REVIEW: Royal Club Golf Course, Lake Elmo, MN

The King and Queen Produce a Crown Jewel
If you take some of the most beautiful land just outside of the Twin Cities and let Arnold Palmer and Annika Sorenstam put their touch on a failing golf course, you end up with a crown jewel of the area.  The former 3M owned Tartan Park golf course has become the Royal Club Golf Course.  They took 27 nice holes and turned it into 18 great golf holes.  The recent changes to layout, conditions and club house make this on of the top course in the Twin Cities, MN.
1. “Redesign/Rerouting”
The old Tartan Golf Course owned by 3M had 27 holes.  Blue, White and Red were the names of the 9s.  The 27 holes layout was nice and allowed for multiple options for getting more golfers on the course, but this also meant it had a couple of “blah” holes.  The new routing/redesign uses most of the white 9 holes (Queen’s 9), and 4 from the Blue,  2 from the Red and 3 new holes (King’s 9).  Anyone that had golfed there in the past will still recognize the course, but will certainly enjoy the new layout.  It is now a much better routing and takes advantage of most of the best features of the land.

2. King’s 9
As mentioned above, the King, Arnold Palmer,  revamped the back 9 of the new Royal Club by making 4 holes on the former Blue land, 2 from the Red and then adding 3 newly designed holes on the land of the Red course.  This was his last project before he passed away.  He was very familiar with the old Tartan course as it was where they would play prior to the 3M tournament at TPC.  The new routing, new holes and combination makes for a much better 9.  It takes in the lake views, and ends with an awesome finishing hole.  He has a signature short par 3, a tough drivable par 4 and great views looking from green to tee.

3. Queen’s 9
Annika Sorenstam reworked the front 9 or the Queen’s 9.  It doesn’t have as many dramatic changes to the old White 9.  The big changes come in holes 2-4.   Hole 2 became a par 5, the old hole 3 was eliminated, Hole 3 is not the former hole 4, but instead of an awkward par 5, it is now a drivable par 4.  Then she took the old green and made it par 3.  I like this routing much better.  The other changes to the White are mostly in the green complexes as they’ve been expanded and made more undulated.

4. Arnold Palmer’s Last Hole Design
The story goes that Arnold Palmer had designed a new hole 12 for the course.  Once it was built, he was on site checking out the progress and decided that he didn’t like it so shortly before his death, he redesigned his final golf hole, the new 12.  I can see why, the new one is much better and now has so many options for playing the hole differently depending on the set-up.

5. Remodeled Club House
The old Tartan Club House was one of the worst in the area.  It was this large massive building with a wonky design that felt like it wasn’t meant to be part of a golf course.  Finding your way to the pro shop always felt weird and out of place.  Now it is bright, modern and has a clear and easy to find pro shop.  The new club house takes in many of the great views and looks like a high-end course.  The new pro shop also has gear that matches the course.  Before it felt like a Kmart, now it feels like a real pro-shop.

6. New Greens
This will be where the golfer really notices the changes.  Many former greens have been expanded and the new greens built are large too.  Along with the increased size of the greens, they have also changed the contours of  numerous greens too.  There is more undulation now in just about every green.  Since they weren’t played on for almost 2 years, they also are about a pure and true as can be at this time.

7. New Turf
The entire course got bent grass fairways which also make a big difference while playing.  Fairways are rewarded with clean tight lies.  The ball sits up nicely and allows you to take a nice size divot at impact with the ball.  It looks, feels and plays like a high end course now. 

8. Better Views
In general they opened up the sight lines all around the course to take in more of the natural beauty of this land.  The really great views come all along the lake near the club house and the holes that border it.  These are great improvements to the property and the playing experience.

9. Upscale Experience
Tartan kind of felt like a muni in the past; nothing felt upscale, nice or modern.  The Royal Club now rivals some of the other upscale courses in the Twin Cities, MN.  The food has been upgrades, the carts have been upgraded, the staff has been upgraded, the attitude has been upgrades, just about everything from the time you arrive until the time you leave has been upgraded.