“NIBLICKS & SPOONS” COMES TO COKATO

Golf—the game once called “niblicks and spoons.” The game most sports historians agree was invented in Scotland (the Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers, founded in 1744). The game that is to some synonymous with elitism and exclusivity. The game that requires its television announcers to speak in such low tones they are almost inaudible. The game that made Tiger Woods and Anika Sorenstam household names.

Golf came to Cokato in the late summer of 1929. Prior to that year, fans of the sport—which was almost entirely men—had to travel to nearby towns including Litchfield and Hutchinson.

The earliest stirrings of a golf course appeared in the July 12, 1928 edition of the Cokato Enterprise. That article noted that a “group of local golf enthusiasts are planning the laying out of a golf course…” Several options for a site were under consideration.

By early September 1928, plans were advancing. Virgil Webb, owner of a Ford dealership in Cokato and chairman of the committee to pursue the golf course, reported that $2500 had been raised through the sales of stock and memberships. People from Cokato, Dassel, Howard Lake, and Annandale had enrolled as members.

By the end of September 1928 the site had been chosen—a forty acre plot of land along the south shore Brooks Lake, bordered by a slough on the west and on the south by Glacial Highway 10 (soon renamed U.S. Highway 12). Two professional golfers from Minneapolis, Dow George and Otis Walker, came to town and laid out the nine-hole course. A copy of the chart was put on display at Austin’s Pharmacy for all to see. What remained was to wait until the following spring to clear and plow the land.

In the spring of 1929, work began on the course of what would be called the Cokato Golf Club. As the summer progressed, people could see the layout taking shape. By the end of July, plans were being made for a grand opening in early August. With a par-37 nine holes stretched across 3074 yards, the course was heralded as a significant addition to the community. Grass fairways complemented the water hazards, sand traps, and sand greens. With few large trees, the Enterprise noted that “there are numerous opportunities offered for long drives, but few chances for lost balls.” While the August 1st date was not met, the opening did take place within the next month—although an exact date is not certain.

Like many golf courses, this one was a members-only, private club. You had to be a member or guest of a member to golf there. Few walk-ons were allowed. Another feature—one not unique to most clubs—was that if you lived within ten miles of the course, you had to be a member in order to golf there. There is no indication that membership in the club was restricted by race, gender, or religious affiliation.

Some time in the spring of 1935, the name of the club was changed to the Lakeside Golf Course, which was later changed to the Cokato Town & Country Club, the name it still holds today. Membership dues in 1935 were $7.50 for an individual and $12 for a family. Later, additional levels of membership were added, including senior, student, and social.

One unique feature of the club was its “set-up” license. This license allowed members to keep in the clubhouse a bottle of their choice. These members paid an additional fee to have their bottle kept there. The club sold no “on-sale” liquor to the public.

By the late 1950s, the original sand greens began to show signs of wear, so the decision was made to install grass greens. Work on that project began in September 1958, with club members providing volunteer labor. This renovation came to a completion in July 1959.

Next in line was a new clubhouse. Excavation began in October 1962. This new clubhouse was to include a dining room, kitchen, inside grill, showers, and storage rooms. Work on the new clubhouse ran through the winter, culminating with an open house on May 19, 1963. The new facilities was made available to the public for banquets, receptions, and meetings.

For all of its history, the country club's membership owned the course and exacted operations through an elected board of directors.

The historical society extends its congratulations to the Cokato Town & Country Club during its seventy-fifth anniversary year.

Originally published in the April 2004 edition of In The Midst Of (V. 24 No. 2)