The Beginnings of Golf in St. Paul and The Earliest History of Town & Country Club
As the first “country club” in these parts, Town & Country Club was more of a social organization inspired by the clubs in Saint Paul that were formed as a nucleus of the annual Winter Carnival. A residence on Lake Como was the first clubhouse in 1887. The Club moved to its present home at the Marshall Avenue Bridge on the Mississippi River in 1890. Today, this “country club” is in the heart of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, but in 1890, it was in the boondocks of Saint Paul.
The original Town & Country Club, a Saint Paul landmark, was designed by state capitol architect, Cass Gilbert, and built in the early 1890’s for $25,000.
The first round of golf in Minnesota was played at the historic Town & Country Club of Saint Paul in 1893. Actually, golf began here as an afterthought. A pioneer member, William F. Peet, conspired with a Saint Paul newspaper reporter. Desperate for tidbits of news, the reporter asked Peet for the latest Town & Country Club gossip. Peet suggested a story about a new game called golf which was getting some press in papers along the East Coast. The reporter disliked his duties of social reporting, so he contrived a news story that the Club was thinking about starting golf. To see Mr. Peet's 1930 letter to Dr. Kannary reporting the Club's history, click here.
Enter George McCree, a transplanted Scot, who had migrated here from Canada and was familiar with the game of golf. He read the article and immediately offered to help Peet start the game. “I finally took McCree out to the Club with my lawn mower in the back of my roadster to help lay out the course." Using an old driver and a twenty-five cent gutta percha ball, after a couple shots, McCree marked a spot with a stake - “This is the first hole." In this fashion, the first five holes were laid out, at a time before country clubs had become synonymous with golf.
Golf did not catch on quickly with the Town & Country Club members. When $50.00 was requested from the Club’s Treasurer to buy a set of real golf holes and flags to replace the tomato cans and fishing poles, it was soundly rejected on the grounds that golf was a silly game which could not possibly last.
It was a few short years later in 1895 that E. J. Frost, a well-known amateur out of Chicago, was hired to lay out Town & Country Club’s first nine holes. In 1897, $2,000.00 was budgeted to lay out the new course. On June 9, 1898, the new nine holes were opened for play. Also at this time, the first golf pro and expert maker of clubs, Robert Foulis, was acquired from St. Andrew’s Golf Club. The first greens keeper was also engaged at this time.