This year marks our 100-year anniversary on our current property at The Bridges, and we are excited that this past week we have been able to get back out on the course for some socially distant play. We would like to use this time to reflect on this centennial anniversary of the golf course through a series of articles over the next few months. There have been many changes throughout the years such as location, course expansions, social events, management, and most importantly, the conversion from a private club to a public golf course in 2005.

The history of The Bridges starts in the early 1900s. In 1919, planning began on a golf course to be located on the west side of Winona near 5th Street and Gilmore Avenue (today the Cotter High School St. Michael’s Athletic Field). Due to issues with weather, soil, drainage, declining membership, and maintenance costs, the plans were abandoned. Limited space for expansion led to the consideration of new sites. Pleasant Valley was highly sought after, and in the winter of 1919, the land was purchased for the Winona Country Club.

Photo copyright of The Winona County Historical Society

Chicago architects add their touch to the new course

Architects from Chicago were hired to come to Winona. Scotsman Ben Knight created the layout of the new course, Tom Bendelow the clubhouse, and the Winona Country Club opened in 1920. Knight himself was the first professional at the club, providing members with lessons every Monday for 31 years until his retirement in 1951. The first president of the Winona Country Club was H.S. Youmans while his Secretary was C.B. O’Brien. The excitement and popularity of the new course quickly grew, and the club hosted Winona’s first golf championship later that year. The course was named Meadow-Brook prior to the move to Pleasant Valley. As one of the original founding clubs of the Minnesota Golf Association, Meadow-Brook hosted the very first MGA Championship in August of 1901. The Country Club surely gave a much-needed jolt to the city of Winona.

Photo courtesy of Doris Killian
Kathie Grulkowski putts while Doris Killian holds the flagstick

The challenge of the course

Members enjoy the challenge that the course consistently brings them. Water impacts 13 out of 18 holes total, giving the course an increased difficulty. Doris Killian, a member of the course since 1973, says, “The club is a great golf course and was a great challenge. We joined so that we could golf on this beautiful golf course.” 

The longest current member of the course is Rome Ritter, who has been a member since 1960. Ritter is also excited to get back out on the course and enjoys golfing at The Bridges because “no two holes are exactly alike, it’s just a really special course.”

Over the years, par has not changed, but there are now smaller green surfaces and another challenge being that the course is a “park style” course with mature trees and some blind tee shots.

The love of the game remains unchanged

As we reflect back on the history between 1920 and now, the beauty of the golf course and the love of the game remains unchanged. We look forward to diving deeper into more of the history throughout the decades, including conversations and interviews with a few longtime members and key contributors to the golf course. 

Have you gotten back out on the course yet since we opened this past weekend? If so, what is your favorite thing about being back out on the course? If you haven’t yet, what do you look forward to the most?