In the past eight decades, the University of Minnesota’s Les Bolstad Golf Course has seen a lot of golfers come and go. Developed in 1929, the classic parkland facility was envisioned for multiple uses — golfing, picnicking and as an arboretum.
“The founders wanted green space, a place for people to enjoy recreational life,” says Greg Jamieson, PGA director of golf operations and general manager. “They also saw the course as a natural laboratory.”
The formal arboretum never came to pass, although the course is rich with trees. Moreover, it’s “green” beyond the grass — and behind the scenes, an asset to the university’s research goals.
The U of M’s turfgrass science program uses the course for research in sustainable turfgrass management. The program is interested in studying new turfs that allow for limited mowing, thereby saving fuel and time while aiding the environment.
In addition, the course is an industry leader in converting equipment to run on propane, an approved clean alternative fuel. And a number of businesses have expressed interest in donating services in exchange for use of the site as a demo of safer and more efficient maintenance products.
Other sustainable strides to date: Areas that once had been mowed have been brought back to a more natural state. The grasses were torched and replaced with long grasses. Birdhouses were located to create a bird-friendly environment.
“The U’s Raptor Center has taken to releasing birds near here. We thought they’d leave, but many have taken up residence. As a result, we have a lot fewer gophers.” A bald eagle even patrols the course, keeping the goose population in check.
Jamieson is working to get the course certified by the Audubon Sanctuary Program, a cooperative effort between the United States Golf Association and Audubon International. Plans are also in the works to reinvest in the clubhouse, soil and irrigation systems.
Based on successes at Purdue University’s golf course, Jamieson says another near-term goal is to recycle all water on the U of M course, with the longer-term goal of reusing it.
“There’s a basin at one end of the course that would become a water-capturing reservoir,” he explains. “The course would act as a natural filter: the water that runs through it would actually come out cleaner.”
Les Bolstad, whose silhouette adorned the 2009 91st championship badge, coached golf at the U of M from 1947 to 1976. He was the 1926 U.S. National Public Links champ and 1928 Big Ten champ.
Other notables to play the course include Patty Berg, winner of the first U.S. Women’s Open (1946); Tom Lehman (winner, 1996 Open Championship); Louis Lick, Karen Weiss and John Harris.
The U of M course remains a favored venue for a number of events, and has hosted the Big Ten men’s and women’s championships, the Lady Northern Invitational, the State Public Links championship and more.
Jamieson says a lot of people aren’t aware that the facility is open to the public, and has been since 1983. Even so, the site’s excellent driving range is the second busiest in the state.
Anyone, neophyte to advanced, can study with the onsite instructors, including pro Jim Manthis, one of just 83 PGA master professionals in the country; Angie Ause, Class A member PGA and LPGA; and Chris Peterson, Class A PGA member and former head pro for the course.
Fees are reasonable, with good discounts for university alumni, students, youth under 18, and faculty (current or retired). The course also hosts fundraisers and team building events on a regular basis. The central location in Falcon Heights makes it an ideal venue for Twin Cities businesses.
Up for some free golf?
Leave a comment below by Friday, Sept. 7, and you’ll be entered to win two rounds of golf (Monday through Friday) at the Les Bolstad Golf Course, along with free cart rental. We’ll contact the winner via email.
Post by Vincent Hyman, a freelance writer based in St. Paul, Minn.