A bright spot amidst a dark spring at the Monticello Country Club

The Monticello Country Club was recently named the seventh best public course in a golf guide compiled by the Star Tribune. The guide factored in a variety of criteria, including hospitality, value and playability. (Times file photo by Clay Sawatzke)
The Monticello Country Club was recently named the seventh best public course in a golf guide compiled by the Star Tribune. The guide factored in a variety of criteria, including hospitality, value and playability. (Times file photo by Clay Sawatzke)

It’s April 25th, and the Monticello Country Club still has its lights off. With snow continuing to pile up, and temperatures going the other direction, the course is staring at its latest opening date ever. But in the midst of that darkness, a very bright light shined on the local golf course last week.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune released a golf guide, ranking 254 public courses across the state, using a variety of criteria.
The Monticello Country Club ranked No. 7.
“It was quite the honor to be put that high,” said Course General Manager and Superintendent Rick Traver.
The Star Tribune played each course last summer and scored them separately on hospitality, playability, conditions, facility and value.
With scores coming on a scale of 1-10, Monticello found themselves between 8 and 9 in every category, good for an overall score of 919, seventh amongst all public courses, right behind Oak Marsh in Oakdale and just ahead of Hidden Greens in Hastings. Rush Creek in Maple Grove was the top-ranked public course in the guide. Wild Marsh Golf Course in Buffalo ranked No. 12.
“There are a lot of really good golf courses out there,” said Traver, who admitted slight surprise at finding the Country Club so high on the list. “It speaks a lot for the staff we have here.”
Considering Monticello ranked high across the list, it’s hard to pick out just one area that catapulted them up the guide. But cost, and value, certainly didn’t hurt. The listed cost of 50 dollars to play on a Saturday or Sunday was cheaper than every course above it, and it was the third least expensive of the top 15. Traver said the course prides itself on keeping the cost down, but the quality of play up.
“We’re an affordable golf course,” he said. “But we’re still maintained on a very high level. I think that combination worked out in our favor.”
The Star Tribune picked out a few specific things from the Monticello Country Club that impressed golfers. They said the course, which measures about 6,000 yards from the middle tees, has good distance markers and a spacious driving range. They also deemed hole No. 5, a sharp dogleg par 4 involving a creek and several big trees, and hole No. 14, a beautiful par 3 with water to the left and trees to the right, as signature holes.
But it wasn’t just the greenery of the golf course that impressed at Monticello. When the Star Tribune course testers came out to the course last August, they were also impressed by the people that they interacted with. The country club scored an 8.74 in hospitality, the highest score that the course earned.
“Kristi [Dostal] is the face of the golf course,” said Traver, referencing the club pro. “She is just a phenomenal people person and a large reason that we got the rating we did.”
Dostal’s presence as the face of the course is important to Traver who wants golfers to be happy from the time they pull into the course till the time they leave. For Traver, golfing is meant to be relaxing (or as relaxing as your round allows it to be), and a country club is supposed to represent a chance to get away.
“That’s my goal, for people to just come out here and have a good time,” said Traver. “My goal is for everyone to walk off the course with a smile.”

Weather update
Before the golf guide came out last week, there hadn’t been too many smiles to be found at the country club. This never ending winter has continued to dump snow on the course, prolonging the opening by weeks at a time. This year marks Traver’s twenty fourth year at the course and before this year the latest he had ever opened was April 21. This year isn’t just breaking that record, it’s shattering it. But with the forecast finally calling for warm weather this weekend, and snow quickly dissipating, Traver expects the course to be open by Saturday.
“With any luck, we’ll be open this weekend,” said Traver on Tuesday.
One benefit the Country Club has is that due to the drought of last summer and the type of soil at the course, they have little concern about the melting snow causing lasting puddles.
“We have a really sandy soil,” said Traver. “Since it was so dry, it has sucked up about everything. Ponds are just getting back to normal height.”
Traver also said he’s a little nervous about pulling the tarps up for the first time on Friday. This lengthy winter has increased the chance for greens to catch diseases.
But for now, it’s out of his hands. And either way, Traver doesn’t see the course opening being delayed any longer. The course will be playable. Plus, golfers are too anxious, and so is he.
“I’m pretty excited,” said Traver.
He speaks for many, the Star Tribune included.
For a full list of Minnesota public golf courses, visit www.startribune.com/golfguide.

Contact Clay Sawatzke at [email protected]