The Ace – Wirth Golf Club
By R.J. Smiley
If Theodore Wirth is the father of Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) golf courses, then appropriately – the first-born child should be named after the father. Glenwood Golf Course, built in Glenwood Park, which then became Theodore Wirth Golf Course and Theodore Wirth Park when it was renamed (after its father) in 1938. The golf course was approved in April constructed in May and opened the original 9-hole sand green course with clay tee boxes, in June of 1916 at a total cost of $500. That summer, at the park board’s recommendation, green fees were free and patrons took advantage with 12,000 rounds played. The next year, 1917, 50,000 rounds were played at Glenwood GC, prompting the planning of nine additional holes.
Two years later, in 1919, the Glenwood Course was extended to 18 holes and a second child was born or MPRB golf course, of only six holes, was opened at Columbia Park. That year Theodore Wirth also proposed that the Glenwood Golf Course needed a suitable clubhouse. Wirth, a native of Switzerland, recommended the club house architecture be that of a Swiss Chalet, he even persuaded the park board to ban golf shoes with metal spikes on the course or in the clubhouse. It is not known when that decision was reversed.
The exterior of the Chalet at the since renamed Wirth Golf Club was extensively updated in 1998 to maintain the historical integrity of the original building. The lower level serves as the Golf Shop and Chalet Café. The Chalet Café offers full service food and beverages, daily lunch specials and everyday happy hours. The upper level, known as the Fireplace Room, functions as a reception and meeting room and is used extensively for weddings, wedding receptions, special events and golf outings. The Fireplace Room has the serene feeling of a rustic lodge with vaulted ceilings and an original, large wood-burning fireplace.
When you play Wirth for the first time, take a cart. In addition to having a better opportunity to enjoy the beauty of one of the oldest public golf courses in the state, and the possibility to see any number of species of wildlife that make the park their home, the hills on the back nine will not prove to be such a difficult task. The front nine of Wirth is set in the timeless beauty along Bassett Creek. Over the years, the Park Board has added a few man-made lagoons to test your skills. While on the front nine you might need your cell phone to snap a few pictures of the downtown Minneapolis skyline. The back nine at Wirth offers completely different challenges with its rolling hills and mature trees that seem to tighten the actually wide fairways.
Wirth Golf Club is a really good test of golf. By today’s standards the old course might look short, but do not let the 6,582 yards from the back tees fool you. With a course rating of 72.7 and slope of 132, Wirth will give any golfer a test. When you finish a round at the namesake of MPRB golf you will need to clean every club in your bag and add a few balls before your next round. You will find the par 5’s reachable in most cases, but do you want to take the risk? You will find the par 3’s memorable and tough. And you will find that the par 4’s provide a rainbow of an infinite variety. After a round at Wirth, as you reflect back on your 18 holes, you will find that you remember each and every hole. Yes, you might get some strange bounces. Yes, you might have a tough time reading some putts. Yes, there might be some bad lies. But the reality that you have just played a round of golf on the same piece of land where, almost 100 years ago, 50,000 rounds were played on sand greens with clay tees, makes the experience wonderful. You have just become the millionth plus one person to enjoy the vision of Theodore Wirth.
In addition to the regulation golf course many golfers, especially beginners enjoy Wirth Par Three Golf Course. It is a nifty little course, set in gently rolling hills and huge pines and hardwoods trees. It’s a great choice for players looking to first take up the game and where skilled players can sharpen their iron game.