DOWN by the River

River Oaks in Cottage Grove
Down by the River

by Rob Levine

Being a golf course reviewer for an important sports newspaper is no easy job. We’re 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 we’re 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 that’s exactly what it does. Playing at 6018 yards from the white tees, it’s 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).

That’s 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 there’s a chance of losing balls in the woods on many others. It’s 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 we’ve been harping about the terrible winter kill we’ve 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.

It’s nice to know that there’s people/communities out there building golf courses for the average golfer. In that spirit, River Oaks is just what the doctor ordered. It’s a well-kept, well-designed track that suits the playing needs of almost all golfers, from beginners to mid- and low-handicappers.

Highly recommended

Course notes
River Oaks also has a large driving range, putting green, and a well-appointed clubhouse. To get to River Oaks, go east on Hwy 94 to Hwy 61; take 61 south about six miles; you’ll see River Oaks on the right side of the highway.

River Oaks Golf Course
Along highway 61
Cottage Grove, MN
Difficulty: Moderate

  Blue White Red


6433 6018 5224
Rating 71.4 69.5 70.5
Slope 131 127 128