Think global, golf local?

Resolution: to really give St. Paul city courses a chance this year.

Coming from two superb municipal courses in my hometown, Janesville Riverside and the nine-holer, Blackhawk Golf Course, I have a special affinity for local courses. I want to, first and foremost, be a patron at St. Paul courses before any other. In 2009, I played Highland National probably five times; the executive course probably five times; Como three times and Phalen once. Combined, I bet I played at least a dozen 18-hole rounds in St. Paul, my hometown. Not a ton, but not too bad either considering the local options.

Overall, I wasn’t overly impressed with St. Paul golf options, save for Como. While all of the city courses were pretty well maintained (with the possible exception of the bunkers early on in the season at Phalen), I enjoyed the rolling layout of Como much more than the redesigned Highland National. I love the old-school charm of both Como and Highland’s club houses, but locally I think Keller has the mystique, better upkeep and a better design than any other public course in St. Paul.

I’m just being honest here and – again – want to give the city courses another try this year.

Booking a tee time at Highland (particularly late in the day) is a challenge to say the least. First, you must provide a lot of personal information to even get a tee time. And don’t try and book a tee time on Thursday (league) night after 3 p.m. because, well … it’s league night. To be fair, I didn’t book too far in advance most days because I didn’t always know when I’d have time to hit the links, or who could make the rounds with me.

But why not block off a certain chunk of time for younger professionals who may not be in a league? Say Wednesday mornings at 10 a.m.? A growing number of people are working from home, and could likely play (hopefully at a discounted rate) to keep the local golf zest and zeal alive. If not then, I’d like to see the city respond to these challenging economic times by making more special offers and promotions at city courses. They can be at odd times, and could attract and keep younger golfers playing city courses.

And as far as practice spaces are concerned, let us please think outside the box. Highland’s new range, while a wonderful idea, is still maturing. It is very sandy, and oftentimes packed. WHICH IS A GOOD THING. However, there aren’t a whole lot of other options available to those who want to save money by practicing with their own golf balls. This is known, again in Janesville, as a shag range.

It’s an older concept, but one that apparently doesn’t make sense to at least one government official.

Last year I wrote an e-mail to Ramsey County’s golf department asking why public use parks space couldn’t be used as practice space?

The reply:

Hi Steve and I apologize for my delay to your question (editor’s note: it took six weeks for her to write back after I initially e-mailed another director, Kevin Finley).
Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Department provides 5 driving golf ranges in our system.  Four outdoors and one indoors with the Goodrich Golf Dome.  We do not have a bring-your-own golf ball practice range with self shag opportunity.  A majority  of our active use areas within our park system are multi use areas and practice shooting would prove to be dangerous.  Sorry, but this would not be a likely use of a multi use park area. four!!!!!
Jody Yungers
Director of Park Services and Operations
Ramsey County Parks and Recreation Department
Well, she spelled fore wrong. But I’ll let it slide. I plan on following up with the City of St. Paul’s golf department as well. Staying updated on the latest developments, specials, rates, policies, you name it. Stay tuned and hit me up with any comments or suggestions.
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