The King – Columbia Golf Club
By R.J. Smiley
With the stunning success of Glenwood Park Golf Course, Theodore Wirth convinced Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB) members it was time to create a sibling or second golf course. In 1919, the year that Glenwood Golf Course was expanded to 18-holes, MPRB opened a 6-hole sand green course at Columbia Park. The golf course, located just minutes from downtown along Central Avenue was an immediate success. Within a year the course was expanded to 9-holes and then in 1922 Columbia Golf Club was expanded to a full 18-holes. The demand for golf became so great and the lines grew so long, that Columbia was the first MPRB course to initiate a tee time reservation system in 1924.
Columbia Golf Club, the second creation of Theodore Wirth and William Clark, has stood the test of time and morphed into a Twenty-First Century golf course that deserves to be played. One trip around this old beauty will not allow you to experience the kaleidoscope of golf created in the design. Like its older sibling, Wirth Golf Club, the design signature of William Clark, drastically elevated greens, is on display at Columbia. The second hole and the sixteenth hole, the most elevated on the course, are where those players who frequent Columbia on a regular basis know they need two extra clubs to reach back pins. One unique feature of Columbia that is seen in very few other courses is a railroad track that runs through the middle of the course. The terrain on the east side is noticeably different, with more mature trees and rolling hills, than on the west side of the tracks; where the course is flatter and more open with a panoramic feel.
Improvements to the golf course continue with the passage of time, the MPRB has authorized improved drainage for more consistent playing conditions and lengthening on some of the holes. Columbia is a really fun golf course to play that allows the average player to make a few pars while giving better players plenty of challenge. Columbia has a tight knit group of regular players who comment that even though they have played the course hundreds of times they seem to notice something new almost every round.
MPRB has also improved the clubhouse and added a driving range and learning center (that was not part of Theodore Wirth’s plan) to give Twin Cities residents an option besides playing 18-holes of golf.
Columbia Manor, the clubhouse, was built in 1925 in the Colonial Revival style. When you see the clubhouse you will know what the Colonial Revival style is. The historic integrity of the Manor has been retained, through several remodels and upgrades, which creates beautiful surroundings for an unforgettable wedding or wedding reception. Over the years many a newlywed couple has spent their wedding day at the golf course.
MPRB added a driving range and a Learning Center in 1990. The Learning Center features the latest revelations in improving and learning the game of golf. From video instruction to target greens on the driving range, from chipping greens to organized adult and youth group lessons, the Learning Center has it all.
With the addition of a First Tee Program the Learning Center at Columbia Golf Club has become a Twin Cities leader for junior golf instruction. The First Tee is a national program focused on America’s youth, regardless of background, to teach the nine core values inherent in the game of golf, and incorporating those values into the instructional program. The First Tee has been very successful in actually changing the lives of many of America’s youth, giving them a set of life value principles to follow. MPRB has continued the legacy of Theodore Wirth to provide recreational opportunities for Twin Cities’ youth.
To sum-up the description of Columbia Golf Club; each time that I return to this century old creation, I realize that I really don’t need to know why it is there or who created it. It is just beautiful! As I pull out of the overflowing parking lot and hear the laughter of young and old who are enjoying nature at her finest, I realize that ONCE AGAIN, I had a great time at Columbia.