Last course Arnold Palmer designed has opening delayed in Minnesota
LAKE ELMO, Minn.—With the intention of ensuring a pristine opening for the last golf course Arnold Palmer ever designed, the introduction of Royal Golf Club at Lake Elmo has been delayed at least until September — and possibly as late as next spring.
Hollis Cavner, who heads a group that purchased the former Tartan Park site, said this winter wasn't conducive to growing the bent grass the course is using, and because of it, he won't open the 18-hole course co-designed by Palmer and Annika Sorenstam until it is ready. The course, which organizers hope will be the nicest in the East Metro, was scheduled for a midsummer opening.
"We have one chance to make a great impression, so we're going to sit on it and let it grow and grow until it's perfect," Cavner said. "We reseeded a lot of it. Right now the grass is looking great, and it's growing like crazy. But I'm just not going to open it until it's perfect."
With a bunch of big-name golfers in town for the PGA Tour Champions' 3M Championship in August, Cavner said he has received requests from former tour pros to play the course.
He'll open it, he said, to Lee Trevino and others in early August, but said he's OK if he doesn't open the course for general play until next spring if he doesn't feel it's ready in September.
"I'd be fine with that," Cavner said. "That just means it would be more mature and better when we do open it. This was Arnold's last golf course and Annika's first in the U.S. When you look at it that way, that's a big deal. So we want it to be something where people walk away from it and go that was one hell of a collaboration. I have to tell you, they did a tremendous job."
The club hopes to appeal to young families and new players with a six-hole par-3 course in addition to the championship-length 18 holes.
"It's going to be such fun," Cavner said. "We may open that for kids ahead of time. That's really for kids and young families to get people started playing golf. There's a good possibility we'll open that to the local community and to folks in the area."
3M HONORING PALMER
The 3M Championship at TPC Twin Cities will honor Palmer at this year's tournament July 31 to Aug. 6.
Palmer, who designed the Blaine course, died in September at age 87. He was a frequent visitor at the tournament and played multiple rounds there.
"He may not be here in person, but I can assure you the players and everybody else will be thinking about him," said Cavner, who runs the 3M Championship. "Our plan is to honor him this year. This is in honor of him."
While major champions Bernhard Langer, Tom Lehman and Vijay Singh already have committed to play in August's 3M Championship, Cavner expects "four or five more big names" to join the field.
Many players on the Champions Tour, he said, don't agree to play in a tournament until two weeks before it.
Cavner is hoping to get Fred Couples, Tom Watson and Steve Stricker, who is busy this summer preparing to captain the U.S. team in September's Presidents Cup.
"I'm not giving up on him, but he's busy," Cavner said of Stricker. "I do think we'll have another 15 to 20 people commit."