“Remember that our club is still in the making and that we want to make it such a club that because of the physical exercise in the open, because of the good friendship and good sportsmanship, you are a better companion, more efficient in your daily life and a greater source of happiness in the family circle.”
- 1920 Annual Meeting Notice
The “Roaring Twenties” had just begun when a group of University of Minnesota professors and local business leaders met to develop plans for a new 18-hole golf course on farm land adjacent to the University’s St. Paul campus. As golf was exploding in popularity across the United States after World War I, members of the recently formed University Club were looking to expand their “playground.”
Consider the era: In St. Paul, Vaudeville acts were still popular at the Orpheum Theater. The St. Paul Saints were in first place ahead of the Minneapolis Millers and F. Scott Fitzgerald published his first novel, This Side of Paradise. Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen were the top golfers in the land and Babe Ruth had just been sold to the New York Yankees for $125,000.
It was during this period that Midland Hills was born!
The Golf Club was initially established almost entirely by a group of faculty members of the University of Minnesota. On July 15, 1915, as a 'voluntary, unincorporated University of Minnesota Golf Club' they leased ground for a golf course from Mr. and Mrs. John G. Barrett.
The lease from the Barretts was only for five years and in 1919 it became advisable to negotiate for a renewal. The group hoped to get a renewal of the lease for a period of twenty years. However, Barrett's attorney thought that there was to be a large industrial development in the region and therefore advised them against a renewal of the lease for any extended period. Therefore the Club failed to obtain the renewal of the the Barrett lease.
In the meantime, they decided to incorporate. The Articles of Incorporation were drawn up in December 1919 and made official in January of 1920.
At that time, the nearby 110 acre Walsh farm was available for a lease and they executed a 20 year lease on this property. Additionally, 40 acres of attractive land adjacent to the Walsh farm was leased from a Mr. Andersen. These two tracts of land were frequently referred to as the West 110 and the East 40.
Coincidentally, an architect named Seth Raynor, a Princeton graduate and Long Island surveyor, was building the Somerset golf course in St. Paul, Minnesota and after viewing the rolling hills of the future Midland Hills, agreed to lay-out the course for $1500. Raynor was also the protege of the great Charles Blair Macdonald, one of the most famous golf architects. A Professor at the University of Minnesota completed the topographical map for $300.
Building of the course was begun July 15, 1920. The Walsh farmhouse was converted into the first Clubhouse in 1921 at a cost of $5,000. A founding member and University mathematics professor, Ralph Barton, supervised the course construction. A crew of local laborers was organized—thirty-three men and three teams of horses. Rocks were removed, often by hand. An old tractor was used to shape tees while the crew dug the bunkers. Greens were raked and covered with topsoil. The club held work festivals so members could pitch in with the project.
Midland’s golf course opened for play on July 23, 1921. It was a hot and humid Saturday afternoon with temperatures in the upper 80s. It was reported that 72 golfers played in the first tournament while reporters from the St. Paul Pioneer Press covered the event.
The increasing interest in golf in the Twin Cities area was so great that the Club encountered relatively little difficulty in filling up its membership from the business and professional community. The preponderance of non-faculty members made the title of "University of Minnesota Golf Club" a misnomer and a less restrictive name seemed desirable. The Board of Governors requested suggestions for a new name from its members. Among those suggested were: Allermiur, Kabekowa, Midland Hills, Midmoreland, Rosetown, and Waveland. The membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of Midland Hills Country Club. The change of name was formally recorded by the Secretary of State on April 21, 1922.
Midland’s golf course is noted for its rolling hills, undulating greens and fine putting surfaces. The course underwent a significant renovation in 2001 and was lengthened in 2005. The course is playable by all levels of golfers. For those who like a challenge, the course now stretches to over 6,800 yards from the back tees. The course has been the site of many competitions, including the 2006 Minnesota State Amateur Championship.
The initial membership fee was set at $50, with annual dues of $25 per year. The initial guest green fees were fifty cents on weekdays and $1.00 on weekends and Holidays. Some items of interest and of trivia which have been excerpted from the Minutes Books of the Board of Governors meetings and members annual meetings from the beginning of the Club to the present time are as follows.