All posts by Joe Bissen

About Joe Bissen

Joe Bissen is a Caledonia, Minnesota native and former golf letter-winner at Winona State University. He is a sports copy editor at the St. Paul Pioneer Press and former sports editor of the Duluth News-Tribune. His writing has appeared in Minnesota Golfer and Mpls.St.Paul magazines. He lives in White Bear Lake, MN.  Joe's first book, Fore! Gone. Minnesota's Lost Golf Courses 1897-1999, was released in December 2013. Click here to pre-order now.

Lost golf courses, on the air: Talking with a Twin

On the morning of May 2, I had the pleasure of talking about lost golf courses and “Fore! Gone.” on KTWN-FM, better known as Go 96.3, also known as the Minnesota Twins flagship radio station. Rod Simons, host of a Sunday morning sports show on KTWN, kindly invited me to talk about lost golf courses and my book with him and former Minnesota Twins catcher Tim Laudner, who not so coincidentally happens to be a low single-digit handicap golfer who knows a fair share about the history of the game in the state.
Click on the arrow below to listen in:

We talked about Westwood Hills in St. Louis Park, where Sam Snead visited with a couple of McNulty boys, sons of the club’s owner and manager (photo courtesy Jim McNulty) …
… and we talked about Joyner’s in Brooklyn Park, the course Laudner grew up on. This is part of all that’s left of Joyner’s.

Back in time II: Town & Country Club, 1899


A few weeks ago, I posted an old photo of Town & Country Club, from the 1898 book “City of Homes,” and speculated that it might be Minnesota’s first golf photograph with a verifiable date. Is it? Was it? I’m still stumped, but I haven’t heard of or come across anything verifiably older.

Last week, however, I Googlified (that’s a short, highly technical term for “discovering via the Internet”) a handful of photos that we’ll call close runners-up, plus an interesting and very old account of T&CC, Minnesota’s first golf course.

Times — and views — were different then, judging by the description of what was then the second hole:

“From a point near the green of this hole may be obtained a wonderfully beautiful view of the whole of Minneapolis and the country surrounding it on each of three sides and for more than fifteen miles in every direction, as well as of the great bend of the Mississippi River.”

So states a paragraph in “Golf,” a magazine touted as the “official bulletin, U.S.G.A.,” in its January 1899 issue published out of New York. That issue features St. Paul’s Town & Country Club as its opening story, immediately following a section of ads for the likes of Slazenger golf balls, John D. Dunn’s “celebrated One-Piece Drivers and Brasseys,” and winter vacations in Bermuda.

The story is simply titled “The Town and Country Club of St. Paul.” It features 17 paragraphs of information about the golf course’s organization and layout (only nine holes in 1899; it expanded to 18 in 1907). The story also features four photographs, leading with a full-page photo of the clubhouse and ladies’ putting green and including a panoramic photo from No. 9, a hole dubbed “Westward Ho!”

As much as I would like to post the photos here, I don’t believe Google would approve, at least not if I interpret their rules of use correctly. But if you’re a fan of way-early golf in Minnesota, the story is worth a look. You can find it here: Town and Country Club, St. Paul

Oh … what’s with the photo at the top of the post? It’s an old Town & Country Club candy dish I found last fall at a Twin Cities estate sale, with the modern 18-hole layout featured on it.

And below is a photo of modern-day T&CC, taken at the very dawn of the 2015 golf season:


Heron Lake: Lost course, found scorecard

Check out the old-time golf scorecard …

heronlake heronlake2

The card is from Heron Lake Golf Club, a lost golf course in Heron Lake, a small town in Jackson County, southwestern Minnesota. The club was organized in July 1925, with the course presumably opened at that time or shortly after. The golf course, on the north side of town and occupying land that includes the current Laker Field baseball park, survived until at least 1934.

In a sense, there is nothing spectacular about the scorecard nor what it reveals. Heron Lake Golf Club likely was a typical small-town Minnesota course of the 1920s and ’30s: nine holes, par 29, total of 1,697 yards, with seven par-3s and two par-4s. The longest hole was the 335-yard second, the shortest the 130-yard fourth. The course had sand greens, also typical of small-town Minnesota courses of that era.

But if the scorecard isn’t spectacular, it is at the least old. And for area residents, some of the names of the committee members listed on the card most likely will resonate. The first person on the list, H.B. Triem, designed the golf course, as well as a now-defunct course in Lakefield that opened the next year.

The image was passed along by Michael Kirchmeier, director of the Jackson County Historical Society in Lakefield. Mike was a great help to me in researching southwestern Minnesota courses, 10 of which are covered in Chapter 42 of “Fore! Gone.”, titled “Silos and Flagsticks.” You can find out more about some of these courses by visiting the historical society (or, of course, reading the book).

Anyone interested in reproducing the image should please contact Kirchmeier first.

Back in time: Town & Country Club, 1898


Minnesota golf, at least 116 years ago.

Yesterday, I came across the photo above in the library at the Hennepin History Museum in Minneapolis. I don’t believe I’ve seen it before. I would guess it’s one of the oldest half-dozen or so published golf photographs in Minnesota history, right up there with that cool photo of the woman with the long skirt and sick overswing on Bryn Mawr GC or Minikahda CC (if you dig, you probably can find that one, too. It is in Rick Shefchik’s “From Fields to Fairways” book.).

Anyway, this photo is from the 1898 book “The City of Homes,” published by The Times Newspaper Co. The book is little more than a rather random collection of photos, mostly showing Minneapolis scenes and sites. This photo was taken just across the Mississippi River in St. Paul, on Minnesota’s first golf course.

It is titled “On the Golf Links at the Town and Country Club.” (Click on the image for a larger view.)

I’m guessing this photo might even predate the “long skirt” photo, as Bryn Mawr opened in spring of 1898 (much more on that course in “Fore! Gone.”), and its successor, Minikahda, didn’t open for play until spring of 1899.

I would gladly entertain discussion on whether there are older Minnesota golf photos in existence. I could be entirely wrong. Thanks to the Hennepin History Museum for storing the book and allowing me to share the photo. Please don’t flock there to take a look; the book is fragile.

Bryn Mawr Golf Club: location, location, location


When it comes to ponderous reads, nothing in “Fore! Gone.” rivals Chapter 29, titled “Minneapolis Mystery.” (Hey, I didn’t say the whole book was a dull read. There are 43 other chapters, and at least three or four of them contain a witticism.)

Anyway, I recently found out Chapter 29 needn’t have read like something out of ”The Noun Phrase in Ancient Greek: A Functional Analysis of the Order and Articulation of NP Constituent in Herodotus.” (Apparently, there  really is such a book.)

“Minneapolis Mystery” was my seven-page attempt at pinning down the former location of the lost Bryn Mawr Golf Club, a long-gone but historically significant golf course that was founded in 1898 and, after its two incarnations shut down, spawned Minikahda Golf Club and then Interlachen Country Club. Though others had written about Bryn Mawr, most of the references to the golf course’s precise location were vague at best.

So, figuring people might like to know exactly where Bryn Mawr GC was, I launched a labyrinthine expedition in print, citing addresses, property records, plat maps, blog entries, elevation charts and newspaper clips — pretty much everything but ancient sundial readings — in an attempt to disclose, within a city block or two, where the old golf-course grounds lay.

My reasonably educated guess read thusly: “… the Bryn Mawr course started near the Oliver Avenue clubhouse, briefly crossed Cedar Lake Road, then swept up the hill to the southwest, across Penn Avenue, to the hilltop, and played back toward the clubhouse in the area now occupied by Mount View Avenue.”


So stood the printed word, for almost a year.

And then, along came Joe Gladke.

Gladke is one of Minnesota’s most well-informed golf history buffs. He has spent many hours researching the history of the game in the state and has scads (yeah, scads. It isn’t a quantifiably precise term, but scads are scads, OK?) of newspaper clippings and other documentation at his behest.

An email I had sent to some Minnesota golf history buffs on a subject  marginally Bryn Mawr-related made its way to Gladke, and he responded with an email attachment and message that featured the phrase, “Have you seen this map before?”

Well, ahem, no, I hadn’t. I opened the attachment and took a look. Voila. Gladke unraveled the Bryn Mawr mystery with a one-minute deployment of his scanner and a half-dozen mouse clicks. Here it is: a clip from the Minneapolis Tribune of Feb. 19, 1899, showing the exact location of what was Bryn Mawr Golf Club. Props to Joe Gladke.


To add a bit of perspective, those of you who know the Bryn Mawr neighborhood might be familiar with the Cuppa Java coffee shop at the corner of Cedar Lake Road and Penn Avenue and the handful of business nearby.  Those business are all on or very near the area of the map above marked by the word “Bryn” in the “Bryn Mawr Golf Club” label.

There you have it. From a personal standpoint, the map has evoked equal parts sheepishness and satisfaction. Sheepishness that, with all the hours I spent searching online and otherwise, and using what I thought was every conceivable permutation in those searches, I never came across this map, which really shouldn’t have been hard to find. Satisfaction in the map’s verification of the old Bryn Mawr Golf Club grounds.  To borrow from a phrase once used postgame by Denny Green, “The Bryn Mawr course is where I thought it was!

(About the photos in this post: both were taken by the preternaturally talented Peter Wong. The top photo was taken from near the intersection of Mount View Avenue and Penn Avenue, almost certainly on the grounds of the old Bryn Mawr course and looking eastward toward downtown Minneapolis. The bottom photo shows the Laurel Triangle, a small triangle of flowers and foliage at the intersection of Laurel and Oliver avenues and Cedar Lake Road, very close to the location of the second Bryn Mawr GC clubhouse on Oliver Avenue. If you have an interest in remarkable golf-course photos, I encourage you to make a visit to the photographer’s website, Happy Thanksgiving.)