ROOKLYN PARK, MN. - Here it is, a rare jewel that seemingly is extinct in the golf universe.
The Edinburgh USA Golf Club has a resume that seems too good to be true. It was designed by Robert Trent Jones II. It has hosted championship golf events, like a LPGA event for seven years. It boasts a private club with an initiation fee under $1,500. It is consistently ranked as one of the state of Minnesota"s best public courses.
What more do you want from a golf course? Oh, by the way, it"s most expensive green fee? $45.
THUD Did you just pass out?
Yes, it"s true. You can play a Trent Jones II course for under $50. Welcome to Minnesota, where there are more golfers per capita than anywhere in the nation. Statistics show 1 in every 5 Minnesotans play a round of golf every year. To appease that insatiable appetite, you know the golf around here must be good.
What"s even better, if you don"t live in Minnesota, Edinburgh is not too difficult a place to find if you"re visiting the twin cities of Minneapolis or St. Paul for business or pleasure. Edinburgh USA is about a half hour north of either downtown, just a quick jaunt up Interstate-94 to Highway 252.
Ok, so you"re still skeptical. There has to be a reason it"s so cheap, you say. Why yes, there is. The course is owned and operated by the city, under the management of its Parks and Recreation Department. City officials have an obligation to keep its recreation options affordable for the masses. This fact makes Edinburgh, along with Torrey Pines Golf Club, which hosts the Buick Invitational in La Jolla, Calif., as two of the best municipal courses in the country.
While you can"t confuse Edinburgh with Torrey Pines, which features 36 holes of ocean views to die for, you can see that Edinburgh, which was dedicated in 1987, is still an excellent challenge with top-flight conditions.
"It"s just a great course," said Giles Patnode, who lives off one of the fairways. "It"s a course that you can easily walk. The water and sand traps add to the course, even though you get disgusted when you"re in them."
Edinburgh, a Scottish links remake, will never host a PGA Tour event, because it"s a short 6,729 yards from the tips, but it still plays to a rugged slope of 141. The length makes it ideal for amateur events, like the 1992 U.S.G.A Public Links Championship. It hosted the Minnesota LPGA Classic from 1990-96.
"It"s a tough course. It"s going to get you sooner or later," Patnode said.
Don"t they all?
Every fairway at Edinburgh is lined with thick rough and mounding, which never allow a flat lie. The layout flows eloquently through a pricey neighborhood of homes and condos. Sixty-five bunkers and 12 aces of water only add to the fun. Water comes into play on nine holes, including six on the front.
The greens are monsters, undulating and with subtle breaks that are hard to decipher. Most are big, inviting three putts at any turn.
As with any Jones course, Edinburgh has some unique features that make it a "Must-Play" for the avid player. Jones incorporated a 40,000-square foot triple green, a peninsula green and one of the world"s few island fairways.
Jones describes his creation this way in the course"s yardage guide: "The carefully placed hazards and folding contours throughout, facilitate shot-making that has been calculated, visualized, then implemented. The bold player will be rewarded by taking risks, but finesse and a good short game will often work to one"s advantage."
The front nine is unique in several ways. It opens and closes with two 500-yard-plus par-fives. Add in another par-5 and three par-3s, ranging from 165 to 195 yards, and the course plays to an even par-36. The course features a wonderful mix of holes, from the short 335-yard fifth hole to the long 440-yard seventh.
The tee shot from the 514-yard fourth is scary with water on each side of the landing area. The short fifth has water along the right side with four bunkers splashed in the middle of the fairway, forcing players to lay up with a 180-yard shot or blast a 220-yard carry over the biggest one.
The back nine heads into the woods, which provides a more traditional Minnesota feel. Another short hole, the 335-yard 10th, could give up a birdie if you avoid seven bunkers.
The 17th, a 394-yard par-4, is truly a signature hole. The fairway is a skinny island of grass surrounded by water. Don"t celebrate if you hit the fairway either because that"s only half the battle. The peninsula green looks tiny compared to the water on three sides and the three bunkers.
No. 18, a brutal 394-yard par-4, shares the triple green with No. 9, a 520-yard par-5, and the practice putting green. Huge dips divide several sections of the green, creating some impossible putts if you"re in them.
After the round, the facilities at the club are outstanding. The fortress-like, brick clubhouse is home to private locker rooms for the members of the Saint Andrews Club, and the MacTavish Grill and Pub, which can serve up some Scottish specialties.
The pro shop has been named as one of "America"s best golf shops" by Golf Digest and the conference/ banquet center boasts 10,000 square feet of space for weddings, outings, corporate events and business meetings. A driving range, private and group lessons and club storage and rental are also available.
Edinburgh USA Golf Club
8700 Edinbrook Crossing
Brooklyn Park, MN 55443
Statistics from the tips: Yardage: 6,729. Rating: 73.1. Slope: 141. Par: 72
Year opened: Ground-breaking: Oct. 21, 1984; Dedicated: June 14, 1987
Course designer: Robert Trent Jones II
Tournaments hosted: The Minnesota LPGA Classic from 1990-96 and the 1992 U.S.G.A. Public Links Championship
Best Hole: No. 17, a 394-yard par-4 from the tips, is one of the world"s few holes with an island fairway that leads to a peninsula green.
Rankings: The course ranks as the sixth-best public course in the state, and 18th overall, in Golf Digest"s 2001 ratings.
Awards: Gold Digest ranks it as one of "America"s Top 75 Affordable Courses."
Green Fees (2001 rates): For public players, the cheapest rate for 18 holes is $29 for juniors and seniors Monday through Thursday. The most expensive is $45 for non-city residents on Friday through Sunday. To join the private Saint Andrews Club, the initiation fee can range from $350 (for an individual under 30) to $1,125 (for a non-resident family). Annual dues can range from $350 to $1,050 a month.
Did You Know: It is owned and operated by the City of Brooklyn Park, under the management of the Parks and Recreation Department.