Rochester Golf Club was formed in 1916, with members playing on a 9-hole course set out by the Red Wing Golf Club professional Harry Turpie. By a stroke of good fortune, local physician Philip Walling Brown married A.W. Tillinghast’s daughter in 1922 and it was during one of Tilly’s subsequent visits to see Elsie in Rochester that he agreed to redesign the club’s existing course, expanding it to an 18-hole layout in the process.
In October of 1925, the club budgeted for $35,000 to improve things both on and off the course. The following year, following a change of name to Rochester Golf & Country Club, construction of the new holes began. The front nine opened for play in May 1927, with the back nine following four months later.
Dr Walter Shelden, head of the neurology section in the local clinic, is the man responsible for the tree-lined fairways at Rochester. Having purchased around five thousand pine seedlings from the University of Minnesota, he established a nursery in the southwest corner of the property, near the 3rd green, eventually transplanting 30,000 trees onto the course.
Tillinghast’s course has changed little down the years. A lake that he’d planned between the 9th and 10th holes was never built but another large pond was excavated next to the 17th in the early 1990s and an additional ten acres of land purchased to allow for the construction of replacement holes for the old 13th and 14th.
Approval was given in 2017 for a multi-million dollar upgrade to improve drainage and irrigation, as well as off course renovations to create a larger clubhouse bar area and a new pool. Renaissance Golf Design lists Rochester Golf & Country Club in a portfolio of more than thirty clubs to which it provides consulting services.
Tom Doak commented as follows in his January 2020 newsletter:
“Mayo Clinic doctors can once again relax in their down time, as Brian Slawnik’s restoration of Rochester came back online this fall after massive rains last fall caused delays.”