The History of the Oak Ridge Country Club

Oak Ridge Country Club was officially organized on September 24, 1920. The incorporating body was known as The Oak Ridge Holding Corporation. The purposes of this corporation, the duties of its officers and directors, and the amount of stock to be issued, all may be examined by interested persons who have at hand an issue of “Finance & Commerce”, dated September 20, 1920. But, of course, “Finance & Commerce” could only give the factual culmination of what had been a long and arduous labor by a few Minneapolis Jews to bring the cultural stimulation of golf to their unsuspecting co-religionists.

Maybe the names of the original incorporators will interest you. They were:

Isaac Kaufman
Ben Gradwohl
J. Jesse Hyman
Ralph T. Hamburger
Jesse Moss
Benjamin Weil
Simon Meyer


To really understand the history of Oak Ridge, it is necessary to turn the clock back much further than the incorporation date or the first meeting of the Holding Company that took place in the office of Isaac Kaufman on September 29, 1920. Facts are hard to come by. There are plenty of people around who should remember every detail of pre-Oak Ridge history, but, being mere mortals, they reserve their nostalgia for items and anecdotes that may enliven this historical attempt, but somehow fail to provide dates, places or events.

From a variety of sources, we have established that, in 1913 or 1914, a group of community leaders from both St. Paul and Minneapolis had become infected with the golf bug. In St. Paul there was Issac Rose, Sam Dittenhoefer, Charles Strauss, Ben Baer, William and Leo Goodkind and possibly more. In Minneapolis, Issac Kaufman, Leopold Metzger, Ben Gradwohl, David Simon, Ben Weil and a few other firsts felt the urge to become acquainted with the niblick, the mashie and the cleek. These men held sporadic meetings from time to time exploring the possibilities of a Country Club to satisfy the growing needs and athletic aspirations of both communities. These few solid Twin Cities citizens searched the suburbs for a suitable location for a golf course that would serve both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Bear in mind, the location must be handy to a trolley or a train, since many prospective members didn’t even seem to have one Rambler, Peerless, Apperson or Buick, to say nothing of a Cadillac or Packard.
Original Oak Ridge Pool

So that was the situation prior to World War I. Meetings galore, with the Minneapolis contingency firmly rooted to a location near Como Park, Lake Josephine or the University Farm Campus and the St. Paul crowd plugging for a North St. Paul location where one of their group, Charles Strauss, owned a parcel of property, attractively priced and available on easy terms. It finally became apparent that a Twin City Club could not be organized. Mr. Strauss’ property became Northwood Country Club in 1915. It existed as a 9 hole course for a matter of twenty-five years. Northwood Country Club, in spite of the distance involved, attracted some Minneapolis membership. Quite naturally, only auto owners were tempted to join. So ended all attempts at a Twin Cities Golf Club. Parenthetically it might be added that Midland Hills and University have done all right in the vicinity the St. Paul citizens rejected.

The advent of war pushed golf club plans pretty much into the background and it was not until after the November 11th Armistice that the golfing pot began to boil again. As everyone knows, pioneer stock is hardy stock and while impetus for a Minneapolis Golf Club did suffer a setback with the split off of the St. Paul faction and the world conflict, it was only temporary. Somehow, sometime, someone, possibly I.H. Ruben or Isaac Kaufman or Dave Simon, conceived the idea of using the Elysium Club as the vehicle for the sponsoring and promotion of the Golf Club idea.

At this point, it’s necessary to turn the clock back again to pick up the background of the Elysium Club. Walter Goldman recalls that, in 1908, there was founded in Minneapolis a social organization known as the Calumet Club. They gave dances, picnics, sponsored boat rides, and for two years, or thereabouts, did all the things a Calumet Club might be expected to do. Somehow the name was changed to the Elysium Club. What a grand bunch they were! What times they had with cards, amateur theatricals (Jimmy Kay’s mother coached them), and dances. Bill Weil, Nate Stern, Howard Kaiser, Lou Tausig were active in the promotion of gala events. Harold Kaufman, Al Heller, Leo Harris and Max Levy were willing cohorts. The Hesitation Waltz was hot stuff then and the Grizzly Bear was gestating. Then came the war and most of the Elysium Club members were well occupied for months or years.

With the cessation of hostilities, Elysium Club members like Al Heller, Howard Kayser, Bill Weil and Sol Fliegelman returned to their old haunts and the Club came out of hibernation with dances, picnics, card parties and the like. Jesse Hyman was President of the Elysium Club in this immediate post-war period and apparently he and his directors, advisors or governors, liked the Golf Club idea because there is plenty of evidence (though few facts) of informal meeting after meeting with Issac Kaufman and his group where the idea was “kicked around”. Somehow or other, no one cares to admit just how, a committee of Elysium Club was appointed to “investigate the possibilities of forming a country club among the Jewish community of Minneapolis”. This committee was instructed, it appears, to examine various accessible locations, estimate the cost of the land, preparation of the golf course, size and cost of the buildings, methods of financing, etc. Who do you think was on the committee? Kaufman, Ruben, Gradwohl, Moss, Weil and Hyman. What information we have indicates that the committee did a capable and extremely thorough job. They deferred calling a general meeting until every detail of site, layout, cost estimates, club house facilities had been completed.

So then the big day came. August 18, 1920. M.L. Finkelstein and I.H. Ruben offered the use of the Shubert Theater free and that’s where the meeting was held. The Elysium Club members were, of course, all invited. So was everyone else in town who knew the difference between a golf ball and a matzo ball and even that requirement wasn’t strictly adhered to. It was a big turnout and an enthusiastic one. Ralph Hamburger, George Stromberg, Sam and Maurice Pflaum, Sam Stein, Ben and John Friedman, Joe Brill, I.B. Joseph, all of the Weils were there and participated in the festivities. Indeed it was quite a meeting. Possibly one hundred and fifty or more persons showed up for what was really the birth of the Oak Ridge Country Club.

It appears from the minute that, although Jesse Hyman called the meeting, Isaac Kaufman preempted the chair and Jesse acted as secretary. The Club was actually founded that night. The incorporation procedure mentioned earlier merely gave substance to the action that was taken at the Shubert meeting. The Holding Company was to own the property, collect the subscriptions, spend the money and borrow more if necessary; but the Club function was to be administered by its own Board elected by the membership. The first Board, elected the night of August 18, 1920, was Kaufman, Ruben, Gradwohl, Ben Weil, Jesse Moss, Jesse Hyman, Ralph Hamburger, Irving Robitshek, Simon Meyers, I.S. Joseph and David Simon. The tellers, Harold Kaufman and Harold Ruben, reported regretfully that George Stromberg, Julius Eisendrath and B. Tuchman had failed to make the grade. It must be reported here that, although the functions and prerogatives of the Club and the proposed Holding Company were pretty clearly defined, subsequent meetings disclosed a confusion that frequently added zest and vigor to the meetings.

Examination of the records of this big Shubert meeting reveals that things were pretty much cut and dried before Chairman Kaufman banged the gavel for order. The indomitable six had come to the meeting with bona fide stock subscription from no less than ninety-one prospective members who has subscribed the tidy sum of $61,000 in order to have a Golf Club and most of them didn’t know a niblick from a stymie.

On September 22, 1920, about a month after the Shubert meeting, but still two days before the actual incorporation date, Ralph Hamburger received a letter from Mr. W.D. Clark, that probably didn’t come as a complete surprise. Mr. Clark said he wanted to be the professional and greens keeper and golf course architect for the new Club. He said he would supervise the whole layout, grading, planting, seeding, laying of water pipes, and digging the well. He would keep complete records and watch things like a hawk. His fees were high. Clark asked for, and received $250 per month while construction was proceeding and he was to have a $500 bonus if the course was playable in July 1921. Once completed, Clark was suppose to take it easy. He was to be the first professional and also greens keeper at a salary of $100 per month. They closed the deal with Clark that very night and it’s pretty obvious that he was a man of action since December 15, 1920, he had not only put in two months work on the course “in spite of many adversities due to finding of many rocks directly under the surface” but he also set up a golf school in the Kasota building. In his first letter to the membership, written December 15, 1920, Clark said in speaking of golf, “Wrong habits are easily acquired but hard to get rid of.” He also noted that clubs, bags and balls would make acceptable Christmas gifts.

Thereafter, events moved quickly. I.S. Joseph kept good minutes. It’s pretty hard to find out who selected our present site or how much was paid for it but it’s no trick at all to learn that a few of the members concluded that they had been slightly optimistic in their stock subscribing and requested the amount to be reduced. These first Directors were made of sterner stuff and it looks like no one, but no one, got by with a reduction.

A comparison of our present membership rolls as of May 1, 1955, with original membership lists reveals that at least two of the original members, J.E. Brill and Walter Goldman, are still active in the Club.

Through the entire winter of 1920-21, the Oak Ridge Directors held frequent meetings attending to many routine matters that needed doing, before the Club could operate. Contract was let for digging a well, a huge order for grass seed was placed with Northrup King & Company. Crane and Company received the order for our pump and water tank and a contract was entered into with General Electric Company for running power lines into this remote location. There was also need for a machinery shed and a caddy house. In March 1921, the Board instructed Mr. Hamburger to proceed with these last mentioned items with all possible speed in order that there be no delay in members use of what was referred to as “the temporary golf course”. At this same Board meeting the clubhouse plans drawn by Mr. A.R. Van Dyke were accepted and he was instructed to prepare the specifications and have them ready “within a few days”. Things moved fast in 1921.

At the next Board meeting, held at the home of I.S. Joseph on April 7, 1921, Mr. Van Dyke’s specifications were accepted and he was told to call for bids. A month later the bids were all in and Fleisher Construction Co. was awarded the contract for the original clubhouse. Subsequent events would seem to indicate that this structure “costing no more than $12,500” has been the most altered, most added to structure in Hennepin County. In all fairness it must be added that, although the Directors set this cost limit, the total cost ran nearly $40,000.

The minutes of the early meetings are too full of administrative and fiscal matters to make any mention of the dates when golf play actually began on the half completed course. It appears from the typed bills authorized for payment that the date was early July 1921. That very summer Miss Mary Clark won the Women’s State Championship and was accorded an honorary membership in the Club.

On November 2, 1921, Fleisher Construction Company turned the completed clubhouse over to the Club and Mr. Hamburger was instructed to write and thank them for their efficient services in connection with its construction.

As so ends Chapter One of the Oak Ridge Country Club story.

In 2004, Oak Ridge Country Club tore down the clubhouse and rebuilt on the same footprint creating the beautiful building, designed for our membership today. In the Clubs' 91st year in operation, we see many generations of the same families that helped build the Club as a pillar in the community. We strived then, and still do, to remain a vital and active role in the Twin Cities community. Oak Ridge Country Club provides a wonderful, energetic location for recreation and entertainment for our Member families and their guests.