Tee Travels with Lin Clark: Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa

Lin Clark has set out to play golf in all 50 states. She’s promised not to recount every shot; enjoy this latest installment of Tee Travels.

Image of the author at Eagle Valley

This leg of my Tee Travels started with thinking about my mom’s 88th birthday, June 21st. I decided to surprise her and show up to wish her happy birthday in person. I cleared it with my dad, who is also 88, and thought surprising her was an excellent idea. Several of my friends were not sure surprising an 88-year-old was a great idea — it’s OK, she has a good heart. So of course, I looked at where I might play golf and how many states I could check off my goal.

It has never been easy getting to my parents’ town in Iowa. Situated in north central Iowa, it is about the same distance to fly into Minneapolis as it is to fly into Des Moines. On my quest to golf in every state, it made the decision for this trip a bit easier. I would fly into Minneapolis — golf in Minnesota, then go over to Wisconsin — which is only a 45-minute drive to a course I researched to play.  Sweet! And then go to Iowa to surprise my mom…and golf once more.

Some of the courses on my Tee Travels will be chosen for their proximity to my other scheduled events — such as this trip for my mom’s birthday. Other courses will be chosen out of complete lust for wanting to play a well-known course.

My rating system will be a simple A-B-C-D scale, with a secondary, numerical rating for the “single woman walk-on” on congeniality scale. Rating system will include notes on: setting, views, condition of course, and challenge of the course.

A = Amazing: A definite standout for various reasons

B = Beckoning: Draws you in for various reasons

C = Common: A “go-to” course, nothing stands out

D = Don’t bother: Enough said

CS (Congeniality Scale) for Single Woman Walk-On

1= Do Not Enter

5= Red Carpet

2-3-4= Somewhere in between

MINNESOTA

Eagle Valley Golf Course, in Woodbury, Minn., is situated 30 minutes from the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport.

As a walk-on I was told the next opening for a single was 1½ hours out. OK, I will go to the driving range and maybe have some breakfast. On the range I noticed several women warming up. As one was walking toward her cart, I stopped to ask if there was a women’s league playing today. She introduced herself and asked if I was new to the course. I proceeded to tell her (Mary) of my quest to play in every state and also look for courses friendly to women golfers. She smiled and said, “Come with me.” Proceeding to the clubhouse, she told me it was Wednesday, Women’s Open Golf. Instead of a formal league, this was more casual and, in her words, “a lot more fun.” She checked the women’s sign-in sheet and found a threesome, charged outside, found them, introduced me and I was off with three wonderful women playing a round. Not only did I feel welcomed, but these women also shared details on how to play the course. I found each hole to be interesting and with the right amount of challenge to satisfy the majority of golfers at any level. All three women appreciated the Women’s Open Golf Wednesdays, especially the course supported events such as “closest to the pin,” “chip in” and the famous “birdie tree.” For a birdie, the player receives a bird cutout with her name on it to put on a tree in the clubhouse.

After the round, I was curious to learn more about this course, so I asked to talk with Dan Morris, the Director of Golf.  He was so gracious with his time and I could tell immediately how much he loved this course. It has been his “home” for over 20 years. When I asked about the Women’s Open Golf, he smiled and said it was an idea to try to please the women golfers at Eagle Valley. Male management wanting to please the women golfers… what a concept! He told me the course did have a traditional women’s league, however, about half the women loved it but the other half hated it, so something needed to be done. The course sets aside five or six tee-times on Wednesday mornings for women golfers to sign up. There’s a weekly theme and the course puts out a newsletter — check it out! This last theme was “Stay Out of Trouble.” Just a reminder of my philosophy on golf imitating life. (More on that in another post.)

Eagle Valley is a longer course, at 6,910 black tees and 5,105 red tees. Dan also told me Eagle Valley had added a forward set of tees to two of their holes, which some of the players praised due to heightened  birdie chances. And why not? Who doesn’t like to walk away with a birdie now and then?

I want to thank my playing partners, Linda, Jenny, and Becky for a fun round. And thank you, Dan, for your time and discussion of looking at golf through the rangefinder of a woman.

Image of ladies of Eagle Valley

Eagle Valley Golf Course
Woodbury, Minn.

Tee Traveler rating: B+

Challenging layout. Scenic enough with the trees. Most houses on the course set back enough not to be intimidating. Greens in great condition — fast! Fairways a little rough in places. Tee boxes level and in good shape. Cold beer on the 19th.

CS rating: 4+

Certainly welcoming. Flush toilets on the course. Additional forward tees on two long holes.

WISCONSIN

Next stop, a course just 25 miles from Woodbury. Beautiful drive across the St. Croix River into a spectacular valley lush with trees, into River Falls, Wis., and River Falls Golf Course.

Parked in the lot, got my clubs out and started walking toward the clubhouse. I noticed just one person walking from the clubhouse with his clubs, but before I could inquire as to where the pro-shop was, he asked me, “Are you a badger?” Now in my younger days, I’d been called a fox a few times, but never a badger. My puzzled look gave him the clue that I had no idea what he was talking about. “The course is closed for badgers only — you know, Wisconsin Badgers.” Of course, I didn’t know; I’m from Colorado. He asked if I wanted to play at another course…yes, I’m on a quest and I only have one day in Wisconsin. So I followed him to Kilkarney Hills, just 5 miles away. Nice long entrance with beautiful trees leading to the clubhouse. The course is in the middle of rolling farmland, so no housing developments marred the beauty. Some of the fairways were a bit tight due to the encroaching trees, though very playable. Nice to have a local to guide me through a few of the hidden greens. The winter was harsh and left behind winter-killed grass on the fairways; however, the greens were in decent shape. (Wish I could have said the same for my putting!) The course started out flat, then soon turned a bit hilly. Glad we opted for a cart, which also had GPS.

Thanks to Mason, the Pro Shop Manager, for a warm welcome and a very special thank you to my playing partner, Mike, for an entertaining round.

Image of Wisconsin Mike

 

Kilkarney Hills Golf Course
River Falls, Wis.

Tee Traveler rating: B

Scenic setting. No housing development. 19th hole veranda with stunning views of course and valley. Average length (blacks 6,500, reds 4,960).

CS rating: 3

Iowa

Remember, the reason for this leg of my Tee Travels was to surprise my mom on her birthday, and she lives in a small town. Therefore, I chose this course to be close to my parents.

Cedar Ridge Golf Course is not quite as old as I am, and I’m OLD. Built in 1964 (the course! I was built in 1953), this course is fairly open, very flat and has fast greens. The treat in playing this course was the three gentlemen who allowed me to tag along. I believe we were the only players on the course at our tee time, which was shortly after noon on a Thursday. It’s such a treat to have no waiting on a group in front and no one pushing from behind. The three gentlemen asked why I was playing this particular course, because I already had volunteered I was visiting from Colorado. I told the story of surprising my mom for her birthday. “Did you grow up here?” was the question. “Yes.” That led to “What’s your maiden name?,” and all three men knew the name — one had worked in the courthouse at the same time as my mom. The town has a population of 7,000, so it was no surprise. I was glad there seemed to be no judgment when I confessed to stopping to play golf before going to see my parents. Or maybe they were just polite enough not to shame me. All three gentlemen were very good golfers. I even received a great tip on playing my ball out from under some low-hanging tree branches.

This round reminded me, golf is not just about pars, birdies or triple bogeys, it can also be about the Rons, Dans and Johns you meet on a course. Thanks, Ron, Dan and John, for an enjoyable round of golf!

Image of the Iowa guys

Cedar Ridge Golf Course
Charles City, Iowa

Tee Traveler rating: C

Very friendly staff!

CS rating: 3

Very friendly staff!

The next adventure: Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana

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