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Star Tribune nonfiction review: From Fields to Fairways

By Jerry Zgoda
Star Tribune

Shefchik_From coverFormer St. Paul Pioneer Press reporter Rick Shefchik's big, comprehensive "From Fields to Fairways: Classic Golf Clubs of Minnesota" delivers more than you ever thought you'd want to know about golf's beginnings in Minnesota, starting more than a century ago, when courses were cleared by horse and shovel from farmland and forest.

Culled from a vast expanse of resources, the book tells in words, vintage photos and architectural sketches how leaders of society and commerce forged playgrounds so remote that members had to walk well beyond the end of the streetcar line to reach St. Paul's Town and Country, or travel by boat across Lake Calhoun to reach a strange, new place called Minikahda.

Those early surnames -- Jaffray, Ordway, Heffelfinger, (William) Mitchell -- still endure today. So do the more than two dozen courses -- everything from major-championship sites such as Interlachen Country Club and Hazeltine Golf Club to exclusive Woodhill, Somerset and White Bear Yacht clubs.

Among the memorable photos: Gentlemen in tams, dress shirts and knickers, and women in bonnets and long skirts tee up a little white ball on largely treeless landscapes. Well-dressed spectators gather to watch Bobby Jones win the 1930 U.S. Open at Interlachen, an unknown named Arnold Palmer plays at the 1950 U.S. Amateur at Minneapolis Golf Club and a chubby Jack Nicklaus defends his Trans-Mississippi amateur title in 1959 at Woodhill. It's all part of Minnesota's rich tournament history in which Ben Hogan, Patty Berg and Tiger Woods competed on the state's everlasting classic courses.

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From Fields to Fairways