This municipal offering near Minneapolis didn’t really need to add “USA”; the extremely heroic nature of the double-forced-carry par four at No. 17 makes the parkland nature of the course immediately evident. That said, Robert Trent Jones II and the founders at Edinburgh USA Golf Course took steps to bring linksland-qualities to Minnesota. The most obvious is the dramatic green shared by the final holes on the front and back nines.
The first is a reachable par five, featuring numerous centreline bunkers to dissuade you from trying; the green is wide to offer a number of pin locations and changes of strategy from day-to-day. The No. 18 hole is a par four, but the length of your approach will shift dramatically based on whether the pin is set at the front or the back of this green, which is even longer than the other half is wide.
Trent Jones returned during 2014 to renovate and restore the club’s sizable collection of bunkers (both “a big collection of bunkers” and “big bunkers”), many of which sit in front of the green, preventing a run-up. That’s certainly different than what you would find at the links near Edinburgh in Scotland but, again, this is Edinburgh USA.
The interesting part about golf in Minnesota rests with a golf citizenry fully involved with the sport. Although the season is short the percentage of golfers from among the total population of the State is the highest of any in the USA.
The diversity of the golf is also at a high level -- specifically when realizing the roots of the property is a municipally-owned layout.
For some odd reason I can't explain why Edinburgh USA doesn't get more attention.
The RTJ, Jr. layout is superbly routed because of a tough land site. In addition, the course has hosted to a range of events over the years and has shown itself quite well. The recent updating has also been a real plus.
To the architect's considerable credit, the routing navigates around housing and the golf experience is not compromised.
Water penalty areas have to be accounted for when playing but the architect smartly provides different options for different skill levels. The key when playing is realizing the famed movie admonition from Clint Eastwood of "Dirty Harry" fame -- 'a man's got to know his limitations."
Edinburgh USA also has 70 bunkers -- well-placed and needing to be accounted for when playing.
You see this early on at the brilliant par-4 3rd. The landing area pinched -- water penalty area on the right and bunkers hugging tightly to the left. The approach is also tested thoroughly. And RTJ, Jr. added an array of engaging greens that mandate careful attention.
The par-5 4th that follows is also testing and fun. Here the drive must account for a tapered fairway -- the longer you opt to go the more precise the execution must be. Strong players who achieve the optimum tee shot can go for the green but there's no automatic birdie if you fail to hit the correct shot.
The rest of the outward side continues the momentum and finishes with a fine par-5.
The inward side is even better. The routing moves in different directions throughout and the test is balanced with shotmaking challenges that mandate length and married to accuracy. One without the other is not a winning strategy.
The closing stretch ends on a high note with the penultimate hole -- a 397-yard par-4 -- flanked by water on the tee shot and then providing for a green fronted by the same penalty area with an array of bunkers waiting for the slightest pulled / pushed approach.
The ending par-4 18th at 454 turns left in the drive zone and features a shared green with the 9th. The range of pin locations is numerous and being able to gauge matters with clear purpose can be difficult.
Often times, when one encounters a course with five par-5 and five par-3 holes - the wherewithal for diverse holes at a high level can prove daunting. That's not the case here. Candidly, if the facility wanted to reduce par of two of the five par holes and play the course as a par-70 that's clearly an option.
Turf conditions have always been very good on the various visits I've made over the years. Those in the greater Minneapolis area should certainly see for themselves. I know the name may be off-putting for some, but credit RTJ, Jr., his team and the facility's management for a layout that stirs the blood at various moments and instills a clear desire to do it again once the round concludes. That's the clear mark of a course of distinction.
M. James Ward