Golf Column: Golf’s history is interesting and often amusing

by Larry Norland, Director of Golf at Green Haven GC

Editor’s note: This is the first golf column in a new venture this spring  as area golf pros will share their thoughts on the game each week.

The first known occurrence of golf (gowf) was the playing of a game with sticks and a ball in the Netherlands around 1297.

Larry Norland, Director of Golf at Green Haven GC
Larry Norland, Director of Golf at Green Haven GC

The modern game of golf that is played on 18 holes originated in Scotland in the early 1400’s. The first written mention of golf was in a proclamation in 1457 naming golf as one of the banned games due to the fact that playing the game was interfering with military archery practice.

Golf in America is generally thought to have begun in the late 1700’s and was mentioned in an advertisement in the New York newspaper with golf clubs for sale in 1779. The first official golf courses were started in 1891 with Shinnecock Hills Golf Club on Long Island and then Newport Country Club in 1893.

The first Minnesota golf course was St Paul Town & Country Club in 1893 and The Minikahda Club following shortly after in 1898. In the Anoka area the first course was the Goodrich Course located where Goodrich Field is now and it opened in 1923, shortly after in 1925 another course called the Mississippi Course opened on the east side of the Rum River. Both courses had sand greens and as the popularity of the game grew there were discussions of building a new course with grass greens. The new course opened in 1937 with Clara Wickstrom winning a naming contest and the new course was christened Green Haven.

Green Haven has been in the same place since that day with many changes throughout the years, but has continually been in operation since 1937. That makes Green Haven 75 years old this year and one of the oldest courses in this part of the state. There have been many interesting stories associated with Green Haven, such as the time it had a long drive contest and the leader was disqualified when it was reported that one of the officials almost burned his hand when he picked up the longest drive.

You see in those days some players heated up their golf balls to get longer drives.

Then there was the time that during the club championship a player blasted out of the bunker on hole No. 8 and a piece of metal came out with the ball. On further inspection it was from the urn of a recently passed member who had made his only hole-in-one on that hole and wanted his ashes spread in the bunker as his last resting place.

In the history of the game, golf clubs have gone from hickory shafts with iron heads to composite graphite shafts with composite graphite and titanium heads (thank you NASA).

Although the distance the average golf ball flies these days has increased considerably, the average scores have not changed much in the last 40 years which certainly confirms two truisms – the more things change the more they remain the same and drive for show and putt for dough.

Enjoy your summer.