Looking down at the eighth green at The Wilds

Mr. Turney's
WILDS ride


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.

[original review]

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 anything’s 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. Pond next to the 15th green 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? It’s right there in the course guide. Tom Weiskopf’s 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. Can’t 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. A reminder along the second fairway that, in some places, the houses are too close to the course. Perfect 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 don’t 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 yours.

Every sober golf thinker knows that each course must have it’s downside. The Wilds is on the far southern end of the metro area. While truly an attractive course, it doesn’t possess the spectacular beauty of some of the northern resort courses. At about $90 per round (cart included) it certainly isn’t 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 4:30.

Anyone with advanced training in the science of golf course analysis will immediately recognize the limits of The Minnesota Golf’s perspective when addressing The Question. We haven’t played all of Minnesota’s 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 we’ve played in Minnesota so far.

The Wilds
14819 Wilds Parkway
Prior Lake, MN 55372
(612) 445-4455
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





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7028 6565 6301 5088
Rating 74.7 72.0 69.0 65.4
Slope 140 131 124 117