A Timeline History of Public Golf in Duluth

1920: West End furniture dealer Bert Enger donates $50,000 to purchase land surrounding Duluth’s “Grand Mountain” for a public park.

1922: Business leader J. B. Clinton urges service organizations (Elks, Rotary, Kiwanis, etc,) to support the idea of creating a municipal golf course. The Duluth Chamber of Commerce established a Municipal Golf Committee.

1926: Construction of Enger Park Golf Course begins under the supervision of Park Superintendent F. Rodney Paine.

1927: First nine holes of Enger Park Golf Course opens July 2. Judge (and former mayor) Clarence Magney drives the first ball. Arnold “Andy” Anderson, formerly of Northland Country Club, is named head greenskeeper.

1927: By September, Enger Park Golf Course has made enough money to begin construction of another nine holes.

1929: City’s investment creating Enger Park Golf Course, including construction of club house, paid off in full.

1929: Members of the Duluth community, many with prominent names such as Congdon, Dudley, Spencer, Ames, Peyton, Ordean, and Marshall form the City Land Company to finance the construction of Lester Park Golf Course, envisioned by Parks Superintendent F. W. Paine.

1930: The City Land company provides Duluth with a $25,000 no-interest loan to create the initial nine holes of the course. Anderson is chosen to design the course’s layout and act as greenskeeper for both courses.

1930: On October 24, seventy-five unemployed men hired by Duluth’s City Works Administration begin clearing land for the golf course—by hand.

1931: Anderson refines the first nine holes at LPGC as the second nine are cleared. He seeds the greens with Enger bent and then tears the sod from all eighteen greens at Enger Park Golf Course and reseeds them with Enger bent as well.

1931: The City Land Company hands over the first nine holes of Lester Park Golf Course to the city of Duluth on October 2. Mayor Sam Snively strikes the first official drive, and four local golfers considered the best in the city end the course’s first official round in a tie.

1932: The first nine holes of the course opened to the public on May 27. The course’s second nine holes were completed that year, financed with $10,000 from a $500,000 bond established in 1926. Construction begins on a $15,000 clubhouse designed by Duluth architect A. R. Melander.

1933: More unemployed men are put to work at LPGC by Duluth’s CWA constructing buildings: A rustic rain shelter that resembles a Japanese pagoda, a rustic refreshment stand, a rustic caddy shack, and a tool house/garage.

1933: Lester Park Golf Course is formally dedicated in an event hosted by Mayor Sam Snively on June 11. Snively made a speech and again driving the first ball. Everett Nelson won the course’s first 18-hole tournament, witnessed by over 1,500 spectators, shooting a score of 76.

1935: Debt to City Land Company paid off.

1935–1990: Duluth’s two public golf courses operated without financial crisis.

1990: The city financed a $4.1 million expansion of both courses, adding nine holes to each. Lester Park’s Lake 9 is at once considered the most beautiful and most difficult nine holes of golf in Duluth.

1997: Duluth hires Paul Schintz to manage Lester Park Golf Course; it is the first time in the city’s history that it has employed a Professional Golf Association professional.

1998: Golf Digest names Duluth “best city in America for public golf.” Essentially, the magazine called Duluth “the best urban center in America when it comes to offering excellent and affordable public golf.” The article specifically mentions Lester and Enger Park golf courses as testament to the city’s dedication to public golf.

2007: Expansion loan from 1990 paid off. At six percent interest, Duluth made annual payments of $365,000 for 17 years, a total of $6.5 million.

2007: After investigating Mayor Herb Berson’s idea of selling the courses to private investors, Duluth’s Chief Administrative Officer concludes that “privatizing golf courses is not a financially viable option.” Bergson also abandons efforts to entice developers to build housing alongside Duluth’s public courses, a building trend that was in vogue at the time.

2011: City Council approves spending $28,000 on a consultant to evaluate how Duluth’s golf courses were managed. At the time, city administrator David Montgomery told the Duluth News Tribune “[The golf courses] are not drawing down the city coffers.”

2012: Duluth experiences its worst flood on record, severely damaging infrastructure throughout the city. Enger Park Golf Course suffers considerable damage.

2014: (June) Outside Magazine readers name Duluth the “best outdoors town in America,” beating out 64 other communities throughout the U.S. That same month the city of Duluth announced that it wants to sell all or part of Lester Park Golf Course to developers to build middle-income housing.

2014: (August) The city releases a request for proposals to purchase all or part of the Lester Park Golf Course with a deadline of September 9, 2014.

2014: (September) The city announces it has received four proposals to purchase Lester Park Golf Course.

2014: (December) City announces it has hired Billy Casper Golf to manage both courses for five years.

2015: A historic ban on liquor sales in the Lakeside and Lester Park neighborhoods is overturned and Lester Park Golf Course is allowed to serve liquor and strong beer for the first time in its history.

2016: Lester Park Golf Course not open until June to reduce operating costs.

2017: Lester Park Golf Course operation limited to June–September to reduce operating costs.

December 2017: City and Billy Casper Golf present on the “State of Duluth Public Golf” to Duluth City Council. View the City’s presentation here and BCG’s presentation here.

2017: (December 20) Friends of Duluth Public Golf, a group of citizens dedicated to creating a sustainable future for public golf in Duluth, is organized in a meeting at Enger Park Club House.

2018: (January 3) Friends of Duluth Public Golf elects its first board of directors.