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 Fridley, MN.  Joe's award-winning first book, Fore! Gone. Minnesota's Lost Golf Courses 1897-1999, was released in December 2013. Click here to order

The little, big, remarkable course at Ferndale

Small golf course. Big, big, big hitters.

That would be a diminutive and three superlatives. And still, they hardly go far enough in describing the diametric nature of the lost golf course at Ferndale.

There is no lost course in Minnesota more incongruous than this one. Not by a long shot. And a short shot.

Exhibit A: Its Smallness.

Go back a century, plus 17 years. You’re standing within the borders of the city of Wayzata, a stone’s throw — about three fairly healthy stone’s throws, to be precise — of the Lake Minnetonka shoreline. There it is, spread before you in all of its glory. Or lack thereof.

A golf course so small, a Lilliputian would have found it Lilliputian.

Western Wayzata and the Ferndale peninsula (bottom), 1898 plat map (courtesy John Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

Western Wayzata and the Ferndale peninsula (bottom), 1898 plat map (courtesy John Borchert Map Library, University of Minnesota)

This “golf course” — although it really wasn’t a full-fledged course at all and never was billed as such — occupied about the same acreage as a farmer’s back 40, divided by four. It was only six holes “long,” and from first whack to final tap-in, it was a jaunt of only 1,135 yards — the modern-day equivalent of a long par-5, a long par-4 and a flip-wedge par 3.

The course’s meager physical imprint was matched by its wisp of a chronological footprint. Its life span was exactly one Minnesota golf season — a mere half a year’s worth of spoons, cleeks and mashies.

On the other hand …

Exhibit B, Its Bigness:

Did someone say big hitters? This golf grounds and the surrounding neighborhood featured some of the biggest in the state. Ever. In any walk of life, sporting or otherwise.

In other words: Business magnates. Millionaires. Socialites. Philanthropists. Politicians. Movers. Shakers.

And one particularly notable golf bigwig.


The first golf grounds in Wayzata — and one of the first in all of Minnesota — was introduced to the public in a one-paragraph entry in an “On the Golf Links” column published in the Minneapolis Tribune of June 25, 1899:

“The new links at Ferndale, Lake Minnetonka, were completed for use last evening and there was a little play over them to try the ground. The course is laid out in six holes, averaging 200 yards, which gives a very satisfactory game.”

Next notice came in the July 27, 1899, issue of The Courant, a newly minted Minneapolis social magazine. Page 9 included this:

“The residents in Ferndale, Lake Minnetonka, where are grouped so many of the elegant summer homes, have a practice course for golf on which there is much playing in anticipation of the Minikahda links in town or the new Minnetonka club course when it is completed. …”

The Ferndale practice course was among the first 10 golf grounds in Minnesota, preceded only by Town & Country Club and Roadside Golf Club (St. Paul), Winona Golf Club (already defunct by 1899), Meadow-Brook in Winona, Bryn Mawr in Minneapolis, and Hazen and Ward Burton’s three-hole layout, later expanded to nine holes, on their Chimo estate in Deephaven. (Northland Country Club in Duluth and the courses at Minikahda and Camden Park, both in Minneapolis, also debuted in 1899. The “Minnetonka club,” referred to in the previous paragraph, was the Lafayette Club, whose golf course didn’t officially open until 1900.)

A little about the bigness of Ferndale:

Ferndale is a neighborhood just southwest of downtown Wayzata occupying a triangular peninsula along the north shore of Lake Minnetonka. Wayzata Bay lies to the east, Browns Bay to the west. The peninsula then and now has been home to some of Minnesota’s wealthiest, most prominent and influential citizens.

In the late 19th century and early 20th, Ferndale, with its mansions and cottages lining the shore and rising from the higher ground nearby, was a veritable Minnesota version of The Hamptons. Much of Ferndale’s exclusive, millionaire class spent summers vacationing alongside Lake Minnetonka while maintaining large, primary homes in Minneapolis, where they conducted business. Still, many of the summer abodes at Ferndale were stately enough to have had names bestowed upon them: Bonsyde, Cloverley, Beltres, The Arbors et al.

“Ferndale,” wrote Thelma Jones in her 1957 book “Once Upon a Lake, “flowed with milk and honey … the honey was the gold that stuck to these men’s thumbs.”

Green thumbs, they were. Legal-tender green.


Back to golf, and the Courant article on the Ferndale practice course:

“Messrs. F.B. Wells, C.C. Bovey, George Peavey and A.T. Rand were primarily interested in starting the course,” read one passage.

Well, that would be quite the foursome of big hitters.

Frederick Brown Wells was a vice president of grain giant F.H. Peavey & Company and a board member with two prominent Minneapolis banks. Charles Cranston Bovey was export manager and later chairman of the Washburn Crosby Milling Corporation, later known as General Mills. George Wright Peavey was the son of Frank Hutchison Peavey, who founded F.H. Peavey & Company and was known as “Grain Elevator King of the World.” Alonzo Turner Rand was vice president of the Minneapolis Gas Light Company, which illuminated Minnesota’s largest city in the late 1800s.

At least a dozen other Ferndale residents, prominent Minnesotans all, had connections to the peninsula’s little golf course.

And then there was Lucia.

The Courant article continued: “Mrs. Howard Mansfield, of New York, Mrs. Frank T. Heffelfinger, Mrs. George Chase Christian are among the women players seen oftenest on the course.”

Lucia (pronounced “Loosha”) Louise Peavey was the daughter of Frank Peavey and a sister to George Peavey. Born in 1873, she married another man named Frank — Frank Totton Heffelfinger — in 1895. The couple lived at Ferndale, on the Highcroft estate. On Jan. 23, 1899. a few months before winter dissolved and Ferndale’s practice course debuted, Lucia gave birth to her second son.

The son’s name: Totton Peavey Heffelfinger.

If you are a golfer, the name might ring a bell.

Totton P. Heffelfinger was among a handful of the most important figures in Minnesota golf history. He was a prominent member at The Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, became president of the Minnesota Golf Association in 1932 and served as president of the United States Golf Association in 1952 and 1953.

In 1960, about 10 miles south of his Ferndale birthplace, Totton Heffelfinger founded a golf club that built a course in the western Twin Cities suburb of Chaska.

That name might ring a bell, too: Hazeltine National Golf Club.

All of which adds up to a rich slice of serendipity. It is entirely possible that the first golf hole ever seen, albeit through 6-month-old eyes that wouldn’t have known a dogleg from a dog biscuit, by Totton P. Heffelfinger, founder of the broad-shouldered Hazeltine National Golf Club course that has hosted six major championships and this fall will host the 41st Ryder Cup matches, was one of the six little practice holes at Ferndale.

A leap of logic? Maybe not. Though Heffelfinger’s father, Frank Totton Heffelfinger, undoubtedly weaned young “Tot” largely on Minikahda and Town & Country Club, two city courses to which he held membership, the newborn son likely spent his first months in the company of his mother, perhaps close to home. And perhaps close to — or on — the Ferndale layout.

That speculation was presented to a modern-day Heffelfinger who found it plausible. After being apprised in mid-2015 for the first time of the Ferndale layout and the Courant story, Tom Heffelfinger, a grandson of Totton P. and a former U.S. attorney who lives in Edina, soon surmised that when his grandmother Lucia played the Ferndale course, “it was either with him (Totton P.) in tow or as a break from mothering her son.”

Lucia Peavey Heffelfinger, rear, holds her son, future Hazeltine National Golf Club founder Totton Peavey Heffelfinger, while her grandmother Mary holds Lucia's son Frank P. Also pictured is Lucia's father, Frank H. Peavey. The photo is dated 'about 1899,' which is the year Totton was born and the one year of existence of the six-hole practice golf course at Ferndale which was played by Lucia.  Photo courtesy of Justin Peavey.

Lucia Peavey Heffelfinger, rear, holds her son, future Hazeltine National Golf Club founder Totton Peavey Heffelfinger, while her grandmother Mary holds Lucia’s son Frank P. Also pictured is Lucia’s father, Frank H. Peavey. The photo is dated “about 1899,” which is the year Totton was born and the one year of existence of the six-hole practice golf course at Ferndale which was played by Lucia Heffelfinger. Photo courtesy of Justin Peavey.

The Heffelfingers seemed to be not entirely of the same ilk as their immediate neighbors. In “Once Upon a Lake,” Jones wrote that the Heffelfingers “broke the (Ferndale) rule about no fraternization” with the rest of Wayzata. Young Tot apparently matured with similar egalitarian inclinations, as he insisted that Hazeltine membership “be available to anyone, regardless of religious background or gender,” former Hazeltine president Reed Mackenzie was quoted as saying in Rick Shefchik’s “From Fields to Fairways” book about Minnesota’s classic golf courses.

That digression aside, back to name-dropping. Turn-of-the-20th century Ferndale teemed with luminaries of Minnesota business and society. It also teemed, probably not coincidentally, with the first aficionados, disciples and apostles of Minnesota golf. They might not have learned the game on the Ferndale peninsula, but the 1899 practice course was in play, or at least in sight.

If the following Ferndale-and-golf connections make your head spin, apologies …

Ferndale resident Alonzo T. Rand was president of Town & Country Club in St. Paul, Minnesota’s first golf course. He also was a founding governor of Minikahda, and a Minneapolis Tribune story from 1898 labeled him one of the better players at Bryn Mawr.

His father, Alonzo C. Rand, was head of the Minneapolis Gas & Light Company and a former Minneapolis mayor who died along with nine others in the locally notorious swamping of the Minnie Cook off Ferndale’s Lookout Point in 1885.

George Chase Christian, husband of the aforementioned Ferndale golfer Caroline Knight Christian, was on the T&CC golf committee in 1899. His family and the Hardenbergh family owned the southern tip of Ferndale, including Lookout Point and Spirit Island. George S. Christian’s father, George H., was manager of the Washburn-Crosby Company (later General Mills). At least three members of the Christian family were Minikahda members.

There is no readily available evidence that F.H. Peavey, the grain magnate, dabbled in golf, but he was a founding Bryn Mawr member as well as the first president of the Lafayette Club, which was organized in 1899 and in 1900 opened a nine-hole course in Minnetonka Beach.

Ferndale’s Franklin B. Semple was a founding board member at Minikahda and Lafayette.

E.J. Phelps, a real estate developer, was on the Minneapolis parks board for two decades, was president from 1912-14, and he promoted creation of a golf course by the park board, according to Minneapolis parks historian David C. Smith. In 1916, Glenwood (later renamed Theodore Wirth) opened as Minneapolis’ first public course. Phelps and fellow Ferndale resident William Bovey were on the parks board at the time of Glenwood’s birth.

The Boveys were another influential Ferndale-and-golf family. They owned multiple plots at various times in Ferndale. Charles Cranston Bovey, the Ferndale course regular, was the son-in-law of Judge Martin Buren Koon, who on July 15, 1899, struck the first shot ever at the new Minikahda Club. Charles C.’s twin brother, William, served 20 years on the Minneapolis park board and was on the board in 1919, when the Columbia course in northeast Minneapolis was opened.

In 1915, one mile northwest of the by-then-abandoned Ferndale layout, Woodhill Country Club was established. Frank Totton Heffelfinger was an original board member and the longest-serving club president (1922-34). The Boveys were similarly integral to Woodhill. Charles C. Bovey was a founder of the club, and William was an original board member. According to a Woodhill history, Charles C. Bovey once authored a memorandum on the founding of the club that included this passage: “For some years the residents of Ferndale had been thinking of a country club. Our children were young. We wanted a family club, free from temptations of drink.”

Frederick B. Wells was the first Woodhill vice president; he also held memberships at Town & Country Club, Minikahda and Lafayette. He was F.H. Peavey’s son-in-law and at one time a Peavey Company vice president.

Then there were the Pillsburys. Perhaps you’ve heard of them, as well. John Sargent Pillsbury II and Charles Stinson Pillsbury, twin sons of flour industrialist and Pillsbury Company co-founder Charles Alfred Pillsbury, were co-owners in 1913 of a plot of land in Ferndale just south of Highcroft, perhaps on the edge of the former Ferndale golf grounds. The Pillsburys long owned land at Ferndale from the late 1800s into the 1900s. John S. Pillsbury was an original Woodhill board member and bought the land upon which that golf course was established. Charles S. also was an original Woodhill board member, as was their cousin, art collector Alfred Fisk Pillsbury, who had a villa built on the Wayzata Bay shoreline at Ferndale in 1905. A.F. Pillsbury was a Minikahda member, a Minneapolis park board member and was described as an “eager golfer” in journalist Lori Sturdevant’s 2011 book “The Pillsburys of Minnesota.” His father was John Sargent Pillsbury (not to be confused with John Sargent Pillsbury II), the eighth governor of Minnesota.

George W. Porter, founder of the Minnetonka Elevator Company, owned property between Pillsbury and Semple property on Wayzata Bay. He was a founding member at Minikahda.

The aforementioned Warren Manning, who landscaped the Highcroft estate, appears to also have been an early proponent of golf in Minnesota. Smith, the Minneapolis parks historian, reported in a blog entry that Manning, in about 1900, proposed that land just south of downtown that had been donated to the park board by Thomas Lowry include a golf course. That land became Parade Park.


Beyond all of those Ferndale property owners, the most prominent figure of all, in a golfing sense, was an outlier. Quoting from The Courant article:

“Mr. William Watson, keeper of the greens for the Minikahda Club, visits the Ferndale course one or two days a week to give instruction.”

William Watson was arguably the most important person in the employ of the game of golf as the game got off the ground in Minnesota. (Former Town & CC professional Robert Foulis could stake a claim to that title, as well, but that is a debate for another day.) Watson was a Scotsman, born in 1860. He grew up near St. Andrews and played that historic course at the same time that Old Tom Morris was the club’s greenskeeper and professional. Watson moved to Minneapolis in late 1898, hired for $2,500 by Koon and other Minneapolis businessmen to design the new Minikahda Club course. He and Foulis crafted a nine-hole layout, opened in mid-1899, years later expanded to 18 and then redesigned by the famed Donald Ross — who, like Watson and Foulis, was a former Old Tom Morris apprentice at St. Andrews.

In 1899, Watson spent mornings teaching on the Bryn Mawr course in western Minneapolis, which had opened the year before, then shut down as the bulk of its membership established Minikahda. Watson redesigned Bryn Mawr in 1899 and 1901, according to Watson historian Dennis “Marty” Joy II, head professional at the Watson-designed Belvedere Golf Club in Charlevoix, Mich. In 1901, Watson’s brother Martin was hired as Minikahda’s golf instructor; he later worked at the Lafayette Club and Northland CC in Duluth.

William Watson, meanwhile, went on to become a noted course architect, with more than 100 layouts to his credit. He had a hand in the design of the original nine-hole White Bear Yacht Club course in 1915, though Ross and WB professional Tom Vardon also are presumed to have played roles. Watson’s designs largely were in California; his Midwestern designs included Interlachen (1909), La Crosse Country Club (1912), Fargo CC (1914), Winona CC (1917) and Ridgeview CC in Duluth (1921). Most of those original layouts were redesigned, some by the likes of Ross, Vardon and A.W. Tillinghast. Watson also is named as the designer of the Ferndale course in a list compiled by Joy.

Next, in Part II: Ferndale where. Pinning down the hole locations, in a manner of speaking.

Shor-Tee, Part II: Punch it 58 yards, UNDER the tree

Shor-Tee scorecard. Sam Terrell said the card is provided courtesy of Mike Thomas, general manager and PGA professional at North Links Golf Course in Mankato. Thomas, Terrell said, used to play the course when he went to visit his mother in Waseca, Minn. Thomas said the scorecard was from a round he played with his father at age 12.

Shor-Tee scorecard. Sam Terrell said the card is provided courtesy of Mike Thomas, general manager and PGA professional at North Links Golf Course in Mankato. Thomas, Terrell said, used to play the course when he went to visit his grandmother in Waseca, Minn. Thomas said the scorecard was from a round he played with his father at age 12.


Gotta love people like Sam Terrell.

After I posted last week about the old Shor-Tee Golf Course alongside Tetonka Lake in Waterville, at least a dozen people recounted good memories of the course on the “You Know You’re From Waterville,…” Facebook page.

Then Terrell, who grew up in nearby Elysian, emailed me a detailed account of Shor-Tee and the course’s owner and founder, Bill Sautbine, complete with a few cool old photos and a photo of the scorecard. The text of Terrell’s email follows, with photos at the bottom.

Here are Sam Terrell’s recollections:

“The course had all par threes and was a very short course. If I remember correctly, the  shortest hole was 58 yards and the longest was 116 yards. You could play the course with 2 clubs and a putter. I learned to play golf at Shor–Tee and also learned from Bill that you do when you hit a ball that may hit someone. I was teeing off on number 3 and hit one right over Bill’s head as he was teeing off on hole 4. He came rushing over and said, “When you think you are going to hit someone you holler ‘fore!’ real loud”. Needless to say I had many opportunities to holler ‘fore’ on such a small course when I was younger.

“I got my only hole-in-one on that course. It was on the 72 yard 7th hole. I played 27 holes that day. The first nine I hit the pin on hole 7 and thought that would be the closest I would ever get to a hole-in-one. The second time around, I hit a ball on 7 that hit the green and went in the hole on the second bounce. I was really excited and when I finished the second nine and was getting ready to go the third nine, I went into the clubhouse and told Bill I got a hole-in-one! His reaction was “oh, that’s nice”. It must have happened often because he did not get very excited about it.

“Back then, my future brother-in-law, Bob Preuss, lived on a farm west of the course and worked for Bill mowing the greens. He had to walk across a couple of fields to get to the course. Bill would make him change shoes because he didn’t want him getting mud on the greens.

“I talked to Bill years ago and he said he had intended to make the course into an 18 hole course but felt the community support was not good enough. He said he was a little disappointed because the community learned to golf on his small course but then went to Waseca and other courses where they could play longer holes and Shor – Tee was forgotten.

Terrell’s course description

Hole #1) The hole went up a steep incline starting at the clubhouse going north. Bill and June’s house sat just to the right of the green.

Hole #2) This hole was a short 58 yard hole on top of the hill that went east from behind hole 1. It had a big oak tree before the green so you could not hit a high shot. You had to punch a low shot under the tree to get to the green.

Hole #3) This was a hole that was 107 yards on top of the hill that went straight west with trees all along the right side all the way to the green.

Hole #4) This was a 80 yard hole that went south and was straight downhill. I like this one because if you drubbed the shot it could still roll down the hill and make it to the green.

Hole #5) This hole was 70 yards and went west towards the inlet off Tetonka. There was a small pond between the tee box and green.

Hole #6) This was 65 yards and came back east. Again you had to hit over the small pond.

Hole #7) This was a 72 yard hole that went towards the inlet.

Hole #8) This was the longest hole at 116 yards. It went east back towards the club house. When you finished the hole you had to walk west to get to the 9th tee box. There was a screen behind the 9th tee box to protect you from someone that may shank their tee shot to number 8.

Hole #9) This hole was 104 yards and ran parallel to number 8 and the road, going east towards the lake.

Terrell: "Me teeing off on number 7, the 6th green and clubhouse is behind me."

Sam Terrell: “Me teeing off on number 7, the 6th green and clubhouse is behind me.”

Terrell: "Me putting on the 6th green."

Terrell: “Me putting on the 6th green.”

From Sam Terrell: "My wife Rhonda with the 4th green in the background."

Terrell: “My wife Rhonda with the 4th green in the background.”





Golf in Waterville: A mostly true story

Waterville1WATERVILLE, Minn. — Yes, indeed. Greetings from Waterville.

This is the scene the postcard paints: warm, sunny, friendly, inviting Waterville.

The postcard lies.

Don’t misinterpret. The lie doesn’t reflect poorly on Waterville. There are many pleasant truths about this small town in south-central Minnesota. Waterville is home to the Buccaneers of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown High School, the reigning Class A state volleyball champions. It is host of citywide garage sales in mid-May and Bullhead Days in early June, where festival offerings include fireworks, bingo, food and carnival rides and where Miss Waterville kisses the prize catch in the kids fishing contest. And it is adorned by two big, beautiful and usually peaceful lakes, Tetonka to the west and Sakatah to the east.

Sakatah Bay, near downtown Waterville.

Sakatah Bay, near downtown Waterville.

Tetonka Lake, at Waterville Municipal Beach.

Tetonka Lake, at Waterville Municipal Beach.

Beyond those truths, there is this opinion: Waterville, population 1,868, is among the more appealing under-2,000-population towns I have visited in more than five decades of tooling around Minnesota. “World class fishing, scenic beauty and a progressive atmosphere,” the city’s website boasts, and the municipal chest-thumping doesn’t come across as overblown.

Here is how I got to Waterville:

In early April, while rummaging through eBay in a search for trinkets on lost Minnesota golf courses, I came across this listing: “Waterville Minnesota-Greetings From A Golf Course-1950s PC.” (The “PC” stands for “postcard.” The 1950s notation seemed unlikely to me; the golfers’ attire looked like what I wore on the course in the mid-1970s, except that my shorts were, I’m horrified to say, shorter and whiter and tighter than those on the woman at the left of the postcard.) Nonetheless, I hacked into my wife’s bank account for the required $6.40, bought the card (shown at the top of this post) and began Googling golf in Waterville.

Oh — If you similarly Googled “Waterville” and “golf” and wound up here while trying to land a reservation at the renowned links in Ireland, all I can say is “tough Irish luck.”

After a handful of search variations, Google revealed Shor-Tee Golf Course in Waterville, Minn. Maybe I should have known about the place, but I always said when I started digging up Minnesota’s lost courses that there was no way I would find every one. A few more clicks and a half-dozen phone calls revealed only smidges of information about Shor-Tee, all of which added up to the inevitable conclusion:

Road trip. I gotta see me that lost course.

Waterville is in southeastern Le Sueur County, approximately halfway between Faribault and Mankato and an hour south of Minneapolis. I had been told I might find archived material on Shor-Tee at the newspaper office, so that’s where I was headed first.

The door to Lake Region Life was closed. It was after office hours on a Friday afternoon, but the door was unlocked, so I barged in, as any big-city reporter worth his ill-mannered salt would. Jay Schneider, the newspaper’s editor and manager, couldn’t have been more accommodating. He not only invited me to go through the newspaper’s back issues, he spent at least an hour helping me look and/or telephoning one local after another to dig up the history of Shor-Tee. There was an element of doggedly digging for the truth at play, even for a subject as trivial as a little old golf course, which perhaps helps explain why Schneider and his staff won awards for their coverage of the devastating Waterville floods of 2014.

At this point, a few more truths about Shor-Tee Golf Course can be revealed. The course was owned by Willis Sautbine, who operated it with his wife, June. The Sautbines were teachers at Waterville High School. (June died in 2001 and Willis in 2011, and they had no children, so firsthand information on Shor-Tee from direct family members was impossible to gather.) Shor-Tee was situated two miles west of downtown Waterville, on the southern shore of Lake Tetonka, near a finger of land known as Willow Point.

Shor-Tee was a short course — a veritable walk to the end of the block and back. It was a par-3 layout, nine holes. A handful of Waterville residents said almost all of the holes were less than 100 yards long, with one saying the longest was about 110 yards.

“It was a 9-iron course and putter. You could get through the whole course with that,” said Waterville resident Scott Pullen, and evidence in the Lake Region Life office bore him out.

The Shor-Tee version of the golf bag: functional, lightweight, not overly stylish.

The Shor-Tee version of the golf bag: functional, lightweight, not overly stylish.

Schneider reached to a top shelf and pulled down a makeshift “golf bag” that came from Shor-Tee — a set of three plastic golf-bag tubes, held together by two old Schell’s beer cans.

At this point, the lines between truth and half-truth, hyperbole and well-intentioned but fuzzy memory began to blur. It most certainly wasn’t a Waterville thing; it is part and parcel of researching lost golf courses. One person tells you Lost Course X was 18 holes, on the south side of the county highway and tantamount to a Donald Ross design; the other says it was nine holes, alongside a dusty dirt road and was a dog track.

Willis Sautbine enjoyed various avocations. “Dabbler” might be an appropriate label. Besides opening a golf course, he performed karaoke at area bars. One Waterville resident doubted he was much good; another rebutted with “No, I think he was quite the crooner.”

Sautbine’s name comes up in a U.S. patent search. In 1972, he was awarded Patent No. 3699913, for something called a self-righting marker: “An upright marker for use in designating a selected spot on a floor or ground surface and having a weighted base with a rounded bottom to automatically return the marker to its uprights (sic) condition when knocked or blown over.”

Perhaps not all of his dabbling, however, was performed with precision. One person said Sautbine once set out to build an airplane, buying parts and assembling them in his garage. One little hang-up: The garage doors, the person said, weren’t wide enough to accommodate the exit of a fully assembled aircraft.
That anecdote aside, Sautbine’s golf course apparently was successful. At a minimum, it had staying power. At least two Waterville residents said the course was built in the 1950s, and two said it opened as a three-hole layout, although an entry penned by Minnesota State Mankato alum Sautbine on a university website purports that he built the course and strongly suggested its origin dated to the 1960s. (Sautbine called the course “Shor-TEE” in the piece, as opposed to the “Shor-Tee” in most other references.) He closed the course in 1994, with at least close to three decades of operation of a golf course of less than 1,000 yards in a town of less than 2,000 residents in the books. That in itself is remarkable.
Economy must have had something to do with Shor-Tee’s durability. Waterville resident Edgar Eggers, 99, recalled that annual membership cost $25. A 1990 roundup of golf courses that ran in the Rochester Post-Bulletin mentioned 58 courses in the region; the lowest greens fee of all was the $3.50 at Shor-Tee.
Criticism of Bill Sautbine’s operation could not be found in modern-day Waterville. At least a half-dozen people complimented Shor-Tee. “It used to be a cool place; it really was,” offered Pullen. Sautbine’s niece, Pat Hansen of Valley City, N.D., recalled spending summer weeks along the Sautbines’ Lake Tetonka shoreline, where houseboat and cottage rentals were available. A public beach was nearby, as well.

Willis Sautbine (used with permission of Minnesota State University Theatre & Dance)

Willis Sautbine (used with permission of Minnesota State University Theatre & Dance)

Thursdays were men’s nights at Shor-Tee, and the potlucks included hand-picked vegetables from June Sautbine’s garden. “June was the one that made that place go,” Eggers said of the high school phy ed teacher. “She taught all the kids how to play golf. … It was really a well-run golf course.”

With truth, fiction and opinion now reasonably sorted out, only The Big Lie remains , and it concerns the “Greetings From Waterville, Minn.” postcard.

My original intent in visiting Waterville included trying to ascertain the identity of the gentleman pictured at the center of the postcard. I was hoping to salute him, even if posthumously, for the high finish and excellent balance in his swing, and in the event he were still alive I would ask him if he had ever won a U.S. Open championship.

Not gonna happen.

Though it’s impossible to say for sure, it strongly appears the gentleman is swinging a wood, as are three others on the tee box. A mite too much club, I would say, by about eight clubs, for a likely low-handicap player negotiating a hole of 110 yards or less. And the golf course grounds appears relatively expansive, certainly not economy-sized like Shor-Tee was.

Schneider, a visitor to his newspaper office and Eggers all doubted that the postcard was from Shor-Tee. Waterville’s Jack Luther, 85, who played the course often and once had a hole in one there, unequivocally said the postcard absolutely did not depict Shor-Tee.

The back of the postcard is unmarked, so there are no hints as to the actual site of the picture on the front of the card. Maybe it was a photo from a nearby golf course — the nearest to Waterville are Prairie Ridge of Janesville, but that didn’t open until 1995, and Lakeside Club of Waseca.

Or maybe Tichnor Bros. Inc. of Boston 15, Mass., which issued the postcard, merely reached into its file of stock photos of golf courses and decided to imply to the unwashed masses that “Greetings From Waterville, Minn.” meant “Greetings From Waterville, Minn., Where The Golf Course That’s Really There Isn’t The One You’re Viewing On This Postcard.”

But that would have taken up a lot of real estate on the 3.5-by-5.5-inch field. Besides, a half-century later, this exercise in truth-finding was more fun anyway.

Looking north on Tetonka Lake from the Minnesota DNR boat launch, toward Willow Point. Area in the background was part of Willis Sautbine's property, sold in 1998 to Tim Schmidtke, who said his basement lies where the No. 2 green on Shor-Tees once lay.

Looking north on Tetonka Lake from the Minnesota DNR boat launch, toward Willow Point. Area in the background was part of Willis Sautbine’s property, sold in 1998 to Tim Schmidtke, who said his basement lies where the No. 2 green on Shor-Tees once lay.




The question of Shor-Tee’s date of opening appears to have been answered. Sam Terrell, an Elysian native who played at Shor-Tee’s, forwards the clip above from Jay Schneider’s Lake Region Life, published just after my visit. Thank you, Sam and Jay.

Mapping Minnesota’s lost golf courses

Not long after I began this ongoing folly of researching and writing about Minnesota’s lost golf courses in 2012, I published a map of the state’s lost courses on Google. It was on the rudimentary side, sort of the Google Maps version of chiseling onto the wall of the cave with a sharpened stone.

I recently finished Version 2 of the map, and it is, I think and hope, much better. There are more courses on it, as I have since uncovered a handful that I missed in my book and have added 41 courses that have closed up shop since the year 2000. I have color-coded the locators into eras in which the courses were abandoned (before 1950, 1950-99 and 2000-present) and added more information on many of the courses.

Without further adieu (as in adieu to the 128 129 130 131 courses currently included), the map can be found here: Minnesota’s lost golf courses: The map

Minnesota’s lost golf courses, since 2000: The list

Since 2000, by my count, 41 golf courses in Minnesota have closed and/or been abandoned. This list, last updated on May 26, 2016, is posted without commentary (that can be found elsewhere on this site). Feel free to respond to this post with additions, corrections or your own commentary.

To my knowledge, there is no similar list that is this complete.

Albert Lea Country Club (1912-2006)

Begin Oaks, Plymouth (2000-2014)

Brainerd Country Club/Pine Meadows (1920s-2004)

The Bridges of Mounds View (1995-2006)

Brockway, Rosemount (1935-2004)

Carriage Hills, Eagan (1967-2005)

Cedar Hills, Eden Prairie (1940-2000)

City View, Cold Spring (1999-2015)

Countryside, Shafer (2001-circa 2013)

Country View, Maplewood (1930-2004)

Deer Meadows, Cambridge (2000-?)

Elm Creek, Plymouth (1960-2013)

Fred Richards Executive Course, Edina (1956-2014)

Greenwood, Wyoming (1985-unknown)

Hampton Hills, Plymouth (1960-2003)

Hidden Creek, Owatonna (1996-2009)

Higbee’s, Wahkon (closed 2013)

Holiday Park, Hayward (1966-2011)

Irish Hills, Pine River (1985-2009)

KateHaven, Blaine (1981-2014)

Lakeview, Orono (1956-2013)

Links of Byron (1994-ca. 2013)

Maplebrook, Stewartville (1974-unknown)

Maple Hills, Maplewood (opened 1954)

Meadowbrook, Mabel (opened 1984; shown below, 2014 photo, after course’s closing, with the former kidney-shaped ninth green in the foreground and clubhouse in the background, courtesy of Ross Himlie Photography in Rushford) mabel Meadow Lakes, Rochester (1998-2012)

Minnetonka Country Club, Excelsior (1916-2014)

Mulligan Masters, Lake Elmo (circa 2000-08)

Oakdale Par 3 (1994-2009)

Orchard Gardens, Burnsville (1967-2004)

Parkview, Eagan (1969-2013)

Ponderosa, Glyndon (1962-2015)

Red Oak, Minnetrista (1969-2013)

Sauk Centre Country Club (1921-2013)

Silver Springs, Monticello (1974-2009)

Tartan Park, Lake Elmo (opened 1965, closed December 2015. Plans are for the grounds to be converted into The Royal Golf Club, scheduled to open in 2017, but it’ll be a total rebuild of Tartan Park, so I’m considering Tartan Park to be a lost course.)

Valley View, Belle Plaine (1992-2015)

Wendigo, Grand Rapids (1995-2011)

Wilderness Hills, Holyoke (1995-unknown)

Woodbury Par 3 (1975-2003)

Woodland Creek, Andover (1989-circa 2010)

Note: Pinewood, a city-owned golf course in Elk River, has been closed since 2013 while a legal dispute has played out. A lawsuit has been settled; as of April 2016, the course’s fate has not been determined.