In the past year many families have joined Medina Golf & Country Club (MGCC) either as social (sport) members to enjoy the offerings like the pool and award winning dining or as full golf members to hit the links while most other activities were more or less shut down due to Covid-19. It was a great reason to join the club and now as the 2021 Minnesota golf season approaches, MGCC is offering more than ever. LocalTies spoke with Matthew Newman, their new head golf pro and Matt Renner, membership director earlier this year. Both were extremely enthusiastic to discuss what’s in store for 2021, especially in regards to their golf programs.
Matthew Newman began as Medina’s head golf pro in October of 2020 after working at Broken Sound in Boca Raton Florida for the last 13 years. Originally from south Minneapolis himself, Matt and his wife, who is from Waconia and have two young children (ages 4 and nearly 2) were drawn back to Minnesota for a few reasons, including Covid-19 restrictions and trying to be closer to family. However, Matt recalls meeting with the general manager, Jim Johnson and was excited to learn how much Medina Country Club was focused on golf, exemplified by the many members who are passionate about it as a sport beyond it as a recreational pasttime.
As Matt Renner put it, “the members here, especially the golf members, like the social lifestyle piece, the pool, the family piece. We probably have one of the more hardcore group of golf members that I’ve seen at most of the clubs I’ve worked at. They want to play as much as they can – understanding they’re in Minnesota – but they’re still enjoying it all.”
Outdoor Activities for all Ages
Currently the Club offers their Trio Camp, which takes place once a week for about seven weeks where kids between the ages of 5 and 12 participate in golf, tennis and swimming. The golf and tennis portions are instructional based whereas the swimming, dependent on their ability level, tends to be more of a relaxed activity to cool off and play after a few hours of instruction. Matt Renner explains the benefits further, “It’s a great way to get our new members, especially young members involved. Younger kids, those ages five to twelve, they may have never even tried tennis. It’s a good opportunity to get exposed to something they may have never done before. You don’t know you like something until you’ve tried it. I think that’s the great thing about the camp. It’s especially enjoyable watching the little kids play tennis and it’s always fun going down there when they’re out there practicing.”
The Crush It Program
Matt Newman continues, “We have the trio camp. And then we have a Girls Rock and a Girls Just Want to Have Fun groups, which Jody who’s one of our teaching professionals, has done for years. The Crush It program will be in addition to that. The idea with that (Crush It) is to give kids from 4 years old all the way up through 16 to 17 a progression pathway. So with that comes hats, pins, and a curriculum to work through learning the concept of golf, but also life skills; a foundation.” He explains for the kids who are more serious golfers, there is the PGA Junior League and some in-house competition. “We’re going to be able to hit every ability level at every age.” He further explains a challenge with junior golf is to engage the eight-year-old beginner combined with the eight-year-old more experienced golfer. “Now they’re in the same class together with six kids and somebody’s not having fun. Here, the junior program is already big enough and I think it will grow to where we’ll be able to have classes of six and eight kids where their ability level is much closer, which will make it a lot more fun for them. It’s better for the parents, better for everybody all around.”
Hearing the enthusiasm in the two Matt’s voices about the Crush It program is a great sign of what’s shaping up to be a promising program. Newman continues, “My philosophy is our responsibility and our goal is to provide the members with what they want. And here they have a lot of kids, so that’s going to be a lot of junior programming. They’re going to be at different levels. If there are two kids that are really good, and our camps don’t work for them, we’ll find a way to create an experience for those kids here with one of the golf professionals. It’s still structured, but something that’s at their level, it’s not just going to be a, ‘Well, yeah, we don’t have that, sorry.’ We can always come up with something different and meet the needs of the specific family or the kids.”
The duo of Matts continue to speak in solidarity as genuine ambassadors for the club as they echo off one another, “There’s nothing that we don’t have. And I think there are some things that we have that other places don’t have, with the short course being one and the ability to have a six-hole, par three generations course as another. And, no matter what level your kid is, good, beginner, whatever it is, if we don’t have a program that fits, we will create one for you.
Updates to Course
As enthusiastic as the Matts were about programs like Crush It, Matt Renner took care to highlight the updates to the actual course components as well. “In 2018 we took holes six, seven and eight off of the Generations course to build a short game practice facility. A 130 yard range with several targets. A place to hit wedges or low irons and it’s all dependent on how far you hit it. We also put in an 11,000 square foot chipping green, but it wasn’t built like most where it’s a flat area where you hit chip shots. Here you have low areas where you’re hitting uphill and side hill. It’s not your typical practice facility, it’s going to replicate what you see on an actual golf course.” There is also an area with two bunkers and a green to practice your bunker game on.
Club Corps Ongoing Commitment to their Members
As the son of a long-time member and past president, Reg Pederson, I’ve witnessed the club grow over time from the turn of the century when they began building the Wild Meadows neighborhood adjacent to the club, to the name change from Rolling Green Country Club to Medina Golf & Country Club to most recently the Club Corp acquisition. I admit I was skeptical when Club Corp took over awhile back, changing it from a member owned club to corporate owned. There was, of course, some debate as there is with any change. However, most every big move Club Corp and Jim Johnson’s MGCC management team is incorporating (whether popular at first or not), over time reflects a consistent message: this institution is highly committed to continually improving the club by stepping up and adapting to the dynamic and evolving needs of the unique membership in this area. It does so by catering to younger families and serious golfers alike; knowing that in areas like Medina, the two aren’t always mutually exclusive.
Matthew Newman seems to agree when he says that the “one thing that I’ve come to see with Club Corp is they want to try to create the best experience that isn’t just going to say to the golf courses, ‘look, you have to do a golf club, a junior program, and make it good. We’re going to give you the resources, we’re going to give you the training to make sure that it’s good.’” That on top of Matt Renner’s track record and the consistent stream of new members he continues to bring into the club whether it be full golf members or those who mainly enjoy the dining and social aspects of it. After all, we can’t forget that if you’re reading this article in late April, there is a good chance that the club’s very own, Steve Savoy is down south competing for Chef of the Year for his third year in a row. I can tell you from personal experience, he absolutely deserves it too. The standard menu continues to stay fresh (and not so standard), the specials are always solid and where else in Minnesota can you go to get gator bites that even a 5 year old will eat (my daughter loves them).
A Golf Club for all ages and experience
Newman takes care to remind us that this isn’t just about the junior golf programs or the experienced golfers either. “There’s quite a few parents who have either played golf and continue to or they stopped playing, which we call a lapse golfer; someone who has been 15 years without playing and now their kid starts to play. I’m big on programming and trying new things and different ideas to get people to just come out and play. Once they do that they realize, ‘Oh, this is actually a lot of fun.’ And they realize they don’t have to be great. We will have clinics that are for beginners, not kids, but for adults. The leagues are going to be for people who are ready to get out on the golf course and play. But also, for the really serious golfer, it’s not just one flavor, it’s across the board. I think that at the end of this season, the members who have been here are going to see a difference where it’s not just your cookie cutter, tee off, play golf and go grab a drink. There’s a lot more to it and much more of a social component, more fun, broader things to do and you can spend five days a week playing golf or one day a week, right? Either way, when you come here, you’re gonna have a good time. It’s gonna be fun.” Renner summarizes it well when he says, “If you’re someone who’s reading and you’re like, ‘Oh, no, I don’t know about all those kids.’ I like to emphasize that it’s not going to feel like it’s inundated with kids because we have the space.”
They certainly do have the space and hope anyone who hasn’t had the chance to check out this club yet, does so this spring. As whether you’re a serious golfer looking to play an 18-hole championship golf course or not, everything from the newly remodeled clubhouse with restaurant and bar, spacious ballroom and private conference rooms to the golf simulator, gourmet dining and accessible pool, this club really does have it all not to mention the incredibly knowledgeable and friendly staff to make it feel like your own private getaway that you don’t have to drive up north or fly down south to enjoy.