Published on August 9th, 2012 | by Jeff Shelman0
Northfield GC & New Richmond GC – Small Town MN Gems
I did not grow up as a country club kid. I didn’t have fancy golf instruction from an early age. While I have lived almost all of my adult life in metropolitan areas, I grew up in a town that still has fewer than 20,000 residents
From an early age, I rode my red Schwinn Traveler bike on a near-daily basis to the golf course. First it was to the local 9-holer, later I would trek to the semi-private 18-hole course on the north edge of town. Those teenage summers instilled in me the love of the game of golf as I improved as a player.
Because of that, I have something of a soft spot for small town golf courses. They aren’t always the greatest layouts. They are sometimes disjointed as nine holes were added decades after the original nine holes. They usually don’t have the same level of conditioning as big city private courses.
But they are friendly, they are casual, they are often very friendly to junior golfers and they are affordable.
Minnesota and Wisconsin are fortunate to have a number of these courses. While there are non-metro towns that have private clubs, the majority of golf clubs that are semi-private. That, of course, means that they are also semi-public.
In recent weeks, I played two of these courses that I had never played before – Northfield Golf Club and New Richmond Golf Club – and both are certainly worth the drive and worth a play.
Northfield Golf Club
When I was growing up, I knew of Northfield Golf Club in large part because of its unique par of 69. But I truly knew little more.
In the late ‘90s, the club acquired additional property on the east end of the course. Two new holes – a par 4 and a par 5 – were built, some new greens were built for original holes and a pair of par 3s were taken out of play. The result is a par 72 course that measures 6,728 yards from the back tees and 6,270 yards from the white tees.
During a recent trip to Northfield, we teed it up from the back tees and it is plenty of golf course. With four par 4s measuring longer than 425 yards and a pair of par 3s of at least 190 yards, I found myself hitting nearly every club in my bag.
But at the same time, Northfield is a course that requires golfers to control their golf ball as well if they want to score. Driver isn’t the smart play off of the tee on many holes – don’t even think about hitting it on No. 1 despite the fact that it’s a par 5 – and hitting the ball on the right part of the green is key in scoring well.
Several of the greens have significant slope and since the greens roll at a good pace, getting above the hole can lead to very fast and slippery putts. One criticism, however, is that the new greens have many severe slopes in the middle of the green and that modern construction doesn’t fit in with the rest of a golf course that was built in the 1920s.
But overall, Northfield requires a nice mix of power and accuracy and is certainly worth the drive from the Twin Cities.
New Richmond Golf Club
For me, New Richmond Golf Club is one of those places that I have heard about for several years. Several friends and colleagues had told me about the quality of the golf course and the bang for the buck.
I was recently able to make the trek to the Western Wisconsin course that is located about 15 miles east of the Stillwater lift bridge. It is very good and didn’t disappoint.
Like many small town courses in this part of the country, New Richmond started with nine holes before expanding. New Richmond, in this case, now has 27 holes as a a reversible 9-hole course was added in the late ‘90s.
At 6,726 yards from the back tees and 6,344 yards from the white tee, a golfer has to play well at New Richmond. While tree lined, the playing corridors are wide enough (something that isn’t the case at too many courses) and is very fair.
The challenge at New Richmond is making putts. The greens, which ran at a pace just slightly slower than what you can find at many private clubs, are very subtle. They are nearly all sloped in some way, but it is a challenge to figure out just how much break to play.
In addition, the golf course is laid out over a nice piece of rolling property. There are a number of holes with elevation changes, making the golfer have to really think about what club to hit. Like Northfield, driver isn’t always the play as position sometimes trumps power.
But for a Twin Cities golfer – especially one who lives in the East Metro – New Richmond is a must play. At less than $40 to walk even on a weekend, this is a tremendous value.
In addition to being good places to play, both courses – places where a membership is very reasonable – remind me of where I learned to play the game. The staffs are friendly, there seems to be some good post-round banter in the bar and they are the kind of places where a junior golfer can ride their bikes to and not be treated poorly. At New Richmond there are plaques on the wall near the men’s locker room of several New Richmond High School teams that have fared well in the Wisconsin state tournament.
Good courses, good condition, good value and a little more friendly/casual atmosphere, what’s not to like about that.
Read More from Jeff at his golf blog, OnlyGolfMatters.com