At GOLF.com, our hobby is also our job. This means that, just like you, we spend a large part of the year playing high, rocking hard and trying to avoid double bogeys. But some courses we come across are just more memorable than others. Here is, in a breakdown of the favorite public courses our staff have played over the past 12 months, those spots.
The entire left side of the 1st par 4 hole of the Keller golf course is lined with a large net, ensuring that the balls from the driving range (and from the 1st tee) do not go too far astray. Real golfers know this is important. A massive net or fence separating one part of the property from another is a strong indication of a good municipal golf course.
Keller, a historic golf course in Maplewood, Minn., On the outskirts of St. Paul was not the better course I played in 2021 (although it wasn’t far). But a few big private clubs don’t let me in when I want, and I’ve only played 12 holes at the venerable Pinehurst No.2. So that brings me to Keller – my favorite course I stumbled upon in 2021, and which I want to tell you about. He ticks all the boxes. Now let’s count the paths.
It is a municipal course. There is something endearing about it.
He has history. To save money, Keller was designed by Ramsey County Chief Engineer Paul Coates, who reportedly did his own research in the east and was a big fan of Donald Ross. Keller opened in 1929 and, according to the club’s tradition, it was even a place where gangsters sometimes occupied it in the 1930s. The most famous story concerns John Dillinger, whose legend has it that he was playing Keller when news broke that the FBI was on their way to him. He dropped his sticks, ran, jumped on a nearby train, and fled.
It has hosted the best golfers in the world. The St. Paul Open at Keller was a stage of the PGA Tour from 1930 to 1968, and guys like Sam Snead, Horton Smith, Ken Venturi and Ray Floyd all won it. Snead even won a Western Open there. Keller also hosted two PGA Championships, in 1932 and 1954. The St. Paul Open was also one of the first events on the Tour to allow black players. After the start of the Tour, the LPGA Patty Berg Classic was held from 1973 to 1980. Berg, a Minnesotan and one of the greatest players of all time, hosted the tournament. The club’s historic past – minus Dillinger hopping on a train – is wonderfully on display in its clubhouse.
He’s got the perfect amount of quirk provided. Two huge trees come into play on par 3 4 and par 17. The oak on 4 is directly in front of the green, but you can’t go long either – the cart path spins around the back of the green, and with a little fringe at the back, a long miss is ricocheted in. the wooded abyss. (The miss is right, folks.) The shaft of the 4th hole, which was not always the 4th hole, has been there since the opening of the course. You love him or you hate him. I love it. Gene Sarazen? Maybe not so much. Word is he made a big number on the hole, retired and never returned to the St. Paul Open.
This is the old school. When it’s your party’s turn to tee off, a professional store attendant announces it over the crackling old-fashioned sound system. This also falls under the category of the wonderful provided oddities.
It is practicable. Walking 18 holes is good for the soul.
It is in exceptional shape. Paul Diegnau has been the longtime superintendent, and Paul and his team deserve a ton of credit. The course is still a little fresh after a massive $ 12 million renovation by Richard Mandell that lasted almost two years and was completed in 2014. It’s almost unfair to downplay such a painstaking project to a sentence or two, but with apologies to everyone, this is what we’re gonna do here: New tees, greens and bunkers have been built, a new drainage system has been installed and the fairways have been re-grassed. A new clubhouse and pro shop have been built for good measure. The course itself is packaged in a country club at a municipal price. Oh! This brings me to my next point. Dough.
It’s affordable. You can run 18 holes for $ 47 and a cart costs $ 17 more.
He’s got a big land, man. Keller is a park course with lots of trees, but this is one of those park courses where it isn’t as intimidating as it looks. Around 500 trees were felled during the renovation and around 180 were replanted. The trees will frame the holes for the starting boxes but, for the most part, will not completely suffocate you when you are among them. We like it. The land itself is magnificent. There are big changes in movement and elevation, especially as you get closer to the greens.
It has the perfect mix of golf holes. Keller, from the points, is just under 6,700 yards, but the blue tees at 6,200 offer a good compromise. Consecutive good moves can be rewarded with attainable par 5s. There is mystery with a handful of blind shots. And of course, a touch of specialness with the aforementioned towering oaks. There is a lot to like.
It’s difficult but playable. It’s in that perfect spot on a golf course – tough enough to test yourself, but not so much that a bad part will make you want to quit the game or never come back. We’ll just call it (at least those who don’t care about those fairway oaks will just call it). There is water and bunkers around the greens, but for the most part, a miss will be penalized with a delicate chip from an area of runoff or thick rough.
Nothing beats a good 19th hole. Discover the Keller grid. The bar / restaurant is located inside the new clubhouse and offers a wide selection of food and drinks after the round. No great golf experience is complete without a refreshing debriefing after the round at the bar or on the terrace. This is what makes Keller my new favorite class from 2021. He hasn’t just done a few good things. He did everything right. See you in 2022, mate.