Where I played: A round at Rush Creek Golf Club
Welcome to our “Where I played…” series, in which a resident GOLF staffer runs through a recent day at a course you might play in your future. On this occasion, we’ve got Rush Creek in Maple Grove, Minn.
Founded by W. Duncan MacMillan in 1996, MacMillan wanted to make Rush Creek a public course with a private-club feel. Mission accomplished. While it’s already one of the best public courses in the state, it’s often considered one of the best, if not thee best, in the Twin Cities. The entire package — the golf, the food, and the short course to boot — makes it a sublime experience. Here’s what you should know about it.
Course: Rush Creek Golf Club, Maple Grove, Minn.
My tee time: 1:30 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 18
Course type: Public
Price: $59, plus $15 for a cart under cardholder rates (non-cardholder rates run from $59-$119)
Difficulty: As the marshal warned us near the 1st tee, there’s almost always wind you have to deal with at Rush Creek. There are few large trees so it can start whipping in a hurry. The sneaky strong winds coupled with some tricky drives and deceiving approaches make Rush Creek a great test.
There’s plenty of water, too, and the greens are protected by a nice mix of fast and firm collection areas and thick rough. Luckily not everyone has to play from the back tees — a terrifying 7,290 yards — so it’s a good time regardless of your skill level. A great mix of holes from architects Bob Cupp and John Fough.
How to get there: Rush Creek is in Maple Grove, a northwest suburb of Minneapolis. It’s off County Road 101 and 20 miles from downtown Minneapolis and 32 miles from MSP Airport.
Fast facts: We named Rush Creek the eighth-best public course in the state in our latest rankings, but six of the seven we rated ahead Rush Creek are all several hours north of Minneapolis, making Rush Creek a hot commodity among city and suburb dwellers. It’s hosted three LPGA events and the 2004 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship, which was won by Ryan Moore. The lush track has bentgrass greens, tees and fairways. Besides 18 championship holes it’s also one of the few courses in the area that offers a short course, The Mac Nine, which opened in 2012.
Notable/favorite holes: The 4th is a short uphill par 4 with a mostly blind second shot that will send any ball that missed short or left tumbling down into a collection area (of course I liked this hole; it was my only birdie). … The 6th is another great short par 4 that called for a straight drive and wedge into a narrow green guarded by bunkers short and thick rough everywhere else. That gives way to the par-3 7th, which has a daunting look from the tee. Short or right is bound for sand or water, and the design teases you with plenty of bail-out room left, but that just leads to some alarmingly long putts (like what our group had). … The 9th is a par 4 with plenty of driving room off the tee into a green nestled up by the clubhouse, providing one of the best backdrops of the round. … The long par-4 14th, the No. 1 handicap hole, is my favorite. There’s lots of room off the tee but it’s important to favor the left side. A long iron for your second shot needs to clear a marsh and find a massive green that’s suited well for a fade. Make sure to snap a picture (like I did) from the fairway; the silo in the background provides a blissfully midwest touch to a great golf hole.
I loved: The aforementioned Mac Nine short course, a fun and fast way to work out your wedges, is just $199 for an adult season pass, and $125 for a junior. … Juicy apples sitting in coolers en route to the 1st tee was a nice welcoming touch. … There is no beverage cart driving down the fairways, just a couple in stationary spots you drive by a couple of times during your round. One is after the watery 13th, a short par 4 that calls for an accurate drive and even more accurate approach. I told her she picked a good spot to set up shop, since the 13th’s bound to drive many golfers mad (and thirsty). “And the next one isn’t easy either,” she said, alluding to the No. 1-handicap 14th hole. Rush Creek regulars know well — this is a good time to stock up. … Rush Creek’s Highlander Restaurant has a great menu and craft cocktails. There is a bar/restaurant inside and a huge patio overlooking the 9th green and 1st tee. It’s a great spot for an after-round bite, and it attracts more than just golfers (we met other family members after our round). I went with the cheese curd burger, because who can resist anything that looks like this?
I didn’t love: The 18th hole is a gorgeous par 5 that turns to the left between water and woods, but its length and design makes it tough for most players to try and get home in two, leading to a safe layup followed by another iron into the green. Nothing wrong with that, but I love a dramatic go-for-broke second shot on a par-5 finisher that can put an exclamation point, or a dunce hat, on your round. (Editor’s note: Everyone else loves this hole. Maybe I just need to hit the ball farther. Sigh.)
For the price and quality of golf — not to mention food and beverage options afterward — it’s hard to find a better public option around the Twin Cities. Tee it up and enjoy.