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Closed course endures as kids’ playground

With features such as ‘The Rink,’ ‘The Path’ and ‘The Plateau,’ an otherwise forgotten former golf course in St. Cloud, Minn., comes alive for next generation, reader reminisces

I grew up on a dead course and never knew it (“Whistling past the golf graveyards,” July 7).

My childhood friends and I named all of our favorite hangout places when we were young. Among the names given were: The Rink, The Path and The Plateau. (I know; we weren't very original in our naming conventions.)

Anyway, I found out recently that I grew up across the street from a golf course that opened in 1928 at the height of golf popularity with the blue-collar workers of St. Cloud, Minn. “The Rink” (an area flooded by the local fire department every winter to create an ice rink) actually was an oversized green. “The Path” was a walkway to a long-forgotten tee box. And “The Plateau” was an elevated green carved into the side of large hill. All of these areas were favorite playgrounds for us while we were growing up.

Unfortunately, the club had the misfortune of opening a year before the Great Depression. When that economic crisis hit, the club lay dormant for almost a decade. It must have been maintained by the city, but no one could afford to play. Finally, in 1938 when the country was coming out of the Depression, play resumed in earnest. Three years later, the country was thrown into the midst of World War II, and almost all of the eligible players either joined or were drafted into the military.

Again, the club would lie dormant for the next five years while waiting for the GIs to return home. When the troops finally came home, there was such a need for housing to accommodate the burgeoning American Dream that the city decided to plow under the course and sell off the land for a housing development.

Today, the remnants of that former course have been made into a disc-golf course.

John Donovan
Big Lake, Minn.

A memory that even Meathead couldn’t have messed up
So many courses; so many dreams; so little time (“Whistling past the golf graveyards,” July 7).

Many of these tracks were not built by corporations or well-healed businesspeople trying to impress friends. They were built by moms and dads who scraped together a few dollars to plant some grass, cut a few holes in the ground, and bring out the persimmons, all for the love of the game. Unfortunately, dreams turned into bitter realities, and banks delivered the message that there was no more money left to float the business.

The old course I played back in the 1950s, Oaklands Golf Club in Chippawa, Ontario, long since has been plowed under. Its hand-watered greens and washed-out bunkers are just a memory. Fortunately, the professional now well into his 90s is still around and still hitting the ball. Many of the members are deceased, and it won’t be too long before no one is left to remember those old red or green ball washers and rock-hard greens.

As Archie Bunker used to sing, “those were the days.”

Paul Vicary
The Villages, Fla.

From Montgomery County, Pa., a glimmer of hope
Gary Van Sickle’s article about “golf corpses” is so true and somewhat sad (“Whistling past the golf graveyards,” July 7).

I, too, have counted all the courses I've played. And I have the scorecard from every one of them. I just played my 877th the other day. Of course, among the courses there are many that have died.

There has been no greater contraction than in Montgomery County, Pa., just west of Philadelphia. It still is the golf capital of Pennsylvania, though not nearly as strong as it once was.

A tiny county – only 24 miles long and 14 miles wide – it once boasted 60 golf courses. That was in 2006 (the same year that Van Sickle references in his story). At that time, it had more golf courses per square mile than any county in America.

Sadly, with two more closings this year (for housing developments), the number is down to 48. That is a 20-percent contraction in 14 years.

Oddly, in reaction to the reopening of courses and publicity about how golf is a safe activity during the coronavirus pandemic, all of these courses have been packed recently. Getting a tee time, especially on a Saturday, is as difficult as it was back in the high-demand, low-supply 1980s.

Maybe that is a crazy benefit of the pandemic. It might stave off the death of some golf courses for a few more years.

Tony Leodora
Nokomis, Fla.
(Leodora hosts the syndicated GolfTalk Live radio show on www.golftalklive.net and the Traveling Golfer TV show at www.travelinggolfervideo.com.)

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