My Quest to Check Off Golf's Best Experiences
The Golf Bucket List
#9, Par 5, 518 Yards
The ninth is Interlachen’s signature hole and site of Bobby Jones’ “lily pad” shot during the 1930 U.S. Open. It is a par-4 on which scores can range from eagle to several over par. The tee shot is challenging with bunkers on the left and trees on the right claiming many balls. Reaching the green in two shots is possible, given a well-placed drive on top of the hill short of the pond. The green is large and slopes back to front.
Lots of history on this hole. Bobby Jones is the obvious one, but Annika Sorenstam holed out a 6-iron from 199 yards to make eagle here in the final round of the 2008 US Women's Open as well. This hole played as the 18th hole during the Women's Open and was Annika's last US Open until she came out of retirement to play at Pine Needles in 2022. This made it truly a walk-off shot! As far as Bobby Jones's lily pad shot goes, there is some skepticism as to whether a lily pad really saved his shot. There are indeed lily pads in the pond, so I suppose it's possible, but there's no video of that shot, so we'll just have to take his word for it.
I would be playing in the first group out on a Friday morning in the fall. The night before produced a storm with high winds and rain--it made for a bumpy flight into MSP! Some tree limbs were down and a full tree had fallen as well, but the course handled the rain quite well and was ready to go for my early-morning visit. I was given a quick tour of the clubhouse and went to the locker room to change shoes before loosening up a bit on the range.
#15, Par 4, 406 Yards
The par-4 15th is a favorite of the members, which also plays as a par-5 for women. An aggressive shot with a driver or fairway wood needs to fade around the soft dogleg right, otherwise it could end up on the left side, blocked by trees with no shot to the green. If too much of the corner is cut, however, the ball could end up in the pond, bunker or deep trees on the right. The green is nestled slightly downhill. Do not miss behind the hole because the green slopes dramatically back to front.
It's only about 180 yards to carry the fairway bunker from the Tan Tees, so take a drive right over it if you'd like.
#6, Par 4, 328 Yards
The sixth hole is a very good par-4. Many players hit a fairway wood or long iron to avoid bunkers on either side of the fairway. The uphill approach shot demands great precision and is one of the most nerve-wracking on the course (along with No. 2). Do not miss to the right because the greenside bunkers are arguably the toughest on the course. The first greenside bunker on the right has been known to members as “Big Mouth” since at least the 1950s. The bank in front of these bunkers is so steep that you probably will not be able to see the top of the flagstick.
Another fun short par four. The fairways of #6 and #10 connect around the landing area, which makes the fairway seem very wide. However, that doesn't mean that hitting the fairway in that connecting area is any good! Hit it there and you'll be blocked by trees coming into the green.
#18, Par 4, 385 Yards
No. 18 is a challenging finishing hole. The difficult 17th and 18th holes are known to ruin otherwise good rounds. The drive on this par-4 is no bargain, requiring a fade to avoid hitting it through the fairway into trees and deep rough on the left. However, it is the approach shot into one of the toughest greens on the course that makes par a great score here. The approach, which requires an extra club, needs to get past the front third of the elevated green to avoid rolling off the front. However, just a foot or more over the green leaves one of the course's toughest shots, which usually needs to hit into the rough to slow the ball enough to trickle onto the green rather than fall off the front.
There is an extreme amount of break on this green, and it's only 28 yards deep. A finishing par here is something to brag about after the round! If you end up with a long uphill putt, you can try to re-create Bobby Jones's US Open winning putt.
#16, Par 4, 311 Yards
The 16th hole a short par-4 where placement of the drive is important. The ideal drive is a draw around the dogleg left with a long iron or fairway wood. A careless pull can catch the trees or a push can end up in bunkers. A short iron into the well-bunkered green will yield many birdies.
At only 311 yards from the Tan Tees, and 318 Yards from all the way back, I'm sure the modern big hitter would just fly a drive right over the trees on the left and try to drive this green. For the rest of us, it's a position shot from the tee to leave a little wedge into the hole. This is one of the holes where some of the original Ross was changed long ago. This hole used to bend hard to the right and around the pond. It was changed in the mid-20's by the club's head pro, Willie Kidd.
#5, Par 3, 162 Yards
The par-3 fifth is one of Interlachen’s most straight-forward holes. The challenge is the green, which is large, but surrounded by bunkers. The green slopes considerably back to front so do not miss it long.
This hole plays to the east and is likely downwind much of the time--it was when I played it. It should be a short iron, but missing the shot will likely result in a tricky recovery.
#3 Par 3, 172 Yards
The third hole is a challenging par-3. The long green can make a two or three club difference. A pull hopefully will catch the greenside bunkers, but if not it will likely end up in the pond.
The opening nine occupies the Northern half of the property and is outstanding in its constant change of direction that presents you with a wide variety of shots and wind directions. It's a fabulous routing on a very tight property. There's water on three sides of this 43-yard deep green, but it's tightest on the left side. Given the bunkers straddle the front half of the green, there is more width in the rear.
After meeting my caddie and playing partners it was a quick walk down the hill to the first tee, which stands just below the bag room. Interlachen is a par 72 course, split between pars of 37 and 35 on each nine. The Black Tees extend to 6,981 yards. While that would have been a tough test, it's plausible. However, given we expected the course to be a little soft from the rain the night before, we decided to play the Tan Tees, which measure 6,515 yards and play to a rating of 72.2 and slope of 136. I'll quote those yardages below, and also include comments from the website's course tour, in italics:
#13, Par 3, 179 Yards
Mirror Lake is the picturesque backdrop to the downhill, par-3 13th hole. The green is large and difficult, breaking significantly to the left. Bunkers guard the front, right and left sides of the green. The only bailout is short and right, from where the ball can funnel onto the green. An aggressive shot to a back hole location could go over the green, which leaves a very difficult shot to a tight pin.
Forty-five years later, Tom Hoak recalled playing Len Bjorkland in the final of the 1961 club championship. “It was a foregone conclusion that I had won as I was 3 up going into 13.” Hoak said. “Len hit into the bunker. I was on the green, 25 feet from the cup. Len skulled it, hit the bank, ran it up into the hole for a 2. I never recovered and went on to lose the championship.”
I don't have much to add here. A sharp tester of a hole with a beautiful backdrop.
#8, Par 4, 405 Yards
The eighth is one of Interlachen’s best par-4s. A new tee was added in 2006, which extended the hole nearly 40 yards. The ideal drive on this dogleg left favors the right side of the fairway. Also in 2006, a fairway bunker on the left was repositioned to jut into the fairway, making the tee shot all the more difficult. The green is slightly elevated, very difficult and fast if putting from above the hole.
This is a very difficult driving hole, with three bunkers in the landing area off the tee, including one that is in the left center of the fairway. From the Tan Tees, it's about 265 yards to clear the left bunker, so I suppose a big hitter could do that. From the back tee, that carry is 319!
#12, Par 5, 541 Yards
The par-5 12th Hole is a gentle dogleg left. However, there is nothing gentle about this tee shot. The landing area is guarded on the right by a penalty area. The bunker at the elbow provides a good aiming point from the tee. A thoughtful layup for most will set up a demanding approach shot to a well bunkered green. The green is severely sloped from back to front with a false front. Fittingly this hole is recognized often as one of the top 100 holes in America.
The one starts alongside Mirror Lake, before bending inland and up the hill to a well guarded skyline-style green.
#11, Par 4, 420 Yards
This demanding par 4 is a dogleg right that was converted from a par 5 in 2010. Players must first decide how much of the dogleg to cut off with their tee shot. An overly aggressive play could end up in deep trees or the pond on the right. Given a well-placed drive, the lengthy uphill approach shot requires precision with OB lurking closely on the right. A shot from behind the large green is one of the course's most challenging.
After the 10th, the back nine heads to the south side of Interlachen Blvd, where it stays until the 18th hole. The 11th starts off as a bit of a cape hole, before meandering its way to the right before eventually arriving at a green placed up on a hill. A very challenging hole to be sure. There is only one par four on the front nine that played longer than 400 yards, even from the back tees. There are four of them on the back (three from the Tan Tees). I wish I had gotten more pictures. We started playing awfully fast on the back nine and I had to keep up!
#4, Par 5, 519 Yards
Long hitters can reach the par-5 fourth in two shots. But a new championship tee was added in 2006, adding 20 yards and making it tougher to get home in two. The slanted fairway kicks drives toward the left bunker. Drives too far right must contend with bunkers and trees that can block the second shot. A lay-up should favor the left side because the fairway slopes right toward a pond. The green is elevated, requiring an extra club. However, above the hole is very fast.
The primary issue on this one is the ponds that lay on either side of the fairway in the layup zone for your second shot at the bottom of the hill. If you're going for it, they shouldn't come into play, but if you're laying up, you need to make sure you don't hit a foul ball to either side.
#17, Par 3, 205 Yards
The 17th hole is Interlachen's longest par-3. Since shots will kick right toward the bunkers, the base of a thick tree directly behind and slightly left of the green's center is a great target. The green has a gentle break toward the pond on the right and putting toward it is faster than appears. This hole played at 262 yards in the 1930 U.S. Open and remained the longest par-3 in Open history until Oakmont in 2007. It is also the longest par-3 in U.S. Women’s Open history, playing to 234 yards during the final round in 2008.
Not much to add here. With the back tee restored, this would be quite a test--it already is!
#10, Par 4, 334 Yards
The par-4 tenth hole offers many challenges. Players can reach the flat area 100 yards short of the green with a driver. But being too close presents a challenging half-wedge shot and also brings the fairway bunkers into play on the tee shot. The elevated green, with treacherous bunkers surrounding it, requires an additional half-club. The large green is fast from behind the hole and breaks considerably toward the front if putting from the side.
My jaw dropped when I first saw the 10th hole. Teeing off from just in front of the clubhouse, the hole plays eastward toward a super cool volcano green with bunkers surrounding it. Andrew Green will be starting a restoration of Interlachen in 2023 and I heard rumblings that he might be moving this green back and closer to the pond behind it. If true, that sounds risky--I hope he can maintain some of the awesome contouring around the current green site.
I really enjoyed my morning at Interlachen. Fortunately, and unfortunately, I had scheduled a round at White Bear Yacht Club that afternoon. While it would be great to see another top notch classic course, I would miss out on the opportunity to spend a little more time inside such a beautiful clubhouse! I really look forward to coming back again soon to see what the course looks like after the Andrew Green restoration. If it's anything like the work he's done at Inverness, Oak Hill, or Congressional, the members are in for a treat!
#14, Par 4, 423 Yards
Let your driver go on the par-4 14th hole, which plays as a par-5 for women. But favor the left side because trees on the right can block shots to the green. This approach shot is challenging and one of the longest on the course. Bunkers left and right guard the green, while OB also lurks on the right.
Maybe the least impressive view from a tee box on the course. There are no bunkers until you get up to the green. Distance is the primary obstacle here. Hitting one right up the runway stripe from the tee is the line.
#1, Par 5, 526 Yards
The first hole is a position hole. The bunker on the right side of the fairway is an ideal line for the tee shot. Avoid the left side because trees can block the second shot. It is possible for long hitters to go for the green in two shots, but the tee shot must be placed perfectly and there is considerable danger around the green. Beware of the pond directly right of the green and a cart path left of it that can make the OB more dangerous if a ball bounces off it. The green is large and breaks considerably toward the pond. If the hole is in the front, above it is very fast.
There are five bunkers on the left side of this hole, all the way form the landing area to the green so keeping it right (on the outside of the subtle dogleg) is the play. A fairly tame opening hole as long as you can keep the ball out of the bunkers. Somehow I missed getting a photo from the first tee. No idea how that happened!
For those who take an interest in golf history--particularly golf tournament history--Interlachen is a notable place. For, it was in the year 1930 that Bobby Jones came to town, having already won the British Open and British Amateur championships in search of what would initially be called the "Impregnable Quadrilateral." That feat, which had never been done, and was thought to be impossible included victories at the aforementioned British championships along with the US Open and US Amateur. The term was a big cumbersome, and would late be deemed the Grand Slam by O.B. Keeler. Interlachen's role in this historical event was as host of the 1930 US Open. After winning here, Jones would move on to capture the Grand Slam at Merion. Even though the definition of the Grand Slam has changed, Jones is technically the only person ever to achieve the feat--at least in the same calendar season (Tiger Woods won the four modern day Grand Slam events in consecutive order, but just not in the same year).
Even for those who aren't focused on the history of tournament golf, Interlachen is a special place. The club was first conceived by a group of folks from Bryn Mawr Golf Club in Northern Minneapolis when their 9-hole course was to be converted into homes. Needing a new place to enjoy their hobby, they sought out land in the Twin Cities that would be suitable for golf and also accessible by streetcar. A 146-acre piece of land in the town of Edina was selected and called Interlachen, which is German for "Between lakes." The group first looked to William Watson to build them a golf course, likely because he had completed nearby Minikhahda and Lafayette within the last decade. Watson built them a golf course, which would be playable in 1910 and the club's grand opening took place in 1911 upon completion its Cecil Bayless Chapman designed clubhouse.
The club hosted several tournaments in the 1910's including the Minnesota State Amateur, Western Open, and Trans-Mississippi. Even though these reportedly went well, the members hired Donald Ross to re-design and re-route the golf course in 1919. With a couple exceptions, this is mostly what stands today.
Even though the club would have a hard time hosting a US Open today due to space constraints, it's a bit puzzling that the tournament never went back, especially given the notability of Bobby Jones's victory. Nearby Hazeltine has taken over the major championship course for the Twin Cities, what with its enormous piece of land and brawny golf course. I thought the USGA might give a nod to Interlachen for the 1930 US Amateur--while not an exact centennial celebration, it would have been close enough. However, Atlanta Athletic Club has been selected for 1930--too bad. Interlachen will be hosting the 2030 US Women's Open, so at least they got something.
Even though the US Open will likely never be back, that doesn't stop the club from honoring the time it DID come to Edina, and the fact that it produced one of the best champions you could ask for. Bobby Jones immediately welcomes you as you step toward the men's locker room!
#7, Par 4, 343 Yards
The seventh is another par-4 where position is important. It requires a well-placed tee shot on the left half of the fairway. Trees and water lurk on the right. A front hole location on the elevated green is very difficult because bunkers guarding it require flying the ball to the hole and stopping it quickly to avoid an extremely fast downhill putt.
By now, you've seen some great examples of how great the land at Interlachen is. Getting crooked lies is plenty common, and greens are placed in fun spots to ensure tricky recoveries if you miss them.
#2, Par 4, 338 Yards
The par-4 second is a fun hole that can produce large numbers and ruin a round early despite its relatively short length. The ideal drive favors the right half because the fairway kicks left. Many players will use a fairway wood to stay short of the bunkers on both sides of the fairway. A defensive play to the middle of the green is highly recommended. Deep bunkers surrounding the long, narrow green are quintessential Donald Ross-style and frequently cause havoc for members, many of whom have horror stories of hitting bunker shots from one side of the green to the bunker on the other side or even blading a bunker shot down the hill on the left of the green to the eighth tee box. Putts above the hole are very fast and can end up off the front of the green. Patty Berg said, “If I could get past No. 2, I was in good shape.”
10 bunkers are well positions to catch a stray ball on this short par four. Precision into the green is critical, but it should only be a little wedge for your approach. Just don't miss in the bunkers or it's a tricky up-and-down.