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The 1930s Gangster Golf Hideout
Perhaps Keller Golf Course in Maplewood, MN, wasn’t a hideout, but it was certainly a place where the hoodlums of the 1930s enjoyed golf. Founded in 1928, the course entertained the likes of John Dillinger (who fled the Feds on the freight that happened to be passing the 3rd green) and Ma Barker and her children.
An elderly man who’d caddied back in the 30s remembered watching the pimps from St. Paul and Minneapolis paying each other off in the locker room after their rounds, $1,000 per hole.
Of course, Keller wasn’t all gangsters. Sam Snead played there, and later Arnold Palmer and Ken Venturi, as did Patty Berg.
And the PGA was there as well. In 1932, Olin Dutra pulled one out over Frank Walsh. In 1954, Chick Harbert topped Walter Burkemo for the PGA Championship.
It’s a classic old course, with a classic clubhouse. It’s been freshly renovated in the last few years, but still has the feel of the hookers and hustlers that spent time there.
If you read about the ’30s in St. Paul, you realize how the amnesty they offered crooks led to some high times. The Hamm kidnapping, for instance, was in St. Paul. The agreement, however, was that if you didn’t commit a crime in St. Paul, the paid-off police would leave you alone. So, a Minneapolis bank robbery chase ended in the middle of the bridge between the two cities.
Today, of course, the law is the same on both sides of the Mississippi. Only memories remain.
A favorite hole is the par-3 4th, with a huge tree growing right in front of the green. I used an 8-iron to sail over it and land on the green for a par (one of two I got in the first 6 holes, before lightning chased us off the course). We received a rain check, though, so sometime before the end of the season I’ll make my way back to see whether that was a fluke.

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Written by rvgolfer

September 5, 2005 at 4:44 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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