Driving Through History

I-35 can speed you through the state, but consider exiting the freeway for historic golf courses and family fun.

June 30, 2023 | 4 min.
By Jack Mendesh
Photos by Peter Wong Photography & Matt Seefeldt

Heading south of the Minneapolis-St. Paul suburbs down I-35, you will find no shortage of scenic communities with a small-town feel and plenty of history. The golf courses along the route provide beautiful landscapes, supreme golf challenges and their fair share of history, as well. 

On the northern end of the tour is Faribault Golf and Country Club. Opened in 1900 and originally called Tapeta Golf Club, the club was among the seven courses present at a 1901 meeting in Winona that formed the Minnesota Golf Association. As you find it today, Faribault G&CC’s first nine holes were designed in 1956 by longtime Interlachen head pro and Minnesota Golf Hall of Fame member Willie Kidd, while Bob Carlson, who designed roughly 15 golf courses in southern Minnesota, designed the second nine holes in 1966. The course is set to host this year’s MGA Women’s Four-Ball Championship happening July 31-August 1.

Legacy Golf, also in Faribault, was designed by Garrett Gill and opened for play in 1998. The course features three unique sections with different styles of golf. The middle of the course is hilly with tree-lined fairways while the north section has a Scottish links feel with rolling terrain and prairie grasses. The south portion features sweeping vistas with the famous college prep school Shattuck-St. Mary’s in sight. Every golfer will find a style of golf they enjoy at Legacy Golf.

Heading south down I-35, you will find Owatonna Country Club, the singular private club on the tour. The first nine holes opened in 1919 while the second nine opened in 1973 and were designed by famed Minnesota golf course architect Joel Goldstrand. Due to flooding issues, the course was renovated and eight holes were impacted, including three completely new holes tee-to-green (2, 3 and 14). Make sure to keep your drives in the fairway as water comes into play on nine tee shots. Owatonna CC hosted the MGA Women’s Senior Four-Ball Championship on June 5 and 6.

Also in Owatonna, Brooktree Golf Course is the sole municipal course on the tour. Opened in 1963, the course was just the second golf course in Owatonna and the first public course. The clubhouse and course are located on Maple Creek near the entrance of Mineral Springs Park, giving the course natural beauty at every turn. The mature parkland course offers several teeing options from 5,525 to 6,688 yards, allowing golfers of all skill levels to enjoy the course.

For former MGA president, longtime rules official and attorney Rob Tennant, who grew up on Brooktree’s fourth hole (and participated in the course’s construction), Owatonna CC remains his “home course” since his first trip around the layout in 1964. 

“My love of golf has continued to grow now for 60 years because of Owatonna CC. I still talk of my experience there and remain friends with many of the companions who shared rounds of golf there when we were young.” 

The final course on the tour in Owatonna, Havana Hills Golf, Range & Event Center, was opened in 1972 and features nine holes. This is a great option for families to play a quick nine and stick around after for food, ice cream and family time.

West on Highway 14 is the Waseca Lakeside Club, which celebrated 100 years in 2022. The course, located on the north shore of Clear Lake, is relatively tight with tree-lined fairways. Make sure to keep your ball in play! There are several yardage options ranging from the family-friendly red tees at 4,959 to the more difficult blue tees at 6,117. The facility also features a swimming pool right off the first tee—a summertime staple for family fun.

Prairie Ridge Golf Course in Janesville is a reversible-nine layout designed by Joel Goldstrand which opened in 1995. Different sets of tees allow you to play the same holes at different yardages for a different feel each time you play.

Green Lea Golf Course in Albert Lea was originally established as a nine-hole course in 1949 and was expanded to 18 holes in 1965. Mature trees line the edges of the fairways, including several risk-reward holes with no shortage of water and sand to challenge all levels of golfers. The course will host the 97th Annual Shortstop Tournament, the longest-running Labor Day tournament of its kind, September 2-4. Green Lea GC assumed tournament operations of the event when Albert Lea CC closed in 2006.

Also in Albert Lea is Wedgewood Cove Golf Club, another course designed by Garrett Gill. Sitting at 6,993 yards from the black tees, it is the longest course on the tour and boasts a rating and slope of 73.8/131—making it one of the more challenging courses on the tour. The course features several holes routed along Pickerel Lake and sparse trees throughout, giving it a links-style feel. 

In Dodge Center, Dodge Country Club opened in the late 1960s and has a course rating and slope of 70.1/120 for men and 72.9/124 for women from the back tees, allowing every skill level of golfer to enjoy it. The course and clubhouse are one of the central social gathering spots for those who live in the region. Stop by the clubhouse to try their great selection of food! 

Rounding out the tour are three nine-hole courses. Blooming Prairie Country Club, opened in 1935, is a community-focused golf course. The course was founded by seven area businessmen for the entire community to enjoy. The current clubhouse was funded and built by its members. Alden’s Oak View Golf Course opened in 1969 and offers fun for all levels of golfers, and markets itself as a “perfect place to learn the game.” Make sure to have your short game on point! New Richland’s Riverview Golf Course, designed by Rich Lorenz and opened in 1988, offers a course rating and slope of 34.7/124 for men and 35.9/119 for women. The course features several doglegs, including the 9th which is shaped like the letter ‘S.’ Head south down I-35 for a great time and enjoyable golf for all. 

Jack Mendesh

Jack Mendesh is the MGA’s caddie development and communications manager. He grew up caddying and playing golf in the Twin Cities and likes to give back to the game that has afforded so many enriching experiences in his life.

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