By Nicole DeGuzman, Maplewood Area Historical Society Executive Director
Keller Golf Course is well known for serving famous regional golfers and gangsters alike. The original clubhouse and pro-shop were demolished in 2012, but the fireplace from the historic clubhouse has been preserved and the architecture of the new building reflects the same features of the original building. The gabled roof, limestone blocks and the shingled upper story harken to times before. Original oak trees are still standing over holes 4 and 17.
In 1927, the state legislature approved a bill to authorize
the golf course and the design work was started. In 1928, the last of
the land was purchased and construction started. Construction was
completed using horses and tractors. The course was not designed by a
nationally renowned architect, but rather by Paul Coates who was Ramsey
County’s civil engineer. The County wanted to save the $12,000-$15,000
architect fee so Mr. Coates visited some of the country’s premier golf
courses for inspiration. The 94.6 acres of rolling, treeless farmland
was purchased by the County for $42,600.
The clubhouse was
designed by St. Paul’s municipal architect, Clarence Wigington, who also
designed the water tower in Prospect Park and the Highland Park Golf
Course clubhouse. Mr. Wigington was the nation’s first African American
municipal architect. The limestone for the building was salvaged from
buildings razed during a street-widening project in downtown St. Paul.
The course opened in 1929 with the first professional tournament, the
St. Paul Open, in 1930. Keller hosted many tournaments including PGA
Championships, Western Open, eight Patty Berg LPGA Golf Classics and the
National Amateur Public Links Championship. The pro shop was built in
1940. From the beginning, Keller Golf Course was acclaimed for the
inspired use of rolling terrain, diverse holes, exciting views, and
challenging but universally playable holes.