Mille Lacs mystery: Bay View Hotel, Onamia

We have visual confirmation.

And almost nothing else.

Not every search for a Minnesota lost golf course results in a treasure trove of information or a fascinating, revealing road trip to a long-lost resting place of greensward.

Sometimes, dead ends are the order of the day month year.

In late 2016, I came across an image of an old golf course in the Lake Mille Lacs area. The inscription on the postcard is self-explanatory:

1935 postcard, golf course at Bay View Hotel, Onamia

Beyond the fact that this golf course once existed, I’m afraid, months later, that I still know nothing (insert your own punchline). Multiple calls to the Onamia area and other searches turned up almost no information on the former golf course near the site of what is now the BayView Bar & Grill. The only known modern-day connection to golf at BayView is that the bar and grill stages an on-ice tournament every year on the frozen surface of Lake Mille Lacs.

BayView — the bar and grill — advertises itself as having been in business since 1897, and in its early years as Bay View Hotel it operated a nine-hole golf course alongside Minnesota Highway 27, 4.5 miles northeast of downtown Onamia and just a couple of hundred yards east of Lake Mille Lacs’ Cove Bay. Judging by an ad in the January 1928 edition of “Fins, Feathers and Fur,” published by the Minnesota Fish and Game Department, the course was established in the mid-1920s. The course featured sand greens, as evidenced by the postcard image. I have no idea when the golf course ceased to operate.

The magazine ad is shown below. And below that is a 1938 aerial photo of the Bay View Hotel’s golf grounds.

1928 magazine ad

1939 aerial photo of the Bay View Hotel golf course, courtesy University of Minnesota’s John Borchert Map Library. Lake Mille Lacs is on the left; the hotel’s old airstrip runs diagonally near the bottom-right corner of the photo. A few of the course’s sand greens are clearly visible as small, bright, white circles. Click on the photo for a closer look.

And that’s all I got.

As always, further information about this lost golf course is welcome.

Notes, September 2017: A Minneapolis Tribune story from April 13, 1930, noted that work was nearly completed for the opening of play (presumably for the 1930 season) on the Bay View Golf club links at Onamia, according to A.W. Gustafson, owner. “A large number of Twin City golfers and others from this vicinity,” the newspaper noted, “are expected today.”

Also, an ad in the June 29, 1941, Minneapolis Tribune confirms that the golf course was still operating.

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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 St. Paul, 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

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