Hiawatha, Meadowbrook Golf Courses Look to Return for Full Play

Meadowbrook Golf Course Photo: KSTP/Nate Leding Meadowbrook Golf Course

March 29, 2016 06:27 PM

The snow shovels have been put away for the season and barring any April Fool’s weather prank, Minnesotans can get a firm grip on those golf clubs. Most courses across the metro are open for play.

But there are two that are not fully open.

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Meadowbrook Golf Course and Hiawatha Golf Course were hit hard by flooding in July of 2014.

More than 11 inches of rain fell in the month of June that year as measured by the National Weather Service’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport reporting station. That was more than 7 inches above average. It rained 18 out of 30 days in June and six out of the first 12 days of July. On top of that, April and May had above-average precipitation

The damage was enough to shut the courses down for half of the 2014 golf season.

Hiawatha was able to limp along in 2015 by opening the front nine for golfers. The back nine has yet to reopen, although there is hope golfers will be able to play holes 10-18 later this summer.

Meadowbrook has been fully closed since the flood. It is scheduled to reopen in 2017.

Combined, the two golf courses sustained $3.5 million in damage during the flood two years ago.

When it was done, Hiawatha had 23 drowned trees and 47 acres of dead turf. Meanwhile, Meadowbrook had 64 acres of grass damage, 75 drowned trees and damage to four greens.


Meadowbrook is on Excelsior Boulevard near Louisiana Avenue in both St. Louis Park and Hopkins with Edina a chip shot away to the south. The course opened for play in 1926. It didn’t take long before the course faced flooding. Nine holes of the course were closed for the 1927 season. Almost 90 years later, Meadowbrook is once again on the mend.

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is coordinating with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to get federal funding to help bring the course back.

“The funding will come through a reimbursement for work accomplished; since no work has been performed, no reimbursement has occurred,” Michael Schroeder, of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said. “The MPRB will be submitting reimbursements under categories agreed to and to amounts allowed by FEMA.”

Schroeder says bids for construction work were recently received and that the review process is underway. He says the work on the Meadowbrook course will probably not begin before June.

Restoration crews are working on Meadowbrook’s clubhouse after burst pipes caused damage inside.

In addition to the clubhouse renovation, there are two main areas of construction to be completed to make Meadowbrook whole again. The course itself needs major improvements. In September 2015, the Board of Commissioners approved a concept that would restore the golf course to an 18-hole, par 71 course, and add a driving range. There will be a number of course modifications including the removal and replacement of a number of trees and vegetation, moving tee boxes, bunkers and greens out of the floodplain, and installing drainage infrastructure.

The other part of restoring Meadowbrook has involves the Minnehaha Creek.

The Minnehaha Creek connects both courses and it simply couldn’t hold all that rain in 2014. The headwaters are at Gray’s Bay on Lake Minnetonka and the creek spills into the Mississippi River flowing through Minnetonka, Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Minneapolis.

Crews will establish “a more natural geomorphology for the stream” within the Meadowbrook course, which was straightened in the 1900s.

After World War II, the creek was manipulated by ditching, draining, and filling to create places for houses to be built without a real understanding of the long term implications.

“In the Minnehaha Creek watershed, the creek was ditched and straightened to move its location away from rail and road corridors, and was viewed as a storm sewer system to move water off of the landscape as quickly as possible,” Michael Hayman, with the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, said. “Wetlands were often filled to create more available property for growth, removing valuable flood storage and ecosystems. “

In effect, the project will create more bends in the creek which will improve overall floodplain management.

“The Minnehaha Creek improvements proposed as part of the Meadowbrook Golf Course project include restoring wetlands, stabilizing the streambank, adding curves to the straightened creek and providing in-stream habitat for fish and other aquatic life,” Hayman said. “This work will reduce erosion, prevent flooding, filter polluted runoff from the golf course and provide wildlife habitat."

At one point, the Meadowbrook project was estimated at about $9 million.  Officials say that lower bids could reduce the cost.


Hiawatha is in South Minneapolis near Cedar Avenue and Minnehaha Parkway, just north of Lake Nokomis. Hiawatha opened for nine holes of play in mid-summer 1934. The full course opened for the 1935 season. It was one of several city courses built in the 1920s and 1930s while the game of golf grew in popularity.

Right now, Hiawatha is in better shape than Meadowbrook. The course just opened for the season on Monday. Golfers can play the front nine. The course hopes to open the back nine sometime this summer. But the course has lost money.

In 2014, the park board budgeted Hiawatha to make $1.2 million. At the end of the season the course only made a third of that. 

“The major difference between the two courses is the discovery at Hiawatha Golf Course that the MPRB is pumping significantly more water than is allowed under the current appropriations permit from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources,” Schroeder said.

Basically, the course was pumping groundwater from the course into Lake Hiawatha at a rate higher than allowed.

“Upon learning of the situation, the MPRB met with representatives of the DNR and submitted an application for an increase in the groundwater appropriation permit,” Schroeder said. “That permit application is pending with the DNR. The DNR indicated during a meeting with the MPRB that it would not immediately require the MPRB to cease pumping and would instead make a determination once the MPRB had completed a series of investigations, including investigations requested by the DNR.”


Nate Leding & Todd Wilson

Copyright 2016 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company


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