Back in the early 1930s, local golf enthusiasts chipped, birdied and bogeyed their way down the fairways of the nine-hole Mississippi Golf Course in Coon Rapids.
But by 1936, when Green Haven Golf Course opened in Anoka, Mississippi Golf Course was closed, eventually giving way to housing and business developments, a school and a city park.
Today, more than 75 years after its demise, Mississippi Golf Course (also affectionately known as Jake’s Course) experiences renewed fame and vigor when author Joe Bissen dedicates a chapter to the forgotten course in his self-published book, “Fore! Gone; Minnesota’s Lost Golf Courses, 1897-1999.”
Bissen spent more than three years researching abandoned golf courses and along the way he met and interviewed local historian Bill Peterson, a longtime resident of Coon Rapids and former member of the Coon Rapids Historical Commission.
Back nearly 20 years ago, Peterson compiled a booklet about Mississippi Golf Course. That booklet, Bissen said, “offers a most interesting history” about the course, including a hole-by-hole listing of the layout, with the tee and green locations alongside their modern-day street addresses.
Jake’s Mississippi Golf Course was situated on Coon Rapids farm land owned and groomed, built and maintained by L.O. Jacob and his wife, Ethel. On historical documents from those days, Jacob is listed as “owner and manager of Mississippi Public Golf Course.”
Jacob went on to become county agricultural agent, served on the Anoka-Hennepin School Board for many years and helped establish Anoka County’s first consolidated elementary school in Coon Rapids, later named L.O. Jacob Elementary School and now serving students as River Trail Learning Center at L.O. Jacob.
A booklet is born
Gathering information for his booklet, Peterson spent many hours reminiscing and note-taking with L.O. and Ethel Jacob’s daughter, Lee Swisher.
“We spent many, many hours together and she had many, many stories to tell about that golf course,” Peterson said.
The course played at 3,984 yards and wound its way from what is now 109th Avenue to 108th Lane and Mississippi Boulevard, then back up toward Coon Rapids Boulevard again.
The first tee was at the southeast corner of Crooked Lake and Coon Rapids boulevards and the course made its way down toward the Mississippi River, cutting across a corner of the grounds that now cradles Mississippi Elementary School.
The fifth and sixth holes of the golf course bordered the Mississippi River before the course made its way back up to the ninth hole near what’s now the corner of 109th Avenue and Dahlia Street.
“I would guess (the fifth and sixth holes) were among the most picturesque holes on any of the more than 80 lost golf courses I identified in my book,” said Bissen.
The course had sand greens that called for a bit of special attention from players.
As stated in the Local Ground Rules tablet for Jake’s Mississippi Golf Course, “A little special care on the part of players will help greatly in the maintenance of sand greens. Watch your step on and off the green. Avoid high heels and do not lay golf bags or clubs on greens.”
The course holds a special place in Peterson’s heart, since when he and his wife Jeanette first arrived in Coon Rapids back in 1962 they lived in a house at the corner of Crooked Lake and Coon Rapids boulevards, where the entrance to Mississippi Golf Course was located in the early 1930s.
“We lived right there. And no one would know there was ever a golf course there, but sure there was,” Peterson said.
According to a 1976 Coon Rapids Herald newspaper article, the Mississippi Golf Course “was laid out by an English golfer friend of L.O.’s, Harry Edmonds.”
Another article reports, “The very day after the course opened, young Bill Mathey sank his drive on the 133-yard 11th hole for the first hole-in-one on the new course.”
Single ticket season rates for Jake’s Mississippi Golf Course were $10; family season tickets were $15.
Game rates dictated two rounds for 25 cents on week days; Sundays and holidays 10 cents extra for the second round.
Women golfed free every Wednesday.
Lunches and Pilsener Pale (“brewed just right by Gluek”) were served at the clubhouse, but for just 25 cents per cart, golfers could relax on picnic grounds set aside on the banks of the Mississippi River. Special rates were offered for picnic parties.
‘Fore! Gone’ notes
“Fore! Gone” author Joe Bissen is a Caledonia 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 Minneapolis/St. Paul magazines. Bissen lives in White Bear Lake.
Sue Austreng is at [email protected]