Course: Edina Country Club
Location: Edina, Minn.
Course stats: Back tees — 6,696, par 72
Overview: As I’ve blogged about a bunch over this season, Edina Country Club is one of two clubs — joining Hazeltine National — that reopened after significant renovations. The work at Edina was done by Tom Lehman’s group. The golf course was designed by Tom Bendelow in the 1930s, but has been known more over the past 15-20 years as a club that performed several failed renovations. Edina is one of the few golf clubs in the Twin Cities that has been more successful as a country club than as a golf club. It is a neighborhood club and nearly all of the members live within 10-15 minutes of the club. The times I’ve been there, there has always been a lot of pool activity, a lot of people dining and a full parking lot.
Thoughts: I was very interested in seeing Edina when it reopened. It was pretty high on my 2011 bucket list and I’m glad I was able to get this done. It was going to happen earlier, but we got rained out once.
The old Edina was not anything that was all that special. It certainly wasn’t a bad golf course, but if you got an invite, it wasn’t the kind of place where you did everything in your power to clear your schedule if you got an invite. It was more like you’d go play there if you could make it work or if you had time or hadn’t played in a little bit or the weather was supposed to be wonderful. And if the guy inviting you was kind of a jerk, you might actually choose work over spending four-plus hours with him. If the weather was bad, forget about it.
When I went out there in August with a regular blog reader, I had high hopes. I had seen video of Lehman’s presentation to the Edina membership about his plans. I had talked to a couple people (both neutral observers and more biased parties) and had heard good thing.
But the best thing I heard about the renovation came when we were walking down the first fairway late on that Friday afternoon. My friend Pat asked one of the members we played with what he thought of the changes and he said, “it’s great, the golf course is way more fun than before.”
To me, that is really my biggest takeaway. Edina Country Club is way more fun than before. It is more interesting in all kinds of ways. It makes you think. It doesn’t let you go through the motions. And it is pretty fair. What more can you ask for?
If you have played there before, the routing is essentially the same as before. There are slight changes in terms of angles into greens, there are two holes that are dramatically different, but pretty much all of the corridors are the same. For the most part, the front nine is still on the inside of the property and the back nine is on the perimeter (the holes you can see from Hwy. 100).
The biggest changes are on Nos. 9 and 18. Previously the ninth hole ran from west to east and the green was located just to the south of the pro shop. The 18th hole ran at a 90 degree angle to 9 from south to north. The 18th green stopped short of the 9th green. If you were walking off of 18, you had to pretty much walk past the No. 9 green to get back to the clubhouse.
That’s no longer the case. No. 9 has now been shortened and is only 322 yards from the back tee. No. 18 has now been extended to a very beefy 469 yards. The new 18th green is essentially where the old No. 9 green stood. The new No. 9 might be the coolest hole on the course now. The green complex is a little bit elevated and the green is as wild as any on the golf course. It features a dramatic drop off off the back of the green, especially on the right side. I hit driver on the hole and had kind of a half wedge into the green. I thought the shot was interesting and that was before I saw the drop off behind the green. If you don’t concentrate or if you hit a bad shot, it’s really easy to knock something over the back and you can quickly bring double bogey into the equation. It is a hole that makes you think and really forces you to to be precise. It isn’t a hole where you stand on the tee and say, ‘Oh, 322 yards, this is easy.” There will be birdies made there, but it isn’t a pushover.
No. 18 is now a monster. I hit driver and a 4 wood just short, but I smoked two shots. It’s a hole that immediately reminded me of No. 18 at Minneapolis. This one has a little more downhill off of the tee, but the idea of having to hit an uphill fairway wood was very similar.
On the rest of the golf course, I think the changes have been good. Many of them are subtle. But you have to think a lot more for two reasons. First, there are many more cross bunkers for players to work around. Cross bunkers are bunkers that jut many yards into the fairway. On many courses, fairway bunkers are on the sides of the fairway and are much longer than they are wide (from the perspective of the golfer on the tee). These bunkers have much more width. Golfers have to decide which bunkers they might want to try to carry and they have to decide which ones to hit to the side. You might be able to draw or cut it around some of them. Basically, there are a lot of options.
One interesting feature of the course is that there were several places where the fairway runs directly into a fairway bunker without a single blade of rough in between. So don’t be surprised if you have a ball bounce or roll into a fairway bunker. And when you are in there, you have work to do. Many of the fairway bunkers have significant lips and you might not be able to take enough club to reach the green.
Most of the green complexes are much more interesting. The previous green complexes pretty much had bunkers front right and front left and it was difficult to run the ball onto greens. There are now very few holes where a golfer can’t roll it onto the green. The trouble is largely on the sides and over the back. The bunkers were fair and were of varying depth. Some weren’t that difficult, others were very deep — think Golden Valley deep — and required a really good shot to escape.
The scariest greens where golfers had to make the most precise shots came on the shortest holes and on the par 5s. If you had a short iron in your hand — making the shot easier — there is more of a demand put on the player to hit a good shot. The longer holes had far less trouble around the greens. If you play the right tees and hit a decent tee ball, you were left with a second shot that required distance or accuracy, but usually not both. You didn’t have a hybrid into a hole to a super protected green. Nor did you have a 9-iron or a wedge into a wide open green. To me, that makes things way more fun. You have a legit chance to make par or an easy bogey on the hard holes, but the easy holes aren’t super easy. You can quickly turn one loose swing into a bogey.
If you miss a green, you have options. Many of them have short, fairway length grass around the greens. Others have rough. This is not a course where if you miss the green, you immediately grab sand wedge. There are a number of options. You might want to hit sand wedge, you might want to bump and run an 8-iron or you might be able to putt from some spots. It’s interesting.
Now I’m going to talk trees. I thought Lehman’s group did a nice job here. There was a nice number removed. If you are in the fairway, you don’t have to worry about trees — a change from some holes before where you could be in the fairway and be kind of blocked out. If you hit it offline, there was a punishment, but you weren’t dead. My personal taste is that trees should be a half shot penalty. Unless you hit it way off the planet, you should have the opportunity to advance the ball forward even if you hit it in the trees. I hate when you have to punch out because the trees are just too thick (I played a course like that today).
Summary: Edina is much improved. It will be even better when the greens soften a little bit in time. It is worth your time. Is it worth really calling in a bunch of favors to get out there? Probably not. But you don’t have to call in sick or make up an excuse to not play if you get an invite. It is pretty darn good. I don’t think it is at the same level of the elite clubs in the Twin Cities. But it is in the next group. Part of what makes it interesting is that the modernized classic look is very different than anything else that is out there. I mean that in a good way. It’s a unique course that is a nice combo of classic architecture along with some modern green complexes.
The golf course is very fun and a huge improvement.