William K. Horlitz: The Historic Case of Soldiers Field Golf Course Preservation – Post Bulletin
The Soldiers Field Golf Course is a classic and timeless golf course, built in the golden age of American golf design.
The grounds were a gift to Rochester from its World War I veterans. It was designed by Hugh Vincent Feehan, a renowned Minnesota landscape architect. He designed two other classic courses that survive: the Municipal course in Virginia, Minnesota, and the Pine to Palm course in Detroit Lakes.
A study of the Minnesota golf course timeline reveals that Soldiers Field was the first 18-hole municipal golf course built outside of Minnesota.
The Soldiers Field golf course design has captured the best design elements of Minnesota’s early legacy golf courses and is nearly in its original form. But what sets Soldiers Field apart from legacy courses is that it is a municipal course.
Feehan’s design clearly stems from the inspiration of renowned golf course architects of his time, including AW Tillinghast, who designed the Rochester Golf and Country Club at the same time.
A defining feature of Tillinghast-designed courses are its par 3 holes. Tillinghast believed that the par 3 was the “great equalizer” in golf, that par 3s allowed higher handicap golfers to even out the playing field a bit when they were up against more accomplished players. The current complement of par 3 holes at Soldiers Field clearly demonstrates ‘Tillinghast’s equalizer’. Some believe the eighth hole was actually designed by Tillinghast.
Currently, there is a significant renaissance in the design and restoration of classic golf courses. Most notable in Rochester is the return of the Rochester Golf and Country Club close to the original design.
Soldiers Field is a historic golf site featuring classic designs that are primarily available at private clubs. It is Rochester’s busiest public golf course. This is a walkable course and it is only a downtown golf course.
At the Destination Medical Center’s 2021 Annual Meeting, Director RT Rybak said: “In what other city can you tell someone you can go to the biggest hospital in the world and then walk to a field golf.”
As Soldiers Field golf course approaches its 100th anniversary, it should not be divided and destroyed.
William K. Horlitz of Rochester is a longtime patron of the city’s golf courses.