The wind was kicking up and gray clouds filled the sky around 3:30 p.m. on Saturday. There were a combined 110 vehicles (my count) in the upper and overflow parking lots at Fox Hollow Golf Club in St. Michael.
As two players loaded up to leave, another pair would arrive to pull into a parking spot. There were tee times claimed until nearly 6 p.m., with the latest starters signed up for nine holes.
Play had started at 8 a.m. The temperature had crawled into the 60s by the mid-afternoon. More than 200 golfers had teed off and they still were coming. The forecasted high is only 50 on Sunday, but the tee times once again have been claimed.
“The Governor [Tim Walz] announced at 11 o’clock Friday that golf courses could open on Saturday,’’ head pro Eric Larson said. “We started taking reservations around 12:30. And within an hour, tee times were gone for the weekend.’’
There were some guidelines to dissuade mingling in the time of pandemic attached to the reservations. Please don’t show up until 20 minutes before you’re scheduled to tee off. Please leave immediately after your group has finished.
“Plus, don’t handle the flag stick, keep your distance … the basics,’’ Larson said.
Larson and another pro, Peter Hoffman, were working from a table inside the back door of the pro shop. The customers stayed outside. Larson and Hoffman were it for staff, with the bar and food area closed.
“I don’t think we need a ranger to keep people moving,’’ Hoffman said as an aside to Larson. “The groups are doing that themselves. They are finishing the front nine in two hours.’’
At that point, a foursome was headed down the first fairway: parents and two kids, maybe 11 and 13, and they were marching right along.
Fox Hollow opened in 1989, basically a clubhouse sitting by itself on that stretch of Hwy. 241, with a share of the course on the Crow River. There are more homes and other structures in the vicinity now.
The Fox was a go-to course for me for 15 years, before finding a solution to my golf woes: cut way down and then quit.
“I’ve been here 14 years, and the course is better than it’s ever been,’’ Larson said. “We hired a new course superintendent, Corey Heasler, four years ago, and he has been terrific.
“No water problems with the river this year, either, without as much snow to melt.’’
It was encouraging to see everyone smiling on a golf course Saturday – everyone being club pros, families, groups of friends, and serious golfers who had been going bonkers without a chance to get out in what’s been tolerable weather (at worst).
A pair of that type were pulling into the lot as I was leaving. They had logged in a few minutes too late on Friday and wound up with a 4:30 p.m. tee time on Saturday.
As the twosome unpacked the trunk, I suggested they were there for nine holes.
“We’ll get in 18, or close to that,’’ one said. “There’s some light until almost 8:30, and we’re going to use all of it.’’
Seven miles to the southeast, in Corcoran, the Phesant Run course also had 100 cars in the parking lot. “We started at 9 a.m. and our last tee time for nine holes is at 6:42,’’ starter Mike Bloberger said. “Same situation tomorrow.’’
Tom Wiebusch, the pro, said: “We could’ve been playing three weeks ago, with the weather, but that’s behind us. We’re back and we’re grateful to see the golfers so enthused.
“The governor made his announcement and our tee times were made available right away, and every slot we had for the weekend was gone in 20 minutes.’’