trees and linear lines of attack for playing golf. I have heard stories and have heard from people that would know that this did not always used to be the case. Both 10 and 11 were not suffocated as much as they currently are. So why it pains me to knock this awesome course, there is hope for a higher score in the future with some tree removal.

If you want any more information on the Golf Course Architecture at Wildflower, check out this video that we did earlier this summer!

Value - 10

There are very few courses that receive a 10 in the ‘Value’ column in this ranking. Keller and White Bear Yacht Club are the two that come to mind when we discuss the perfect score in the Value Column and it brings me great joy to add Wildflower to that exclusive list. As has previously been explained (but I will do again) Value is basically all of the rankings of the Course Divided by the Greens Fee. The Higher the number, the better “bang for your buck” the course is. Wildflower is a no brainer when it comes to being a 10. You get a laid back and welcoming environment, a beautifully designed golf course, some of the craziest terrain I have seen in the State of Minnesota and all of this comes at a very very affordable Greens Fee.

Overall - 50

As I led the piece off, Wildflower is truly the most Underrated Golf Course in the State of Minnesota. The quality of course, the uniqueness of the land, the awesome architectural design and the fair price make for an amazing golf experience. While I need to continue to massage out the scores and rankings of the new courses I played this summer, I think it is safe to say that Wildflower will land itself in the updated “Top 10 Public Golf Courses in Minnesota” list when it comes out. If you are ever in the area, you NEED to check out this amazing design!

1 Comment

Mar 08

Hi Emily—what a great article and video on Wildflower. Made me lonesome. It’s such a great golf course and fun to play. I should have played more when I was there. It was good to see Tom Prochek. Say hi if You see him. Jean and I are still in Yuma for about another month. Playing golf with some friends here. Miss Wildflower and the people. Neil

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