Architects: Willie Watson/Robert Foulis (1898), Robert Taylor, Robert
Foulis/C.T. Jaffray (1907), Thomas Bendelow (1908), Donald Ross
(1916-20), Ralph Plummer (1961), Geoffrey Cornish/Craig Schriner
(1988-1990s), Ron Prichard (2001-03)
Year Opened: 1898
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Slope: 142. Rating: 73.4
Hole-by-Hole: 1 - Par 4 311 Yds 10 - Par 4 434 Yds
2 - Par 4 436 Yds 11 - Par 3 180 Yds
3 - Par 3 171 Yds 12 - Par 4 390 Yds
4 - Par 5 514 Yds 13 - Par 5 574 Yds
5 - Par 4 308 Yds 14 - Par 4 476 Yds
6 - Par 3 191 Yds 15 - Par 4 391 Yds
7 - Par 5 506 Yds 16 - Par 4 414 Yds
8 - Par 3 215 Yds 17 - Par 4 339 Yds
9 - Par 5 542 Yds 18 - Par 4 383 Yds
Par 36 3,194 Yds Par 36 3,581 Yds
Events Held: Trans-Mississippi Amateur (1904, 1912, 1923, 1981, 1994, 2007),
U.S. Open (1916),
U.S. Amateur (1927),
Walker Cup (1957),
U.S. Women's Amateur (1988),
Curtis Cup (1998),
Minnesota State Amateur Championship (1902, 1906, 1908, 1911,
1915, 1919, 1931, 1946, 1969, 1990, 2005),
U.S. Senior Amateur (2017).
Awards Won: Ranked #84 by Golfweek Magazine (2006) - America's Best Top-100
Classic Courses (pre-1960),
Ranked 6th by Golf Digest (2001) - Best in State Rankings (MN).
HISTORY: The Minikahda Club has a long and colorful history dating back to
1898, when the key founding fathers, C.T. Jaffray, a powerful and respected
financial figure in Minneapolis, Martin Koon, William Edgar, Walter Tiffany
and Harry Thayer started the club. The name Minikahda comes from the Sioux, a
combination of two Indian words meaning "by the side of the water." The club
logo in fact, depicts an Indian shield, similar to the original artifact
framed in the clubhouse.
The club's first golf professional, Willie Watson, who designed nearby
Interlachen Country Club, along with Robert Foulis laid out the original nine-
hole course, with the first shot being struck in the summer of 1899. Seven
years later, the board approved plans to purchase additional property for an
18-hole layout. Foulis, Robert Taylor and Jaffray, who served on the Executive
Committee of the United States Golf Association, created the new course, which
opened in 1907. Renowned course architect Thomas Bendelow was brought in a
year later to propose some minor adjustments to the course.
It should be noted that replacing divots is not something that was tolerated
back in the day, as the Board of Governors in 1916 instituted a policy that
players would be suspended for two weeks for failure to replace divots.
The USGA made its first stop to Minikahda back in 1916, as amateur Charles
"Chick" Evans captured the U.S. Open. What was even more amazing, is that
Evans carded a two-over-par 286 to defeat Jock Hutchison by two shots, using
only seven clubs. That's right, seven wooden-shafted sticks enabled Evans to
post a score that would last for 20 years. During the final round, Evans
gambled at the par-five 12th, going for the green in two. It turned out to be
quite successful, as he two-putted for birdie and eventually the win.
With that record score in mind, the membership of Minikahda felt that the
course needed a facelift to keep up with the changing times of golf, never
realizing that Evans' total would remain intact for two decades. Despite the
thoughts of the Club, the U.S. Open players struggled for the week, averaging
76.28 for the championship with only five rounds under par, the best, a three-
under 68 on the final day by Hutchison.
So the powers that be enlisted the one and only Donald Ross to redesign the
course. Ross was just coming into his own as an architect, as he was working
on Oakland Hills, Inverness and Scioto at the same time of this project. The
improvements were accepted by the Board, with the only item remaining intact,
the stately clubhouse which still stands today. The beautiful structure
overlooks Lake Calhoun and awards a sensational view of Minneapolis proper.
Work started in the fall of 1916 at a cost of just $7,380, but due to World
War I, the changes were not implemented until the fall of 1920.
Just 11 years after the Open, the USGA made a return trip to Minikahda for the
U.S. Amateur Championship, where Robert (Bobby) Tyre Jones registered the
third of his record, five titles. Jones, the medalist at 142, crushed Chick
Evans in the final, 8 & 7. Jones opened with a hard-fought 2-up win over
Maurice McCarthy, designer of the original course at Hershey Country Club. In
the semifinals, Jones wiped out two-time Amateur winner and 1913 U.S. Open
champion Francis Ouimet, 11 & 10, prior to his easy victory over Evans.
Next up was the Walker Cup in 1957. Led by captain Charlie Coe, the United
States squad cruised to an 8-3 win over Great Britain and Ireland. The U.S.
squad featured eight-time Walker Cupper William C. Campbell, six-time player
William Hyndman III and Mason Rudolph, who would later win five times on the
The U.S. Women's Amateur made a stop at The Minikahda Club in 1988, as current
LPGA player Pearl Sinn knocked off Karen Noble in the finals, 6 & 5. Sinn's
most notable win en route to the title was a 2-up quarterfinal victory over
future nine-time LPGA Tour winner Kelly Robbins.
Over the years, several architects have made recommendations to the club,
including Geoffrey Cornish and Craig Schriner, who worked on the course in the
late 1980s and early 1990s.
The final USGA stop at Minikahda came in 1998, for the women's team amateur
event, the 30th Curtis Cup matches. In an epic battle, the United States
regained the Cup with a 10-8 victory over Great Britain & Ireland. Team USA
included the Grande Dame of USGA events, Carol Semple Thompson, Virginia Derby
Grimes, Jenny Chuasiriporn, who lost in the finals to Grace Park at the U.S.
Women's Amateur that same year and was defeated in a playoff at the 1998
U.S. Women's Open, and current LPGA player Beth Bauer. But it was Brenda
Corrie Kuehn and Kellee Booth who posted brilliant 4-0 marks to help the
United States capture the Cup for the first time since 1990.
It was time for a change and who better to bring The Minikahda Club back into
prominence than Ron Prichard. Rees Jones is known as the "Open Doctor" while
Ron Prichard should be tallied as the "Ross Restorer." In 2001, Minikahda
brought in Prichard to revitalize the course. Prichard, who has restored over
30 Donald Ross layouts, removed hundreds of trees, lengthened the course,
reshaped the putting surfaces back to their original sizes, rebuilt and
relocated the bunkers and squared all the tee boxes. The multi-million dollar
renovation was a huge success, as the course now moves into the 21st century.
REVIEW: When you step on the opening tee box at Minikahda you'll glance at the
scorecard and figure, this should be a walk in the park. 'Ocontraire mon'ami.'
What you'll realize as you progress through your round and hopefully right
away, is that Minikahda Club is a thinking-man's golf course.
The first is just 311 yards from the tips, but it requires precision right off
the bat. Although straightaway, the fairway is narrow, with a deep bunker
right and a pair left, not to mention tall, overhanging trees down the left
side. A hybrid or fairway metal should do the trick from the start, thus
leaving only a wedge of some sort to a well-guarded green. The putting surface
is quite slick from back to front, with five diabolical bunkers defending the
pin. The key on this fairly large green is to place your approach below the
hole, otherwise, three-putting comes into play.
Just add 125 yards, tighten the fairway and shrink the green and you've got
the second hole. The second longest par four on the course, number two
features tall, encroaching trees on both sides of the fairway and well-placed
fairway bunkers. Your drive needs to be precise and long, setting up a mid
iron to one of the smallest greens on the course. A fairly benign surface,
your approach must connect with the green, as any shot long and right will
fall off sharply, making for a difficult recovery.
The shortest of the four par threes, the third is a gem, just 171 yards in
length. Club selection is crucial on this all-carry one-shotter. Sand short
and right will snare any off-line play to this 27-paced deep green. With the
raised putting surface, shots short, left and deep will fall off dramatically,
making for yet another difficult up-and-down.
A real opportunity to get one back, the relatively short par-five fourth can
be had. Your tee shot plays downhill towards the landing area and only the
longest of hitters can reach the plateau, some 300 yards from the box. Trees
guard the entire left side, not to mention a long fairway trap. The next shot
will play uphill towards the green, but we are aware of the two bunkers
guarding the landing area on either side of the fairway. Any shot left will be
gobbled up by the greenside trap, so err right to leave your best pitch for
birdie or par.
The fifth, a par four of just 308 yards, is uphill all the way to the green
and requires an opening shot of 206 yards to reach the top of the fairway. The
tight landing area slopes slightly to the left, where tall trees occupy the
land. The putting surface slopes severely from back to front and is guarded on
the left by a deep bunker. Any player putting for birdie above the hole will
be hard-pressed to two-putt.
With seven different tee boxes, the par-three sixth can play from as little as
146 yards to as much as 200 from the tips. The tee shot plays over a pond down
the left, but the real danger is long and right. A tall, thick tree and bunker
stand guard on the right, while a chipping area beyond the green makes for a
difficult recovery. The miniscule putting surface, just 28 yards in depth,
cants from the rear, making the routine, arduous.
Decisions will need to be made as soon as you reach the seventh tee. This
sharp, dogleg right par five can be reached in two, as it only stretches 506
yards from the back tee. It will take a wallop of 250 yards to carry the
corner of the dogleg, however you will flirt with disaster in the process. A
44-yard long trap at the turn and deep, tall trees guard the right. Even with
a successful blast, you'll be left with the straight and narrow - meaning, 230
yards to the hole and bunkers encroaching on the fairway and the green. The
putting surface runs hard from the rear, so at all costs, stay below the hole.
You can make birdie.
The longest of the par threes, the eighth is a gem at 215 yards. It will take
a hybrid or long iron to conquer the tiered green, with sand left and right. A
babbling brook does run down the left side into a pond, but should not come
into play, unless the pin is positioned back-left and a breeze comes from the
south. Making par here could be tall order.
The closing hole on the front nine is another dogleg right par five. This time
however, it's 542 yards and uphill from the fairway. The longest of hitters
will be hard-pressed to cut the corner of this dogleg, as it's almost 300
yards to reach the fairway trap down the left, not to mention the tall trees
that guard the entire right side to the green are quite imposing. Your second
shot climbs uphill and must be placed in the fairway, avoiding two bunkers on
either side of the landing zone. Take an extra club or two, to reach the
putting surface and be precise, as the large green has many pin positions.
With a front flag, be aware of the sloped putting surface which will repel
balls back down the fairway. For the bold player, the green is as slick as any
on the course, so attempt to play short of the flag. By the way, the bunker
left of the green is jail.
Number 10 is ranked as the hardest hole on the course and with good reason.
From an elevated tee, the player is forced to smoke his drive down the center
of the fairway, as trees infringe on both sides and two deep traps wreak havoc
on the right. The rolling fairway now plays uphill towards one of the largest
greens on the course at 34 yards deep. Sand guards the right side of the
putting surface, while a deep slope and another bunker well below the green
protects the left. Although quite large, the green is fairly flat, so if
you're on in regulation, chances are, you'll make par.
One of the prettiest par threes, the 11th, is the last of the quartet and it's
a beaute. A mid to long iron will be required to reach the green. A pair of
deep traps, right and left guard the entrance to the putting surface. The
green, with plenty of right-to-left slope, is just 24 paces deep, so club
selection is key.
The 12th is a roller-coaster of a par four, with its up and down and sloping,
right-to-left fairway. Although short, a 220-yard carry is needed to fly past
the fairway bunkers and reach the easiest part of the landing area. Once
again, trees guard both sides along with thick rough. Your approach will play
uphill to a well-guarded, tiny green. The traps sit well below the putting
surface, especially the left bunker which wraps around the green. With a back-
right pin, you won't be able to see the top of the flag if you miss left. The
green is fast and furious, so don't be too aggressive.
The longest hole on the course, the 574-yard, par-five 13th is nothing to be
scared about. That is, unless you miss the fairway, catch a bunker, knock it
in the water or miss the green left. To start off with, the hole plays
downhill for most of the way and requires a fairly big drive to pass the slope
in the fairway. Two massive bunkers down the right side serve as perfect
targets to shoot at, as they stand over 300 yards away. It's decision time for
your next play. Once again, the fairway slopes downward, this time towards a
creek that crosses the landing area, 70 yards shy of the green. The ideal play
is to layup before the water, thus leaving a nice full wedge to the long, two-
tiered green. The putting surface is fronted on the left and right by sand.
Large mounding on the left, along with some gnarly rough will present a real
problem with any offline play.
From one monster to another, the 14th hole is the longest par four on the
course and begins a stretch of five consecutive par fours. This is another
stern test of your driver on this tight, tree-lined hole. Avoid the fairway
bunker on the left and you'll have a long iron or hybrid to an uphill green.
The putting surface is the smallest on the course at just 21 paces. Sand
guards the right and must be steered clear of to have any shot at par. That's
right par, because birdie is a real longshot.
The final four holes are solid par fours, but certainly not back-breakers.
First up is the 15th at 391 yards. A dogleg left, the key here is to strike a
fairway metal for accuracy, as you must miss the bunker right and the tall
trees left. Just a short iron should remain to a fairly large green with sand
left and right, so take dead aim and you might be rewarded.
Sixteen will be a real test off the tee and on the green. Not overly long at
414 yards from the tips, the object will be to slice the quartet of bunkers
on both sides of the landing area. Easier said than done on this narrow strip.
A mid iron should get the job done, unless the pin is back-left. See, the
green is a whopping 37 yards long with a severe two-tier near the front. Sand
on all four sides is very deep and will require your best to save a shot.
Although very short, the 17th can be quite difficult, especially if you happen
to miss the fairway. Here, the course of action is to go with the big stick,
as this will take the fairway bunkers out of play. The two traps on the left
run over 40 yards in length. After a successful tee shot, just a little sand-
wedge should remain to a tight target. The raised green is surrounded by sand
and runs from back to front. This hole can be real difficult with a back pin,
as the green narrows and there is very little room behind the surface.
The closer is another where you must pay attention off the tee, as trees guard
both sides of the bunkerless landing area. The lone fairway trap should not
come into play, as it's only 185 yards from the tee to clear. It's uphill
towards the green, so take an extra club to reach the relatively flat green.
The putting surface will appear to be closer, but don't be misled, as the 38
yards of fairway sits between a crossing bunker and the green. One final word
of caution, all shots over the green will chase downhill towards oblivion.
Just ask a former Minnesota Vikings punter Greg Coleman and my host Joe
Tennyson, who both failed miserably on the last.
FINAL WORD: Prior to 2000, Minikahda Club was ranked as one of the top courses
in the state of Minnesota, right behind Interlachen and Hazeltine National.
With the influx of the high-end public courses in recent years, Minikahda has
fallen from the rankings. What a mistake.
After an extensive redesign by Prichard, The Minikahda Club should begin its
return to the rankings.
By today's standards, Minikahda is quite short at just under 6,800 yards, but
don't be fooled into thinking you can overpower this course. You can't.
Reminiscent of the lovely layout of Apawamis Club in New York, Minikahda is a
tight, tree-lined course featuring tight, rolling fairways and miniscule slick
greens. It is beautifully maintained and groomed, difficult and fair, a
thinking man's course and a track you could play day in and day out and never
tire from it.
This is Donald Ross at his best. I would certainly include Minikahda among
Ross' finest designs, Pinehurst and Aronimink not withstanding.
What makes this course so compelling? A long-lasting history of golf in the
United States, an extremely challenging layout, beautiful bunkering,
sensational conditioning, an outstanding membership, a grande old clubhouse
and best of all, Vodka Bootlegs on the roof overlooking Lake Calhoun.
The Minikahda Club is another example that courses do not need to be 7,500
yards long to be difficult. Look at Merion, Cypress Point, Newport, Prairie
Dunes and the greatest course on the planet, Pine Valley, all tracks under
Minikahda Club is a course that has withstood the test of time, a brilliant,
shiny pearl in the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." The oldest and most prestigious
club in the region.