|by Rob Levine
Every year it seems theres a hot new course opening up in Minnesota. Last year that course was The Wilds; this year its Rush Creek, an upscale new track just opened last month in Maple Grove, in the extreme northwest corner of the metro area.
At $60 Rush Creek is in the upper echelon price range of regional public courses. The Wilds is $92, and the east metro favorite of Prestwick comes in at $30. The $60 price seems about right if you evalute the courses by quality of the layout, amenities, grass and service, which is absolutely top-notch. Though only a year old, just about every fairway and green at Rush Creek was in impeccable condition. Two or three holes on the back nine did show some of the courses immaturity, but that is to be expected on any new course.
Actually, Rush Creek isnt that new. The previous owners of the land had begun to build a course there called Whispering Pines, but ran out of money before it could open. Thankfully, one mans tragedy is anothers boon, and that is certainly the case at Rush Creek. Over the past two years Rush Creek has moved over 200,000 yards of dirt. They bulldozed the entire abortive course and reconfigured the layout according to the designs of prize-winning golf course architects John Fought and Bob Cupp who designed their first Minnesota course. The result is the finest integration of creeks and lakes that Ive ever seen. The entire layout seems very natural as it winds its way around Rush Creek and Goose and Cook lakes. Additionally, the courses owners have designed the course for golf, not for building and selling houses, and it shows.
Rush Creek might have opened late last year except for a severe August rainstorm that dumped four inches of rain in two hours, right after course management had seeded a large portion of the course. They generated some good advance publicity last October by inviting some of the local media to play the 12 holes completed at the time.
Playing from the blue tees (which most golfers should use) Rush Creek is 6259 yards. This invites a number of different ways to play many holes. If youre the kind of golfer who likes to play it safer and hit irons off the tee, that will work on many holes. However, the greens, though well manicured, are on the smaller side. Course Director of Golf Ed Money explained the logic of this layout. "The short holes are designed to hit a sand wedge into. We wanted to make you hit your driver to get close enough to hit the green on your second shot." Each hole also has a four foot stake at the 150-yard mark, and each sprinkler head is marked with distances to the front, middle and back of the green, something weve never seen before (and much appreciated).
As you work your way around the 18 holes, youre tempted to be lulled into a little complacency given the relatively short par fours (of the 10 par fours, only two are over 400 yards from the blue tees). But when you reach the 12th hole, a 165-yard par 3, the knees may begin to wobble just a bit. Its only the number 12 handicap, but dont be fooled. The hole faces west, so youll usually be playing into a stiff wind. It has water on three sides, and bunker front-right. Behind is the swamp. The next hole, number 13, is another challenge. A 314-yard par 4 (number six handi) may seem like an easy hole, but this is anything but. First, you have to carry about 150 yards of water just to reach the fairway, which is relatively narrow (although it opens up a bit), and has water on the right and woods on the left. What really makes this hole tough is the small, undulating green, with woods behind and water on the right and in front. This is just one of those holes where the designers are trying to force you to hit a driver, since the green is hard to hit and hold from long range.
Rush Creek has a good driving range (where they charge by the time not by the balls), an excellent chipping and putting green, and what is rumoured to be an excellent golf academy (local pro Tim Heron plays out of Rush Creek). The golf academy, which teaches year-round, is connected to the range, and has a state-of-the-art video system that has a camera in the floor, and a system for analysing your spine position at various points of your swing. Lessons are $70 an hour, which includes a video analysis.
Rush Creek, though only a year old, is an excellent new premium public golf course for Minnesota. Its excellent layout, good grass, excellent distance markings and blue-star service rightfully place it among Minnesotas finest public courses.
Rush Creek Golf Club
Green fee: $60 to walk; $70 with cart;
Twilight $40 four hours before sundown.