Sawmill Golf Club
by Kevin Turnquist
Everyone who has ever played golf knows full well how easily a pleasant round can turn into a living nightmare. Snap hooks, slices that cross multiple fairways, and assorted other golf demons are always out there waiting for the most painful moments to torment us. In the case of a recent trip to Sawmill Golf Club, however, it was a combination of preventable human factors that turned a lovely Saturday into a monument to human misery.
There were no obvious clues at the start of our round to warn us of what was to follow. The weather was unusually decent. The course was in the best shape of any wed played this April. The scenery was pretty and the staff were polite and friendly. The first hole was a relatively straightforward 469-yard par five and the twosome in front of us was moving along at a nice pace. The second hole, a 306-yard par four with a landing area that sloped severely to the left if you hit more than a wedge off the tee, provoked a comment about being "gimmicky" but our spirits were still high.
It was as we reached the third hole that our morale plummeted. What we had initially thought to be two adjoining tee boxes for separate holes turned out to be five groups on the same short par three. A sadistic greenskeeper had placed the pin on the side of a sharp bank so we had the pleasure of watching player after player tap putts gently to within inches of the cup, then see the ball roll off the green. Our own play did not reflect the benefit of any insights gained from observing the misfortunes of others. While feeling stupid for doing the same thing as those before us, we couldnt help but believe that this natural bottleneck on the course had been needlessly compounded by a very frivolous pin placement.
Expecting things to get better, we struggled to keep a stiff upper lip as we limped to the fourth tee. The sign on the tee informed us that this steeply rolling par four was 425 yards. The scorecard had it as 378. Neither offered any hint that a long drive down the middle of the fairway would run straight left down a cliff until it encountered either a sand trap or a pond. Few moments in golf are more frustrating than having our rare sweet shots penalized by unseen quirks of course design. Sawmill can provide far more than its share of such moments.
At $28 per round (up from only $18 a few years ago) Sawmill is not inexpensive for a public course. When green fees are in this middle price range golfers come to expect a few basics such as a manageable number of groups on the course and a ranger employed to see that everyone is moving along at a reasonable rate. Neither was in evidence at Sawmill. Its management seemed intent on squeezing every last dollar out of the course without any serious thought about the consequences.
Sawmill has the potential to be much more enjoyable than it proved to be for us. Its set on some lovely acreage to the north and west of Stillwater. The trees are mature and few homes are visible from the course. Fairways were maintained pretty well. Greens were in excellent shape for early season. The layout is challenging. All of the elements necessary for a round devoid of tooth-gnashing are in place. But even rabid golfers in search of any legitimate excuse to shirk the responsibilities of home have our limits. Five and a half hours on any golf course is just too much of a good thing if youre only playing 18 holes.
Sawmill Golf Club