by Kevin Turnquist
A lot has changed at this golf course since we reviewed it in 1996. Back then it was widely regarded as the finest public course in the metro area, if not the state. The Pines ranked as the best new northern course. A trip to the Wilds used to be notable for the staff working to replace metal spikes with the newfangled plastics. This was the first course we encountered that was soft spikes only. The clubhouse was basically just a double wide trailer. Most of the holes ran through undeveloped Prior Lake woodlands. Carts carried fancy gadgets that allowed you to sight on the flagstick to get precise yardage.
The Wilds now boasts a beautiful new clubhouse suitable for weddings and conferences. Carts are back to normal. Half-million dollar homes now line most of the fairways. Hundreds of mature trees were knocked down in the storms of "98". Rumors of financial setbacks have passed. And try to think of a course-just a few years after the Wilds' groundbreaking policy-that even allows metal spikes anymore.
Fortunately some things have resisted the inevitable force of change. The golf course itself is almost exactly the same as when it opened. The Tom Weiskopf designed layout has easily stood the test of time. Each hole has maintained it's individual character and the four sets of tee boxes allow for as much difficulty as you choose to take on. The maintenance of the bent grass tees, fairways, and greens remains first rate. While a number of impressive premium courses have opened in the past few years, the Wilds still deserves a place in the Upper Tier of Minnesota's public golf courses.
by Kevin Turnquist
Upon completing a round at The Wilds the
serious golf metaphysician is immediately confronted with The Question: Is this the finest
public golf course in Minnesota? The answer to this imponderable will depend largely on
the analytical model used to address it.
Current business theory is big on numbers. In our quality driven,
outcome based administrative world anythings value is thought to be capturable with
a number or series of numbers. Using this approach The Wilds can be rated along a series
of parameters, then compared to other courses rated along the same lines. Even with this
tight-cheeked mode of analysis The Wilds fares pretty well. Course layout would get a
"10" on a conventional 1-10 scale. So would course maintenance, turf condition,
fairways, tees, and greens. Soon, however, more peripheral factors such as clubhouse,
natural beauty of the course and cost enter the equation and The Wilds no longer receives
the highest number in Minnesota.
At Minnesota Golf we have long preferred a more
Einsteinian approach to the quantification of Quality. First a thought experiment is
constructed. We imagine that we are permitted to play any course in the state on the
finest day of the summer without consideration of mundane factors such as cost, travel
time, or proximity to dangerous casinos. Where do we end up playing in our universe of
imagination? The Wilds. For this to happen we postulate that there is something about this
golf course that cannot be captured in numbers.
Attitude is a good place to start. At The Wilds you leave feeling that
someone has finally recognized you for "The Prince Among Men" that you have
always secretly believed yourself to be. No crass toadyism or snooty manners here. Just
relaxed, easy-going banter with knowledgeable golf guys who seem genuinely happy to see
you. The fact that your every need is anticipated and provided for is just assumed. Need
tees, ball markers, or range balls? Provided. Wonder how long your drive must carry to
clear a trap from the green tees? Its right there in the course guide. Tom
Weiskopfs tips for playing each hole are there too. Need to wash your wedge after
the 18 inch pelt you just took out of the gorgeous, manicured fairway? The iron washer is
on the cart right next to the ballwasher. Cant tell if the pin is up or back? The
pin placements are diagrammed on the chart hanging from the roof of the cart.
All of the amenities that you truly deserve are here. While The Course
is only in its second year of operation you would never guess this to be true.
tees, great fairways, sparkling white sand and mature trees are the rule. The big,
undulating greens are in impeccable condition thanks to the "rubber spikes only"
policy. If you dont have rubber spikes, of course they will be provided or you can
use a pair with them pre-installed (both at a nominal charge). The six sets of tees per
hole allow you to tailor the course to your game - or at least the game you think is
Every sober golf thinker knows that each course must have its
downside. The Wilds is on the far southern end of the metro area. While truly an
attractive course, it doesnt possess the spectacular beauty of some of the northern
resort courses. At about $90 per round (cart included) it certainly isnt cheap. The
cost can be decreased via special deals though. Four can play for the price of three or
eight for the price of five after noon on weekends. Weekday twilight rate is $53.25 after
Anyone with advanced training in the science of golf course analysis
will immediately recognize the limits of The Minnesota Golfs perspective when
addressing The Question. We havent played all of Minnesotas public courses
yet. Until we remedy that situation the best answer we can provide is to say that The
Wilds is the finest public course weve played in Minnesota so far.
14819 Wilds Parkway
Prior Lake, MN 55372
Location: Prior Lake
Drive from Twin Cities: About 35-40 minutes
Difficulty: Moderately to extremely difficult, depending on tees
Green Fee: $92,inluding tax and cart