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Imagine a pristine, high-end golf club open to the public, replete with a friendly yet challenging course designed by golf royalty Arnold Palmer and Annika Sörenstam, breathtaking St. Croix River Valley scenery, and a par-3 short course where kids play for free.

The paradise you’re picturing is precisely what Palmer and Royal Club principal partner Hollis Cavner envisioned in 2016 when they learned that the private Tartan Park Golf Course, then available exclusively to 3M employees, was up for sale. “Arnold and I had always talked about redoing the 27-hole course,” explains Cavner. When they joined forces with 72-time LPGA Tour winner Annika Sörenstam, the golf powerhouses assembled a winning bid for the 480 acres of rolling landscape. From blueprint to reality, their plan for their dream residential golf community was unwavering: “We never wanted to make it a private club,” Cavner adds. “It was always about the public.”

Photography by David Parker

Today, the Royal Club is a public course with all the perks and none of the pretension of a country club, especially when it comes to family access. Unlike private clubs that only allow junior play during off-peak hours, the Royal Club features a six-hole par-3 course that’s free to play for any golfer under the age of 18.

As for young players playing the short course, Sörenstam explains, “If a player doesn’t have their own clubs, we lend them a set with balls so that playing here is completely accessible.” Offering completely free play is almost unheard of in the sport of golf — and for good reason, Cavner says: “Financially, it doesn’t make sense, but it was important to us. Similarly, when we designed the course, we placed the kids’ course on the most beautiful part of the property because it was the most accessible for parents doing drop-offs.” This radical support for junior golfers, even when it isn’t obviously profitable, was a priority for all three founders with the goal of giving back to the sport.

The reasonably priced adult course, meanwhile, is designed to accommodate all generations and skill levels. Sörenstam designed the front “Queen’s Nine” and Palmer the back “King’s Nine.” “This was not about making a championship course with holes that are super long, difficult and unfriendly,” she notes. So that beginners could feel equally at home as pros, the course features five tee boxes and a variety of holes not only “where you can hit every club in the bag” but where the green is visible from the tee box to comfort amateurs uneasy about hitting into the ether.

Surrounding the course is a 291-home community connected by a resort-style network of trails and golf cart paths. Buyers can choose between golf villas abutting the course and custom family homes lining the outer perimeter. Both can be customized down to the most minute detail, explains Mike Hartman of Hartman Homes, one of the builders responsible for custom family homes. “From modern to farmhouse to Prairie style, there’s no limit to what our design and architecture team can create,” he says. What the homes have in common, of course, are stunning environs: “Each one of these houses has windows designed to maximize every inch of view,” Hartman adds.

Len Pratt of Pratt Homes notes that when it comes to golf villas, his firm’s expertise makes homebuilding and design simple: “We have an easy-to-navigate process that minimizes hassle and gives you peace of mind.”

The club is clearly heaven on earth for golfers, but Sörenstam assures that duffers and non-players will be just as delighted by the expansive natural scenery, recreational spaces and friendly residents. Plus there’s even a newly remodeled 300-person ballroom overlooking Horseshoe Lake — the perfect venue for weddings and other special events. “It’s so reasonably priced; the food at Arnie’s restaurant is excellent; and it’s a no-pressure environment,” she emphasizes. “The club is just a fun place for anyone who wants to come.” 

Read this article as it appears in the magazine.

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