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A Golfer's Memoir | T+L Golf

Martin O’Neill Illustration

Photo: Martin O’Neill

At the perimeter and outside the fences were a corn field on the south, a wheat field on the west, the Soo Line Railroad tracks on the north and another corn field to the east. The concrete tees of the first four holes were set up in the right angle of each of the four corners, with each fairway laid straight along the fence line to a sand green four hundred yards away. Play proceeded counter-clockwise with out-of-bounds always on the right—just three feet away.

You can appreciate how such a layout could influence the playing styles of the club’s 168 neophyte golfers, all new to the game and knowing nothing about shotmaking. Each player, with an out-of-bounds fence staring him in the face, set himself to hit the ball far to the left. Nobody but an idiot would try to knock it two hundred yards along the fence line and hope to keep it out of the succotash.

Dad used the term "succotash" for deep vegetation. Rough bordering a fairway was "spinach."

Every golfer in our enlightened age knows what happens when you set up to the left of the target and let fly—the mother of all slices. Soon, 166 of the members were hitting the wildest banana balls in Wisconsin. The other two members were left-handed, so their stock in trade was a big hook.

Some fifteen years later, when I returned to New Richmond as a young adult, I found that the golf course had changed. The acreage was the same, but the members had built a brand new layout with grass greens, bluegrass fairways and tees that were like carpets. More importantly, they had revamped the four perimeter holes. Instead of progressing in counter-clockwise fashion, with out-of-bounds to the right, the new design set up the first four holes in clockwise sequence, with out-of-bounds fences to the left.

The roster of club members had changed over the years, but since it had stayed about the same numerically, it was illuminating to note that 166 members now hooked their tee shots. And the two left-handers, who were still with us, now sliced!

Dad was something of an authority on the golf swing. While waggling the club at address, he usually said something like, "I’m using Swing Number 24-B; just take the club back inside, pause at the top, and then bust the hell out of it with the right hand."

I revisited the old hometown again in 1961, after an absence of thirty years. My oldest boy, Tommy, was a rookie tour player, and I was in the Twin Cities to watch him play in the St. Paul Open. My thirteen-year-old, Johnny, was with me, and he wanted to see the golf course I had played when I was his age. So we drove the thirty-six miles, detouring through the beautiful St. Croix River valley, where lakes glistened and evergreens covered the hills.

The New Richmond Golf Club had a new clubhouse, and the original nine holes had been rerouted yet again, so you played counter-clockwise around the property.

The new nine-hole layout was also longer, thanks to the purchase of twenty-seven acres of adjacent farmland, and had eighteen tee boxes. (The club by then had officially dropped the "& Country" from its name.) It was designed by Willie Kidd, the head professional at Interlachen Country Club in Edina, Minnesota. The new clubhouse, sad to say, burned down in 1967. "Jay Severson was the pro of record at this time," Reppe writes in his history, "and was heard to comment that ’certain insurance agents in New Richmond were astonished that the membership all seemed to have lost brand new equipment at the time of the conflagration.’"

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