BEST GOLF COURSE - 2004
Minneapolis city courses
Okay, so it's not one course, it's actually five. But bear with us here. Built in the 1920s and '30s, the Minneapolis city courses boast beautiful views, challenging but fair holes lined with mature trees, and eminently walkable layouts. Yet each has its own personality, and taken as a whole they present an enduring challenge to the avid golfer. Want to tone your legs while battling burbling Bassett Creek? Traipse the hills of Wirth. Looking for a flatter, pro-style track with lots of narrow fairways? Go to Gross. Up for some high risk-high reward shots? Head to Hiawatha. Hit it long and straight? Perhaps you can tame Meadowbrook. While the city courses aren't quite the bargain they used to be, the steadily rising greens fees have been funneled back into the system to pay for substantial and much-needed improvements. Ten years ago, for example, a soaking rain could render many a hole unplayable. No more. Fairways have been raised, holes realigned, and strategically placed holding ponds have improved drainage and provided a welcome habitat for birds. More recently, Columbia and Hiawatha have added comprehensive practice facilities, and Gross is adding a driving range this spring. Minneapolis residents can buy a patron card for $60, which knocks five bucks off each round. And the powers that be finally got smart a few years back and outlawed fivesomes, which were a particularly common buzz-kill at Columbia (there's nothing like baking in the sun for five hours while the deluded hackers in front of you labor over gimmes for beer money). They also made the switch to teemaster.com's online reservation system, which has largely eliminated the cronyism that used to swallow up all the good tee times. If forced to pick a favorite, we'd have to choose Wirth. If you've never had the pleasure, sneak in a twilight nine there some warm summer night and marvel from the third-hole tee box as the setting sun washes the city skyline in a soft orange glow. Or hop on the back nine and watch for deer, foxes, woodchucks, herons, and egrets. Oh yeah...the golf's good too.