Keller’s extreme makeover

For the first time in 84 years, the fairways of Keller Golf Course will be devoid of golfers next season. The October 1 shut-down will allow a year-long refurbishing to take place, leaving public golfers in the East Metro one less option when booking their next round. A last-minute wrinkle in the construction contract was ironed out and the project is going full speed ahead. Golf course architect Richard Mandell will build some new tees and greens, rebunker some of the holes, change the par-5 9th hole to a par 4, and change the par-4 10th into a par 5. Meanwhile, the familiar clubhouse will be replaced with a new facility.
The routing of the course will remain the same, so the overall character of the course is not likely to change, but Keller should feel more modern and regain the well-maintained look of a course that hosted two PGA Championships and five decades of PGA and LPGA Tour events.
Golfers flocked to Keller in the final weeks of September to get one last look at the original classic, and were blessed with outstanding weather. As they played the course one last time, those with long memories couldn’t help but think about all the great players — Snead, Nelson, Hogan, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Berg — who once competed there, and think of the huge galleries that once lined the fairways. At the same time, regular players had to wonder if the next version of the course will retain at least some of its quirks.
The first hole will be straightened, with the tee moving left of the pro shop where a parking lot now sits. How will that first tee shot look, compared to current dogleg right to a green hidden by trees? Will the second fairway be as narrow as it now is, with trees and fairway bunkers encroaching from both sides? Will the green on the par-5 3rd hole be as severely sloped as the current one? How will the par-3 4th hole play after Mandell creates a fairway run-up option under the famous oak tree in front of the green? Will the 7th and 8th holes continue to be among the finest par 4s on any Minnesota public course? Where will the new tee be placed on the 9th hole when it is converted from a par-5 to a par-4?
How will the downhill 10th hole play when it is stretched to a par-5? Will tee shots landing in the right half of the 11th fairway continue to bound sideways down the hill to the trees on the right? Will the steeply slanted 12th green be softened to keep approach shots from rolling off the green to the left? Will a new tee and rebuilt green on the dramatic par-3 13th take some of the fear out of the hole? Will there be a bit more room for a tee shot to land and stay in the fairway on the tight par-5 16th? Will there be more room to maneuver around the tree in the 17th fairway? Will the new clubhouse present a dramatic backdrop behind the 18th green?
All those questions will be answered in a year’s time. In the meantime, here’s to the glorious past of Minnesota’s first great public course. May the future be every bit as successful.

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