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.

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

towncountry

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

BrynMawr-A-small

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.”

brynmawrlaurel-small

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.

brynmawrupright-page-001

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, PeterWongPhotography.com. Happy Thanksgiving.)

Lost courses: Three more make 29

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The trend of golf-course closings in Minnesota has not stopped, though at least the toll from the 2014 season isn’t quite as heavy at this point as it was in 2013.

Four Minnesota courses closed last season, plus one just across the border in Wisconsin. This year, three have been shuttered.

Closed for good are Hastings Country Club (opened in 1947), Begin Oaks in Plymouth (pictured above, opened in 2000) and Minnetonka Country Club in Excelsior (opened in 1961).

I’m not privy to details other than what’s been in the news, so links to three news stories are posted below. According to my count, that makes 29 golf courses abandoned in Minnesota since the year 2000. (Update, Nov. 14: I have come across one more that previously wasn’t on my list, so there are more than 29 on that other post.) Add in the additional 80+ covered in “Fore Gone. Minnesota’s Lost Golf Courses 1897-1999,” and it makes well more than 100 lost golf courses in the state’s history.

The full list of lost courses since 2000 can be found in the “Another four bite the dust” post on this website.

Here are the links to news stories (apologies; I can’t get the direct linking device to work):

Hastings CC: http://www.twincities.com/localnews/ci_26694896/hastings-country-club-closed-its-140-acres-sale

Minnetonka CC: http://www.startribune.com/local/west/280114182.html

Begin Oaks: http://www.twelve.tv/news/newsitem.aspx?newsid=324&newsitemid=25693

Minneapolis Mystery II: Camden Park Golf Club

Here I am, hooked on another lost golf course, all because I took an afternoon hike.

All because I crossed over Shingle Creek …

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… and under the Camden Bridge.

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This is North Minneapolis.

“Minneapolis Mystery” was the title of Chapter 29 in my book, “Fore! Gone. Minnesota’s Lost Golf Courses 1897-1999.” It wasn’t set in North Minneapolis but rather a few miles south. The chapter’s crux: trying to unearth the old stomping grounds that was the historic Bryn Mawr Golf Club, 1898-1910. I did it – well, I’m 95 percent certain I did — but it wasn’t easy. Determining the home planets of those who flew the UFOs into Area 51 might have been easier. (For those who want to know more about Bryn Mawr GC, you can A) read my book or B) do the Google and find Minneapolis parks historian David C. Smith’s excellent history of the place.)

Now, presenting Minneapolis Mystery II: Camden Park Golf Club.

In late August, while walking the trails alongside the Mississippi River in North Mississippi Regional Park, I came upon the mouth of Shingle Creek, the point at which it empties into the river. Remembering that I had written about this approximate location in “Fore! Gone.”, with a four-paragraph passage on an almost-unknown course called Camden Park Golf Club, I caught the bug again.

Infernal bug. No known cure. Reafflicted, I decided to try to figure out where Camden Park GC was buried.

NO DENYING IT

Camden Park Golf Club? The North Minneapols locals, even those with  deep knowledge of the area’s history, were mostly skeptical. “You know anything about the golf course that used to be around here?” Quizzical, doubting looks. In one or two instances, you’d think I had asked, “You know anything about the Yeti colony that used to be around here?”

Yes, there was a Camden Park Golf Club in North Minneapolis, in the Camden neighborhood and near the intersection of Lyndale Avenue North and what is now Webber Parkway. Almost no one has heard about it because the club was obscure and almost certainly short-lived, with a life span likely short of a decade.

Four documents — the only ones I’ve found that mention Camden Park Golf Course — confirm its existence:

– From the July 21, 1899, Minneapolis Tribune, by way of Smith’s blog: “The Camden Park golf club has been organized among the young men in the employ of the C. A. Smith Lumber company.” The new club, the newspaper reported, had a membership of 25 and growing. “It plays over a beautiful course of nine holes laid out in the Camden park region and crosses the creek three times,” wrote the Tribune.  David C. Smith presumed (correctly) that the reference was to Shingle Creek.

– This, from the national 1901 Harper’s Golf Guide: “CAMDEN PARK GOLF CLUB – Post-office address, Camden Place, and sub-station, Minneapolis.”

– An almost-identical entry appears in the 1902 “Official Golf Guide” published by The Grafton Press of New York.

– The golf club is mentioned in a 1905 Minneapolis city directory, with a listed address of “Camden Park Place Athletic Club, 4157 Washn Ave N.”

The Harper’s entry is longer and will be fully transcribed later, but the point is, yes, there was a Camden Park Golf Club.

I had speculated in “Fore! Gone.” that the course might have been within a few hundred yards of the Mississippi River, near the current I-94 corridor and the Camden Bridge.

Mea culpa. Sorta. I think I was wrong. After having spent parts of three months revisiting the subject — walking the area, talking with local residents and experts, Googling up a storm, and viewing old plat maps and city directories — I believe I can say this, firmly and unequivocally, about the site of Camden Park Golf Club:

Damned if I know exactly where it was.

Two theories remain in play for me, the only two that make much sense. A third seems less plausible. Follow along, if you can — the writing is out of necessity quite detailed and probably about as enervating as reading John Milton. If it’s a nugget or two about the golf club and its members you want, just go to the bottom of the post.

Here are the cases stated for each theory, using 42nd Avenue and Lyndale Avenue North as a base point:

TO THE EAST

Theory: Camden Park Golf Club was east of Lyndale Avenue, occupying what is now part of the I-94 corridor and the southern edge of the North Mississippi Regional Park grounds. It covered roughly an area west to east from Lyndale nearly to the Mississippi River and south to north from 42nd (if it had extended east of Lyndale) and 44th (ditto) avenues North.

Likelihood: 10 percent.

Why it could have been: The course was, after all, named Camden Park, and this is the plot that would have been closest to Camden Park — the original Camden Park. A little background: at the time Camden Park GC was organized, Camden Park was east of Lyndale Avenue and 42nd Avenue North, not far from the Mississippi River. A new Camden Park was established in 1908, west of Lyndale and north of what was then referred to as Washington Avenue or Crystal Lake Road. That park now goes by the name Webber Park, so renamed in 1939.

The reference in the Harper’s Guide to “sub-station” as part of the location could have been to the Shingle Creek Pumping Station, which essentially abutted the river on ground that now is a parking lot and launch area at the southern terminus of North Mississippi Regional Park.

Also, considering that the course was organized and/or played by employees of the C.A. Smith company, whose massive lumber mill was based at 4400 Lyndale Avenue North, it’s possible the golfing enthusiasts used part of the lumber mill land for their fledgling course.

1898-se
1898 plat map of the area immediately east of 42nd, Lyndale and Washington avenues. Red lines indicate possible approximate borders of Camden Golf Club grounds. (All plat map images used with permission of Hennepin County Library; click on the photos for larger images.)

Why it probably wasn’t: Not enough room. On this plot, the place would have been nicknamed Claustrophobia Country Club. Though the Camden Park course was short by today’s standards, totaling 1,586 yards and with a longest hole of 235 yards, there almost certainly would have been too much neighborly interference to have accommodated even nine short holes here. No room to the west — the Lyndale Hotel (built in 1988, razed in 1912, standing at what is now the foot of the Camden Bridge) was part of a series of buildings and businesses along 42nd, Washington and Lyndale. The course couldn’t have gone far to the southeast because the pumping station was there. Slightly farther south, railroad tracks went as much as four-wide. The course couldn’t have extended farther north than 44th Avenue North because Smith lumber-mill structures were there. Three Shingle Creek crossings in that area is plausible based on the 1898 map, but by 1903 (see map below), Shingle Creek had been moved south and a pond had emerged, with two narrow creek channels leading from it and emptying into the Mississippi River. Most of all, the original Camden Park would have occupied a good share of the golf grounds, and park visitors likely wouldn’t have taken kindly to getting knocked in the noggin by rogue park interlopers playing some newfangled stick-and-ball game.

1903 plat map of the area east of 42nd, Lyndale and Washington

1903 plat map of the area east of 42nd, Lyndale and Washington

Underneath the I-94 bridge that crosses over Shingle Creek. This is not the creek's original path; it used to be farther to the south. This would be close to the grounds of Camden Park Golf Club, if (unlikely) it was east of Lyndale Avenue.

Beneath the I-94 bridge that crosses over Shingle Creek. This is not the creek’s original path; it used to be farther to the south. This would be close to the grounds of Camden Park Golf Club, if (unlikely) it was east of Lyndale Avenue.

TO THE WEST

Theory: The Camden Park Golf Club grounds occupied an area that is now mostly the eastern edge of Webber Park. Golf-course borders would have been just north of what is now Webber Parkway, extending possibly as far north as 44th Avenue North, and possibly almost as far west as Dupont Avenue, if Dupont had extended north of Webber Parkway.  To put it in 2014 terms, think of the area around the Shingle Creek spillway, the Bridge of Dreams and where the Webber Park swimming pool is being built, and you have the likely resting grounds of Camden Park Golf Course.

Webber Park, looking north, near the intersection of Webber Parkway and Bryant Avenue North. The treeline in the background is on the banks of Shingle Creek. Most likely, this is where Camden Park Golf Club once lay.

Webber Park, looking north, near the intersection of Webber Parkway and Bryant Avenue North. The treeline in the background is on the banks of Shingle Creek. Most likely, this is where Camden Park Golf Club once lay.

Likelihood: 80 percent.

Why it could have been: Many reasons. 1) Three Shingle Creek crossings would have been eminently feasible (incidentally, Shingle Creek in 1900 nearly abutted what is now Webber Parkway; it has since been re-routed about 100 yards to the north, up against the railroad tracks). 2) The “sub-station” reference can be explained by the likelihood that it was to the nearby post office outlet and not the pumping house. 3) The area would have been larger than the relative broom closet east of Lyndale, especially if land north of the railroad tracks, now occupied by Republic Services, is included. Plat maps confirm this as a larger plot, big enough to accommodate a small golf course, and show no more than a half-dozen structures in the area in 1898.  The golf course couldn’t have been south of Washington Avenue, at least not more than a few dozen feet south, because there were homes all along the avenue.

1898 plat map of the area west-northwest of 42nd, Lyndale and Washington avenues. The Camden Park Golf Club site? Probably.

1898 plat map of the area west-northwest of 42nd, Lyndale and Washington avenues. The Camden Park Golf Club site? Probably.

The same area in 1903

The same area in 1903.

Camden golfers might have been afforded a nearby check-in station at this site — call it a clubhouse if you wish. The 1901 Harper’s Guide lists club officers, including “Chairman of House Committee, W. H. Trabert, 4247 Washington Avenue, North Minneapolis.” That address, now 4247 Webber Parkway, is directly across the street from the current Webber Park. Trabert lived in the same domicile as one Charles L. Trabert, president of the Camden Park Golf Club and a clerk at the C.A. Smith Lumber Company (1906 Hudson’s Directory of Minneapolis says so). I’m thinking the Traberts might have checked in folks at their house, sent them on their way through the front yard, across Washington Avenue and onto the greensward.

Incidentally, in 1904, according to the Saint Paul Globe newspaper, a W.H. Trabert, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota, was seriously injured duing sophomore-party hijinks and had at least part of his foot amputated. The same W.H. Trabert? 

Why it might not have been: No good reason I can think of. But I can’t exclude other grounds as long-shot possibilities, so I’m not going to unequivocally state that the old Camden Park Golf Club grounds is on the site of the current Webber Park. Still, my reasonably educated guess says it is.

Shingle Creek spillway, near the eastern edge of Webber Park. This feature was built in 1980, long after Camden Park Golf Club closed.

Shingle Creek spillway, near the eastern edge of Webber Park. This feature was built in 1980, long after Camden Park Golf Club closed.

Shingle Creek, looking south, with Webber Park in the background and homes along Webber Parkway farther back. Though the creek ran farther to the south in 1900, this spot still likely was on the former Camden Park Golf Club grounds.
Shingle Creek, looking south, with Webber Park in the background and homes along Webber Parkway farther back. Though the creek ran farther to the south in 1900, this spot still likely was on the former Camden Park Golf Club grounds.

THEORY 3

I’m leaving open a remote possibility the golf course was in an even larger area north of 44th Avenue North and west of Dupont Avenue — but that site was so far removed from Camden Place and Washington Avenue that it seems unlikely.

Likelihood: 10 percent.

1898-farnw

ETC.

– Members of Camden Park Golf Club probably were not the types who pushed and pulled on C.A. Smith’s crosscut saws for 11 hours, then brushed the sawdust off their flannel shirts and walked over for a leisurely (pronounced lezh-er-ly) nine. The club officers were white-collar: Vice president Chester Ellsworth was a lawyer in the Loan & Trust Building, secretary J.O. Wells was a dentist who appears to have boarded with the Traberts on Washington Avenue, and treasurer Carl G. Krook was a lawyer in the New York Life Building (my, that surname was unfortunate).

– Here is full text of the 1901 Harper’s Guide entry, under the heading for Minnesota courses:

CAMDEN PLACE

CAMDEN PARK GOLF CLUB.–Post-office address, Camden Place, and sub-station, Minneapolis. Entrance fee: $15. Annual dues, $1. Membership, 35. A nine-hole course. Distances and bogey figures: 1, 135, 6; 2. 140, 4; 3. 218, 5; 4. 235, 6; 5. 196, 6; 6. 110, 3; 7. 162, 4; 8. 200, 4; 9. 190, 5. President, Charles L. Trabert; Vice-President, Chester Ellsworth; Secretary, Dr. J. O. Wells, Camden Place, Minneapolis; Chairman of House Committee, W. J. Trabert, 4247 Washington Avenue, North Minneapolis; Treasurer, Carl G. Krook. Greenkeeper: Herbert J. Anderson.

– Camden Park GC is not the only lost golf course on Shingle Creek. About 10 miles upstream in Brooklyn Park, near the creek’s northernmost point, Brooklyn Park Golf Course, also known as Joyner’s, hosted golfers from 1962-96 and was bisected by Shingle Creek.

– Heartiest thanks to North Minneapolis folks who lent a hand in my research, including Will Lumpkins and especially including Ron Manger, whose insight into circa-1900 Camden was particularly enlightening. I welcome any corrections, clarifications or further insight.

– Don’t forget to buy my book; you can get it for $19.95 on Amazon.com (buy it through fivestarsales; that’s me). Much of it is a lighter read than this was. I promise.

The eastern edge of Webber Park, at Webber Parkway and Lyndale Avenue, and likely former grounds of Camden Park Golf Club.

The eastern edge of Webber Park, at Webber Parkway and Lyndale Avenue, and likely former grounds of Camden Park Golf Club.

 WHAT’S NEXT?

Well, there is this entry in the 1901 Harper’s Guide:

“LAKE HARRIET GOLF CLUB. Organized, 1900. A nine-hole course.”

There it is. Minneapolis Mystery III.

Don’t get me started. Please.

POSTSCRIPT, NOV. 10

I was pleased a couple of weeks ago to receive additional info on Camden Park GC, courtesy of Minnesota golf historian Joe Gladke, who passed along two print clips I hadn’t seen before. They shed no light on the mystery that is the club’s exact resting place, but they do reveal a bit more about the club and golf course.

First, Gladke passed along the Camden Park entry from the 1899 Harper’s Golf Guide. The guide said the club was organized in 1899, listed membership as 25, and listed these folks as officers: President, G.T. Forest; vice-president, Charles L. Trabert; secretary, J.O. Wells; treasurer, John Rogers; advisory board of G.H. Rogers, E.R. King, C.L. Tweed and Miss Nannie Smith.

Also forwarded was a newspaper clip marked July 1899. I’m not positive of the source but suspect it came from the Minneapolis Journal or Minneapolis Tribune. The clip confirms the club’s year of organization as 1899. “The ground is naturally adapted for golf links and the course has been provided with eight sand bunkers, grass, dirt and three times crossing the creek, constituting the hazards.”

The greens, it was reported, were “natural,” which I interpret to mean they were grass greens and not sand. Bogey score was 83. The holes were named Nemo, Ann, Anon, Tacit, Willows, Woods, Creek, Baby, Home. “In another year the club hopes to have acquired enough members to afford a club house,” the clip reported. Mr. Herbert J. Anderson was listed as “official caddie,” and club officers were identical to those listed in the 1899 Harper’s guide except for C.L. Tweed, who was on the advisory board.