One of America’s most historic golf clubs, the Interlachen Country Club had humble beginnings when founded on rolling farmland in Minneapolis’s south-west during 1909. Members originally golfed on a Willie Watson course, which was built in 1911 and survived until the 1919 arrival of Scottish architect Donald Ross. Ross’s visit changed Interlachen forever, as he devised plans to totally rebuild the golf course, keeping none of the original layout and routing his holes across two plots of land divided by Interlachen Boulevard. Immediate acclaim followed its 1921 opening, with the course best remembered as the venue of Bobby Jones’ 1930 US Open triumph, the third leg of his famous ‘Grand Slam’.
The current layout remains remarkably faithful to the original design and features eleven holes on the main property, with the 11th through 17th routed across the road on a heavily wooded tract of land adjacent to a lake. The most significant alterations made to the Ross plans occurred in 1928 when Willie Kidd, the club’s professional, converted the 17th into two holes and removed the par three 11th because it was positioned too close to the road. Many years later the 1st green was pushed back beyond a small pond, changing the opener from a straightaway hole to a narrow dogleg through trees.
Maturing trees have also caused a few issues around holes such as the 11th and 12th, but most of the layout remains relatively open and is recommended for Ross’s intelligent use of the site’s natural undulations within his design. The fairways fall beautifully across the land while the generously sized greens are often set on raised plateaus and cleverly angled to make you wary of hitting past the pin but frightened of coming up short. Short to mid-length par fours such as the 2nd, 6th and 7th are among the highlights of the outward nine, each fitting snugly into the sloping ground and giving aggressive options to a range of players. The best is probably the 6th, which crosses two ridges and dares brave drivers to slash beyond the farthest ridge for a clearer view of an elevated target that falls sharply into a deep bunker. Equally memorable is the second shot into the par five 4th hole, the fairway sloping left-to-right with a pond on the right and an obscured view of the green from the left.
The back nine starts with a terrific looking par four played from beneath the clubhouse, the hole heading into an elevated green sitting atop a crest. The par threes are also very effective, the 13th featuring a stunning lake backdrop and Kidd’s 17th falling toward an excellent left-to-right target area receptive to a chasing tee shot. Although the landing area on the 15th may be a little dated, it remains a beautiful driving hole, as does the 18th which features a semi-blind tee shot into an obscured fairway valley followed by a rising approach into a dangerous green with a steep false front.
Although not quite as sporty as White Bear Yacht Club, the land here is ideal for good golf and thankfully the quality of the original design remains largely preserved. Oozing history and with a magnificent clubhouse structure and first-class amenities, Interlachen is the envy of other club’s in Minnesota and is a course that traditionalists, in particular, are sure to enjoy playing.