After six rounds of early season golf, playing on roughed up municipal fairways and heinously winterkilled greens, we decided to make our annual pilgrimage to the southern Shakopee area for some more summer-like course conditions. Not at the $90 course. This was the almost-as-nice-but-even-more-difficult one: Stonebrooke Golf Club.
Stonebrooke has been around since 1989 and has a devoted following. For some reason - perhaps its location, maybe its more famous neighbor - a lot of golfers havent heard much about it though. Or theyve heard about the pontoon ride on the eighth hole and cant remember anything else. But this course is loaded with interesting holes and is a genuine challenge, even from the white tees.
The layout meanders about through lakes, wetlands, rolling hills and small residential pockets. Our usually deadly accurate foursome lost at least a dozen balls, hit a house, and had a near miss with a boatload of fisherman who seemed to be rushing the bass season. No cocktails were involved. This is just a tough course.
Stonebrooke directly confronts the ego with four holes that require long carries over water right from the tee and no easy layup opportunities. The most famous of these is certainly Eight. It demands 208 yards just to get over the lake to the fairway. From the drop area (where we always end up playing from despite "visualizing" a successful drive on this hole all the way to Shakopee) its still about 150 yards straight uphill to a tree-protected green. An all too common three putt on the big sloping putting surface puts the snowman in easy reach of almost everyone. The seventh hole now calls for a touchy 125-yard carry, often into the wind, to a narrow peninsular green. Five and twelve also require long drives over water. Another ten holes have water hazards that can come into play. Throw in several more holes where errant shots readily wind up on the wrong side of the white stakes and the mid-eighties shooter can find himself flirting with triple figures.
Most courses that are this hard for the average golfer to score on leave us feeling angry and exploited, but Stonebrooke is different. The challenges are usually right out there in plain sight. You either make the shot or you dont. Good shots, particularly long accurate drives, are well rewarded. The course is very well signed. On countless occasions we found ourselves wondering how long a shot to a trap or landing area was, only to look down and see a distance marker with exactly what we wanted. Greens held approach shots well, especially for early May.
We must confess that the conditions at Stonebrooke made objectivity difficult. For the first time this season we got a real taste of summer golf conditions. Fairways were already green and in good shape. Greens were well-tended with almost no brown spots. This is not to say that they didnt offer up some pretty scary rolling putts. The par three eleventh is notable for about a six-foot cliff dividing its upper and lower levels. This is also the hole where the tee shots go directly through a series of high-tension power lines. Not being entirely sure what the rule book says about this condition, we always play that a shot off the lines can be replayed at the hitters discretion but its surprising how infrequently this actually occurs.
Service at this course rivals that at the trendier track to the east. One can routinely play a round here without ever lifting your bag. The clubs will be clean when the kids put them back in the car. Tap Summit Pale Ales at excellent prices, along with both golf and basketball on the TVs, made it hard to break away from the clubhouse for the long drive home.
It is getting hard to put green fees at public courses into any sort of perspective. Travelers return from courses in Arizona, Nevada, or Florida with tales of $120 rounds. Many of Minnesotas finer courses have now crept up into the $45 per round range or beyond. At $35 for a weekend round it would be hard to call Stonebrooke a bargain, but at least it leaves you feeling like you got a good value for your golfing dollar. Just forget to figure in the cost of all that lost ammo.
Stonebrooke Golf Club