Les Bolstad on track for renovations

Neither Gophers golf team will play a tournament at the course this season.

David Nelson

Littered with emerald trees and encapsulated by rugged topography, Les Bolstad Golf Course near the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus has been a landmark at the school since it opened in 1929.

However, with its cut up fairways and significantly shorter length than most championship courses, the college game has moved away from using Les Bolstad as a host for competitions — opting for larger and nicer courses around the metro area.

But after years of service, the course will finally get the makeover it needs.

Les Bolstad general manager Greg Jamieson said the course will undergo reconstruction, with changes likely beginning at the end of the golf season in 2015.

The project could last until the spring of 2017 depending on weather conditions.

“If we could wave a magic wand, we would want to close down [for reconstruction] at the end of next season,” Jamieson said.

Although the details of the expansion are still in the works, Jamieson said one of the major changes between the current course and the new one will be its length, adding that early plans show an expansion of up to 500 yards.

“There’s quite a bit of room to add yardage to it,” Jamieson said. “I don’t think that it’s going to be a 7,300-yard monster. … It’s just a matter of changing around the routing a little bit.”

At its current length, the 18 holes of Les Bolstad measure 6,288 yards.

Compared to Windsong Farm Golf Club in Independence, Minn. — where the Gophers men’s team played its first tournament of the season — Bolstad measures almost 1,000 yards shorter.

“It’s certainly lacking length from the men’s standpoint,” head men’s coach John Carlson said.

For at least five of the past seasons, both the men’s and women’s golf teams haven’t played a tournament on the course.

Though the issue of length might be a greater obstacle for the men’s team, one problem affecting both programs is the lack of “beauty” that once permeated the 131-acre plot of land.

“The shape of the golf course is higher at courses like Hazeltine, Windsong, Spring Hill,” Carlson said. “The standards of collegiate competition have gone up.”

The need for a higher level of class is one echoed by head women’s coach Michele Redman, who said an improved course might help get tournaments back to Les Bolstad.

Redman said this is the best the course has looked during her tenure.

However, Les Bolstad simply can’t compete financially with some of the other Minnesota courses.

Besides the Gophers’ love for Minikahda Club, Redman said one of the reasons the team chooses to practice at the Minneapolis course is that they can show off their skills to potential donors there.

“A lot of our donors are members at Minikahda, and the way you get your donors involved is having your team around,” Redman said.

The financial success of some of the clubs around the Twin Cities allows for better-kept greens and fairways.

As of right now, Jamieson said the improvement of those areas at Les Bolstad would come exclusively from private donations.

“This will all be privately funded,” Jamieson said. “There won’t be any student fees or anything like that. [The renovation committee is] still kind of in the stage where they’re talking to a lot of corporate sponsors.”

With the upcoming reconstruction, Jamieson said he hopes the longer and refurbished course will attract some tournaments — at whatever level — back to Les Bolstad.

“There’s quite a bit of property there to make it definitely a championship golf course that can host, whether it be state high school tournaments [or] other state events,” Jamieson said.

However, he said the main goal of the revamp is to bring more University students and other loyal customers back to the course

“I think it’s more for the recreational play,” Jamieson said. “We want to be able to offer a good product … so that different groups can come out here and play.”