My playing partner summarized the course very succinctly: “It looks easy, but it isn’t”.
When it comes to history it’s hard to top Hazeltine. It has stood host to every important US golf tournament; US Open, PGA Championship, US Senior Open, US Women’s Open, and the US Amateur. And now it will host the Ryder Cup.
The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. and first opened for play in 1962. Host to several US Open Championships, it sometimes got criticized for being too difficult on windy days, culminating in some changes. The changes were well received, and a slew of major championships followed. The course continues to develop, now under the guidance of Robert Trent Jones’ son, Rees Jones, who has upgraded the course by adding new tees and repositioned some sand traps, all to maintain the challenging nature of the course in light of ever improving golf equipment.
The course follows Robert Trent Jones philosophy; reward brave shots well executed and punish poor ones, while always offering a safe alternative to avoid risk-taking. In other words, tempt the brave to take risks to win tournaments. Luckily, today I had no tournament to win.
Already on the first hole, you realize that this is not an easy course. Even if you make the green in regulation, you’ll be faced by a difficult putt if you’re not on the right level. This continued to be true on many holes, especially the fourth hole.
After some rest on the second hole, the third hole, a par five, had index one. Even the pros need three to reach the green, with a difficult approach to an elevated and very undulated green. One of my personal favorites on the course. At the fifth hole, bunkers are the main complication. On hole six, one of the most beautiful (especially if you live in one of the villas by the green) you get the first taste of water. And so it continues.
On the back nine, you get down to Hazeltine Lake already on the 10th, , the most scenic of all the holes, and you soon reach one of the hardest holes on the course, number twelve. With a new tee 50 yards back and a pond guarding the green, for the pros this is a real challenge.
On the 16th, you drive over Hazeltine Lake. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, if you drive too far you end up in a creek. Johnny Miller called this hole “probably the hardest par four I ever played”. But if you play from one of the more forward tees, it is doable for all players.
The course finishes as it opened, with a three-tiered green, letting the greenkeeper make the hole as difficult as the tournament demands. A great setup.
The club house has all you can wish for, and some of it you can even buy, at very reasonable prices, in the proshop. Also don’t miss all the history lining the walls on the way to the restaurant. If you have a chance, try to get up on the rooftop balcony, which offers a great view of the course, with downtown Minneapolis visible in the distance on a clear day.
So can you play Hazeltine? Not really, it is a private club. But on Mondays it is open for charity and corporate events. So if you work for the right company you may have a chance to get a tee time. If you do, you’re in for a treat.
Hazeltine National Review
Course design & layout9/10
Greens design & layout10/10
Club house and facilities9/10
Restaurant and food9/10
Value for money0/10
- Beautifully maintained
- Challenging for all handicaps
- Superb greens
- Great for spectators
- Full service clubhouse
- Near Minneapolis
- Private club, you need to be invited by a member to play