River Oaks in Cottage Grove
by Rob Levine
Being a golf course reviewer for an important sports newspaper is no easy job. Were called upon to digest the newest and greatest courses, which usually means championship, loaded-with-trouble tracks where errant shots land variously in the woods, water, sand or other hazards. This begs the question of where the average golfer should play, since were not all sub-12 handicappers. One of the answers is River Oaks in Cottage Grove.
Located along Highway 61, River Oaks is a nice little track that should satisfy the wants of all caliber golfers. River Oaks was built in 1991 by the City of Cottage Grove to be, in the words of Bruce Anderson, the golf professional there, "a good municipal golf course for people of different abilities." And thats exactly what it does. Playing at 6018 yards from the white tees, its not exactly a short course, although there are no par fours over 400 yards, and four of them are sub-350 yards. These provide good scoring opportunities for the high-handicapper (conversely, from the blue tees, four of the par 4s turn into 400+ holes). The course was designed by Don Herford (Dellwood, Indian Hills, Oak Glen, Columbia).
Thats not to say River Oaks is an especially easy course. A few holes have strategically placed fairway bunkers and blind tee shots. Water comes into play on four holes, and theres a chance of losing balls in the woods on many others. Its also a very scenic course. Though not exactly on the Big Muddy, there are views of the river from various places along the course. And, unlike almost all newer courses, there are NO houses along the fairways.
Perhaps the most notable feature of River Oaks is the quality of the grass. All year weve been harping about the terrible winter kill weve seen around the state. Thankfully, there is absolutely no winter kill at River Oaks. The teeboxes, fairways and greens were all in impeccable shape. With a nice clubhouse, driving range and putting green, River Oaks is ideally suited to outside events (the day we played the St. Paul Firemen were having a tournament). Anderson told us that River Oaks does about 130 private events each year.
Its nice to know that theres people/communities out there building golf courses for the average golfer. In that spirit, River Oaks is just what the doctor ordered. Its a well-kept, well-designed track that suits the playing needs of almost all golfers, from beginners to mid- and low-handicappers.
River Oaks Golf Course