History

Interlachen’s Founding - 1909

Interlachen’s founding members were enthusiastic golfers from the Bryn Mawr golf club in north Minneapolis, who pooled their resources to create Interlachen when they learned that their 9-hole course would be converted into homes. Following a thoughtful process of finding the best available land on which to build an 18-hole golf course, the six founders selected 146 acres of amply wooded, rolling farm land in Edina, 15 miles southwest of downtown Minneapolis and accessible by streetcar.

The selected land was fertile and possessed an abundance of the natural attributes necessary to create a quality golf course. The 40 acres nearest the trolley line on the north were covered with oak trees, which were thinned out to build the course. The southern end of the club’s land adjoining Mirror Lake for a half-mile was ideal for summer bathing and canoeing, with red and white oak trees lining the sandy shoreline. The natural beauty surrounding the serpentine-shaped lake was influential in the selection of the site, along with a number of smaller lakes dotting the property. The appealing topography with rolling hills and vales afforded interesting golf architecture with minimal moving of earth. The name Interlachen, meaning between lakes in German, appropriately described the chosen land.

The club was incorporated on December 31, 1909. One week later, the men purchased an option on the land for $1,000. Despite their covert search, the farmer learned of their intentions to turn his farm into an exclusive golf course. As Mark Frost describes in his book, The Grand Slam, the farmer tried to delay the negotiations and increase the price when the option expired. But the six men learned of his plan and decided to pay the originally negotiated price of $12,000 in gold. Bickelhaupt and Powell boarded a streetcar with a bag of gold bullion in hand and trekked the last two miles through a snowstorm to the farmer’s home, which was located near today’s 12th hole. Arriving after dark, they delivered the gold and consummated the deal. Although the farmer lived out in the country, he was uncomfortable keeping that much gold in his house. So the two founders made the trip back downtown through the snow and stayed up all night guarding the gold with loaded shotguns until the bank opened the following morning.

Construction Begins

With the land secured, the members hired Scottish golf professional and architect Willie Watson to design the course. Their vision for a high-quality 18-hole golf course lured Watson back from Pasadena, Calif., where he had been working for the previous seven winters, to Minnesota to create his third course in the state. Hailed as a “golf expert” by The Minneapolis Journal (May 8, 1910), the selection of Watson was likely based on the members’ familiarity with his work at Minikahda and Lafayette, where he had designed nine holes each to wide acclaim 10 years earlier. Additionally, Interlachen’s former Bryn Mawr members knew him from Bryn Mawr, where he previously had taught golf.

In the spring of 1910, Watson laid out a 6,120-yard design that featured a double green for the ninth and 18th holes, measuring 175-feet long and more than 100-feet at its widest point.

The Clubhouse

Cecil Bayless Chapman was hired to design the clubhouse. He traveled to Chicago and St. Louis in March 1910 to study the best country-club clubhouses, gathering ideas for the English-Tudor style that would define Interlachen’s grand building.

Construction on the clubhouse began in the spring of 1910. It was located 500 yards south of the trolley line and 100 yards north of Edina Boulevard (which would later be renamed Interlachen Boulevard) on a beautiful knoll, providing scenic views of the golf course. The building would face east with the Minneapolis skyline in the distance. Nine bedrooms upstairs accommodated weekend excursions at the club, because it was considered a long distance from town.

Although Interlachen’s focus from the beginning has been golf, the club appealed to a broad spectrum of interests. The first grounds included tennis, horseback riding and trapshooting.

Developing a Roster

From the founding in December 1909 to the grand opening in July 1911, Interlachen assembled an impressive roster that included many of the city’s prominent professionals and nearly the entire Bryn Mawr membership. The club’s first president, Alvin H. Poehler, was treasurer of H. Poehler & Co., a successful family-owned grain elevator business, and served on the Minneapolis Chamber of Commerce. The original founders included: Ransom J. Powell, attorney; Charles A. Tuller, assistant business manager of The Minneapolis Journal; George B. Bickerhaupt, circulation manager of The Minneapolis Journal; Walton R. Murray, First National Bank; Charles E. Haldeman, Barber Asphalt Company; and A. C. Cornwell, Cornwell Elevator Company.

All for $110,000

President Poehler provided a comprehensive update on the progress of the club to more than 250 members at the second Annual Meeting in April 1911. His report was printed verbatim in The Minneapolis Journal (Apr. 16, 1911), demonstrating the novelty and intrigue of the new club.

Poehler was enthusiastic about the financial condition of the club and ensured a prosperous future. The total investment in the club to date had been $110,000. The club raised necessary funds from the sale of mortgage bonds and the sale of 500 memberships to adult male residents of Hennepin County at fifty cents per share; as well, there were 15 non-resident memberships. Annual dues were $40 or just over three dollars per month.

Grand Grand Opening

With great anticipation, Interlachen opened on July 29, 1911, with more than 50 members playing the nine holes that were ready. That evening, members and guests enjoyed a grand opening gala and tour of their new clubhouse. Minneapolis society was well represented, including Mayor J.C. Haynes. After dinner was served, the floor was cleared for dancing. A stringed orchestra and a popular Minneapolis vocalist entertained the guests.

“Perched on the highest hilltop within a radius of miles of beautiful country the Interlachen Country Club showed off like a beacon of light last night,” reported The Minneapolis Journal (July 30, 1911). “Many followed its beckonings, some by way of the winding Edina Road in their touring cars, and others on the electric car on a fast flight from town to Interlachen and then had made their way under arched trees to the house on the hilltop.”

Early Tournaments

With the club operational, it did not take long for Interlachen to host its first state golf tournament, the Minnesota State Amateur Championship, in 1913. This event marked the beginning of a long-standing relationship between Interlachen and the Minnesota Golf Association and Minnesota Women’s Golf Association. Interlachen hosted the State Amateur in 1918-24-33-48-77-96. Interlachen also has been a strong supporter of women’s golf, hosting the Minnesota Women’s Amateur match play in 1922-27-37-55-64-76 and the Minnesota Women’s Amateur stroke play in 1950-87-97.

The club also aspired to host national events, sending two board members to the Western Golf Association annual meeting in Chicago, where they made a successful bid for the 1914 Western Open. Considered among the major national championships at the time, the Western Open established Interlachen on the national scene. Willie Kidd, who became Interlachen’s head golf professional in 1920, finished second. Interlachen next hosted the 1916 Trans-Mississippi, another prestigious national event that was won by Harry Legg of Minikahda.

Interlachen’s defining moment was the 1930 U.S. Open when Bobby Jones won the third leg of what would become his Grand Slam. Before coming to Interlachen, Jones had won the 1930 British Amateur on The Old Course at St. Andrews and the 1930 British Open at Royal Liverpool. Following Interlachen, he won the 1930 U.S. Amateur at Merion to make sports history and give Interlachen national and international prominence for its role in Jones’ incredible journey.

Interlachen next hosted the 1935 U.S. Women’s Amateur, which was the impetus that sparked Patty Berg’s developing game. Like Bobby Jones was to men’s golf, Glenna Collett Vare was the most-decorated woman player at the time. She was at the height of her career and held off formidable challengers to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Interlachen. However, the story line was further enhanced because the main challenger was Interlachen’s own Patty Berg, who forced Vare to play the best golf of her career to stave off the charging youngster’s hot putter and gusty attitude in the final match. Vare won 3&2 (34 holes).

The Golf Course

Despite the success of these early tournaments on the original Watson layout, the members hired Donald Ross, the premier course architect of his time, to completely reroute and redesign the course in 1919. There have been modifications over time, but today’s golf course remains relatively unchanged from Ross’ design, which he completed in 1921. His timeless design gave Interlachen national acclaim and prominence -- and likely influenced securing the U.S. Open in 1930.

In the mid-1920s, Interlachen head professional Willie Kidd redesigned the 16th and 17th holes that Ross had created. With Ross’ design, the 11th hole had been a short par-3 between the 10th green and 18th tee. Additionally, the 17th hole had been a par-4 dogleg from the present 16th tee, around the pond to a green located near today’s 17th green. Kidd eliminated the awkward 11th hole, on which the green was slanted nearly 30 degrees back to front, making putting nearly impossible. Willie Kidd also changed Ross’ 17th hole, creating today’s par-4 16th and par-3 17th. The 17th, in particular, was a great contribution that played at 262 yards in the 1930 U.S. Open, the longest in Open history until the 288-yard eighth hole at Oakmont in 2007.

The next significant changes to the course were designed by architect Robert Trent Jones in the late 1950s. Interlachen had extended an invitation to the USGA to host another U.S. Open but was declined because the course was too short. This prompted the Greens Committee to meet with Jones in 1959 to discuss modernizing the course. Jones, who was in town designing Hazeltine National, presented several proposals including completely refurbishing the golf course and switching Nos. 10 and 18. Proud of the Ross design, the membership opposed Jones’ drastic suggestions and hired him only to rework the greens on Nos. 1 and 3.

Architect Geoffrey Cornish was hired in the 1980s to restore many original Ross details and contours that had been lost over the years. Based on his theory of fairway flow, Cornish recontoured fairways around drip lines of trees and off of mounds, such as 100 yards off the tee on the left side of No. 10. Many of his contours remain today.

Brian Silva, Cornish’s protégé and business partner who had supervised the construction in the 1980s, was hired in 2006 to restore every bunker on the course to more closely resemble Ross’ original design. Silva flattened the bottoms of the bunkers, eliminating big faces that had developed over the years. He repositioned many fairway bunkers to work into slopes and the topography, rather than run parallel to fairways. He updated the course’s length by repositioning some bunkers and adding new tee boxes on Nos. 4 and 8 to reflect changes in technology. The new tee at No. 8 also was added for use during the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open.

Evident by several alterations, Interlachen is committed to maintaining the course as close to Ross’ original design as possible. It is his design for which Interlachen is known and the reason why the course is so special.

Modern Championships

It was an early priority of Interlachen to host prestigious championships during the club’s first several decades, and that culminated with the 1930 U.S. Open and 1935 U.S. Women’s Amateur.

But 51 years passed before Interlachen hosted its next USGA event, the U.S. Senior Amateur in 1986 (won by Bo Williams).

The Senior Amateur was an ideal event to reacquaint the club with championship golf because it was relatively small and low-key by USGA standards. Because that event was a success, the club was happy to host the 1993 Walker Cup (won by the U.S.). The success of the Walker Cup led to the Solheim Cup (won by the U.S.) in 2002, which led to the U.S. Women’s Open (won by Inbee Park) in 2008.

In the modern era, each major event that Interlachen has hosted has been bigger and better than its last. The USGA has hosted championships at Interlachen for nearly eight decades. The span of 78 years between the 1930 U.S. Open and the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open demonstrated that the golf course is timeless and relevant to golfers of Bobby Jones’ era and to golfers of today.

Interlachen Attracts Top Golf Professionals

Interlachen has had only six golf professionals in its more than 100-year history, underscoring the club’s national reputation, which has helped it attract and retain the most highly qualified professionals:

Dow George (1911-1915)

A native of West Virginia, George previously had worked as an assistant in Hot Springs, Virginia, where he once held the course record of 64. George was a good teacher and player, which was important since few Interlachen members had played much golf.

George Sargent (1916-1919)

British-born Sargent won the U.S. Open in 1909, worked with the biggest names in golf including Harry Vardon and Bobby Jones, and served as the third President of the PGA of America.

Willie Kidd (1920-1957)

Kidd was an accomplished player, who competed in several national PGAs and U.S. Opens including the 1930 Open at Interlachen, teacher and club builder native to golf’s birthplace near St. Andrews. Kidd was Interlachen’s first long-term professional, who served 37 years.

Bill Kidd (1957-1993)

Bill Kidd was the right person to succeed his father, Willie Kidd. Bill loved golf and Interlachen, respected the game’s rules and traditions and played and taught the game proficiently.

Jock Olson (1994-2008)

Olson faced and succeeded in the formidable task of following Willie and Bill Kidd and their 73-year legacy as Interlachen’s head golf professionals. Since starting in 1994, Olson maintained the club’s strong golf operation and helped enhance its national stature through his involvement with the successful 2002 Solheim Cup and 2008 U.S. Women’s Open.

Nathan Ollhoff (2009-present)

Minnesota native Ollhoff replaced Olson as head professional in 2009. Previously, Ollhoff served as an assistant PGA professional at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass., and Seminole Golf Club in North Palm Beach, Fla.

- History written by Christine Geer Dean

Patty Berg: Develops Game at Interlachen

Living near Lake Harriet in South Minneapolis, Patty Berg convinced her father to buy her a junior membership at Interlachen when she was 14.

Berg entered her first tournament in 1933, the Minneapolis City Championship, and shot 122 in the qualifying round. Disgusted with her performance, she devoted herself to improving her game. Her father signed her up for lessons from Jim Pringle, Interlachen’s teaching professional, and with head professional Willie Kidd. Berg spent every summer day at Interlachen, playing and practicing for hours. Her hard work paid off, and she won the Minneapolis City Championship the next year in 1934.

Just three years after Patty Berg’s runner-up finish at the 1935 U.S. Women’s Amateur, she captured the national title in 1938 at Westmoreland Country Club in Illinois. That same summer, she won virtually every important amateur championship, including the Minnesota Women’s Amateur, Trans-Mississippi, South Atlantic, Women’s Western and Mid-South, establishing herself as the dominant American amateur. She even won a professional tournament, the Titleholders Championship.

Having won most of the prestigious amateur titles, the 22-year-old Berg turned professional and was the first woman to sign an endorsement contract with Wilson Sporting Goods in 1940.

Berg’s career included 60 professional titles, of which 15 were majors, which is still the women’s professional record. She compiled an incredible competitive record, but above all she was a pioneer who excelled in uncharted territory. She was one of the first women to turn professional and secure an equipment contract. She won the first U.S. Women’s Open in 1946. In 1950, Berg was one of the 13 founders of the LPGA and was the organization’s first president (1950-52). She also was the first woman to reach $100,000 in career earnings. In 1952, she was the first recipient of the Vare Trophy for the season’s lowest-stroke average of 75.00.

The progress of the LPGA since Berg helped found the organization in 1950 was evident when Interlachen hosted the Solheim Cup in 2002. The LPGA’s premier team event attracted record crowds and media attention around the globe. Berg was the obvious selection to serve as Honorary Chairwoman of the event.