U’s Les Bolstad Golf Course a diamond in the rough

by Courtney Blanchard

Northwest of the University’s St. Paul campus, nestled in a quiet neighborhood, is what some consider a golfing paradise.

“There’s a lot of history here,” said Greg Jamieson, assistant program director for the University’s Les Bolstad Golf Course, from his office above the pro shop.

The clubhouse, nearly as old as the 76-year-old course, shows its age. Once an apartment for course managers, the office has low ceilings, hardwood floors, wall radiators and no air conditioning.

Despite the lack of modern amenities in his office, Jamieson said the historic charm is what attracts golfers. Mature trees line the course, giving it a feel different from resort-style courses’, he said.

And this course, which Jamieson said is considered a step up from the Minneapolis and St. Paul city courses, is accessible to University students. Students can golf from $19 to $28, depending on the day.

The course also brings in former students.

“It’s just a sickness,” said Dennis Van Norman of his addiction to the course. Van Norman graduated from the University in 1967 and said he’s been playing here regularly for over 40 years.

Dan Reif, a 1970 alumnus golfing with Van Norman, said the course is a good bargain.

“We can play early and we can play fast,” he said.

A plaque hanging in the pro shop explains that the course itself is named after a celebrated Minnesota golfer who went on to coach golf at the University until 1976. Les Bolstad led the Golden Gophers to win two Big Ten titles.

Like some University entities, budget cuts create buzz about an uncertain future for the golf course. Van Norman said he occasionally hears rumors that the University plans to sell the course.

“This place is the land of rumors,” Jamieson said.

He said with the stadium talks nearly finished, and no word from University officials, there is no reason to worry about the future of the course.

The course also supplies jobs to many undergraduates. Jamieson estimates that more than half the staff are students.

Hannah Weer, a design junior, works in the Clubhouse Café.

She admits she’s no golfer, but as she gets ready to open the Café to students and alumni, she said, “I might try it sometime.”

Across the room from the Café window hangs an autographed picture of golfing legend Tom Lehman, kissing a gleaming trophy. The winner of the 1996 British Open, Lehman is one of a handful of big names to have teed off at the Les Bolstad golf course.

As more golfers discover the quiet greens near St. Paul, the course is becoming increasingly popular with the public as well as the University crowd. Jamieson said prices for the public are mandated to be kept within a certain percentage of the student rates, making renovations difficult.

However, a new clubhouse is scheduled for construction in 2008. Jamieson said “that could just be another rumor.”