Brightwood Hills Golf Course celebrates 50 years


Vince Dahle, founder of Brightwood Hills Golf Course, at the opening of its clubhouse in April 1969. (photo courtesy Gary C. Dahle)

In 1963, Vince Dahle moved his family from Minneapolis to New Brighton, then a relatively unknown community midway between St. Paul and Anoka. The Dahle family occupied a former hobby horse farm located on the western side of Silver Lake Road, at that time a two-lane, low-traffic avenue having a northern terminus at Rice Creek Road.

Gazing eastward across Silver Lake Road to a vacant 40-acre parcel of land, Vince Dahle declared to himself that it would make a good golf course and Brightwood Hills would be its name. After acquiring the 40-acre mixture of prairie, oak forest and wetlands, Dahle sought and eventually received approval from the City of New Brighton for a subdivision plat known as Wedge-wood Addition, which would include the future Brightwood Hills Golf Course.

Dahle then brought in excavators to shape the contours of a nine-hole course, planted hundreds of pine seedlings on the edges of the fairways, connected the wetlands into an integrated water system and designed the layout of each hole with the assistance of a former greenskeeper from the Columbia Golf Course in Minneapolis. 

While all of the oak trees were native to the site, the course’s beautiful pine trees were planted by Dahle. Surrounding the newly designed course were various home sites, which were soon purchased by would-be homeowners desiring to have park-like open spaces adjacent to their back-yards.

 

Early years

In April of 1969, Brightwood Hills welcomed its first golfers to the par-30 course. The original clubhouse was a small but comfortable building with a covered porch having views of the first tee and the ninth green. One unique feature at the facility initially was a short-distance driving range where golfers could hit floating golf balls into the pond adjacent to Silver Lake Road. The golf balls were subsequently retrieved manually with the assistance of a floating raft, and reused by the next round of golfers.

During its early years, Brightwood Hills obtained various supplies and materials for its operation from Beisswenger’s Hardware—which recently celebrated its 100th anniversary—and Paron Motors in New Brighton. The course employed many neighborhood residents, who were kept busy cutting and watering the grass, operating the clubhouse and otherwise keeping the course in tip-top shape for the golfing public.

One of the highlights of every summer was the Brightwood Hills Junior Golf Tournament, offering two flights of competition – the higher flight suitable for the most skilled junior golfers, and the lower flight for those just learning to love the game. Brightwood Hills also had an active Women’s League, and a number of Men’s Leagues, including a Monday night league in which many of New Brighton’s citizens participated.

Beginning in the winter of 1970, Brightwood Hills began offering cross-country skiing during the winter months, providing groomed trails and equipment rentals. One especially popular feature in the winter was its lighted trails, which allowed for nighttime skiing.

Computerized golf

During the summer of 1972, a major expansion was made to the clubhouse, which included four separate stalls designed especially for indoor computerized golf, complete with regulation-size putting cups that allowed for all golfing activities from tee to green. Beginning that winter, Brightwood Hills began offering indoor computerized golf, with on-screen images from Doral Country Club in Florida, Congressional Country Club in Washington, D.C. and Pebble Beach Golf Course in California. 

The computerized golf at Brightwood Hills was in high demand from December through March, and many regulars came in every week in order to keep their game at a high level. The computerized golf technology from the early 1970s consisted of filmstrips and a sound activation system, which calculated the number of frames the filmstrip was to advance based upon the amount of time between the click of the golf ball upon impact and the breaking of a light barrier behind the screen at which the golf balls were directed.

After the 1978 golfing season, the Brightwood Hills Golf Course was sold to the City of New Brighton, which has been operating it ever since as a part of the city’s extensive parks system, absent the computerized golf. The acquisition of Brightwood Hills by the City of New Brighton was made possible in part by legislation introduced in the Minnesota Legislature by Rep. Steven G. Novak.

 

Anniversary celebration

Vince Dahle was one of New Brighton’s preeminent entrepreneurs of his era. He left a lasting legacy to the city in the Brightwood Hills Golf Course, a landmark that has fostered a love of the game in generations of local golfers.

The City of New Brighton is sponsoring a 50th anniversary celebration on Sunday, June 30, at 12:30 p.m. with a shotgun start golf tournament beginning at 1 p.m. For further information, call the Brightwood Hills Golf Course at 651-638-2150.

Historical pictures of the Brightwood Hills Golf Course from its early years can be found at https://dahlelaw.com/brightwood-hills-golf-course-50-years.

 

—Gary C. Dahle is the son of Vince Dahle and a Minnesota attorney based out of Mounds View.

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