Northland Country Club

3901 East Superior Street | Architects: Unknown | First: Built: 1903 | Lost 1918 | Second: Built: 1918 | Lost: 2006
The original Northland Country Club clubhouse. (Image: Duluth Public Library)

When Northland Golf Club organized in 1899, one would have thought its members were unfamiliar with the game of golf, as their bylaws stated that: “No game for money shall on any account be allowed… No intoxicating liquors will be allowed… and no profane language unbecoming to a gentleman will be tolerated.” With those and other rules in place, the club built itself a clubhouse on the former Howell estate, acquired for the golf course, at 3901 Superior Street. The Arts and Crafts–style club house was built in 1903 at a cost of $17,000 and opened for the 1905 golf season. The building stood across a creek from what today is the first tee. In addition to golf events, the clubhouse provided space for dances, dinners, and teas. Early members included Guilford Hartley, Townsend Hoopes, and other prominent Duluthians. The club’s membership all but mirrored that of the Kitchi Gammi Club.

Today the course sits below Skyline Parkway roughly between Glenwood and Superior Streets to the north and south and stretching from the easternmost edge of the Congdon neighborhood east to Fortieth Avenue East. Originally designed by Ward Ames, after a 1912 expansion the course included six holes on land now occupied by Duluth East High School. To play the fifth hole, a three-hundred-yard par five, your tee shot had to clear Superior Street. Holes six, seven, and eight were located entirely on the lower side, and on nine you once again had to cross Superior Street from the tee box. But one’s game was never disturbed by lawn maintenance equipment: a herd of sheep was used to keep the grass down to playing level. According to the country club’s website, “Each fall, the caddies would herd [the sheep] down Superior Street from the course, and then on to a West Duluth packing house when their work was done.”

In 1956 Northland became part of golf history when it hosted the Women’s USGA Open Golf Championship, which included the debut of Ann Gregory, the first African-American woman to play in a USGA event.

The 1903 clubhouse stood until 1918, when the infamous Cloquet/Moose Lake fire swept through eastern Duluth, and the clubhouse was caught in its path. That same year Northland built a new clubhouse. The 1918 clubhouse was remodeled after another fire in 1973 and demolished in 2006 to make room for a new clubhouse, similar in look, that opened in 2007.

A course redesign by Donald Ross, completed in 1927 after more land north of the course was acquired, positioned all the holes safely above Superior Street. Club member Albert Ordean bought the newly vacated land below Superior Street and donated it to the city for use as an athletic field. That land later became home to Ordean Middle School, soccer and football practice fields, and Ordean Stadium. In 2010–2011 the school was expanded into the new Duluth East High School. The former East High School, originally East Junior High, now operates as Ordean-East Middle School.

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