by Rob Levine
Thank you, St. Paul.
Let me explain. In 1924 Armour & Company of Chicago (the hot dog guys) wanted to build a packing house and stockyard on 800 acres of land they owned east of Stinson Boulevard in Northeast Minneapolis. The City of St. Paul, in an action that we will always regard with great respect, convinced the Armour company to build in South St. Paul instead. Left with 800 acres of land, Armour agreed to sell 154.3 acres to the Minneapolis Park Board at $1000/acre . Armour advanced the board $55,000 to complete and buy the course, with the city making payments to Armour out of net earnings.
Thus in June 1925 did open the first Minneapolis Public Course with grass greens and tees (the two existing courses, Glenwood [later renamed Theodore Wirth] and Columbia, both had sand greens and tees). The course gets its name from Francis A. Gross, who was president of the Board of Commissioners and instrumental in setting up re-financing of the courses debt (finally paid in full in 1977) to Armour in 1947.
Feel the wood
Gross is also a predominantly flat course, compared to other city courses such as Theodore "Billy-Goat" Wirth or Columbia. That, and the courses age and ease of access may account for its popularity with the senior set. This fact reminds me that a decision to play Gross must be honestly weighed against the length of the average round. Ive played Gross in four hours; Ive also played it in five and a half hours. Course management has taken steps to speed play, including banning five-somes, a tradition some long-time players apparently were NOT happy to see end.
Short, narrow par fours
What are really vexing at Gross are the par threes, all of which are legitimately difficult holes. Number three (179 yards from the white tees) is a particularly scary hole. Playing uphill to a domed/sloped green, theres a bunker in the front-right, and pine trees to the immediate left. Miss the green anywhere but short, and you could easily be looking at a triple bogey. The second and third par threes (#s 7 & 11) are 198 and 186 yards, respectively. Only does the 17th hole, at 159 yards, appear birdiable.
Calling St. Paul
Special appreciation goes out to Steve Walters, Gross course manager, who supplied the research for this story.
Gross Golf Course
Green fee: $20; w/patron card: $16. Senior or junior: $10.