Early in the history of Columbia Park, the park board wasn’t sure what to do with the land. In 1898 it granted Patrick Ryan, perhaps the same Patrick Ryan who had served as a park commissioner 1890-1896, permission to cultivate the low land in the park. The following year the board gave some consideration to creating an arboretum at the park. Subsequent proposals for the park included making it into a “popular resort” (1905), a golf course (1910) and a large athletic field (1912).
The 1910 recommendation eventually was preferred. Following the popular development of a nine-hole golf course at Glenwood (Wirth) Park in 1916, the park board created a six-hole course with sand greens at Columbia in 1917. After only a year of operation, the park board realized that six holes was too short for a golf course and by 1920, expanded it to nine holes, still with sand greens however. It took only two more years to realize that 18 holes were needed and in 1922 the course was expanded again. The new course was so popular that golfers had to be turned away, which led the park board to build a golf club house, called a community center, in 1924. Revenues from golf were expected to pay for the building, which cost about $70,000 to build. Suggested names for the golf club house included “House of Seven Gables” and “Deming Hall,” but the name eventually chosen in 1930 was “The Manor.”
Golf continued to increase in popularity leading to the implementation of a registration system in 1927 to eliminate long waits for tee times. With the onset of the depression, however, golf’s popularity took a big hit. Rounds played at Columbia dropped by 30% in 1934 as they did at other courses, except Armour (Gross) Golf Course, which was the only course with an irrigation system to water the fairways. Even though the Columbia course was upgraded to grass greens in 1935, with the help of federal work relief funds, the course continued to operate at a loss for many years.
In the late 1960s, Columbia was upgraded from a length of 4600 yards to 6200 yards to keep it competitive. The locker rooms at Columbia were upgraded in 1987 and the club house was remodeled in 1990.
Columbia Golf Course was the first Minneapolis course to have a Golf Learning Center added in the 1990s.
A new concrete patio and entrance steps to The Manor were poured in 2007 and a new irrigation system on the course was installed in 2009. In 2011 a tree inventory was taken at the course to help plan for maintenance and potential replacement of ash trees.
The historic bridge spanning the railroad tracks cutting through the course was rehabilitated in 2016. The bridge was originally constructed in 1896 and is one of only two steel-arch bridges that remain standing in Minnesota.
Park history compiled and written by David C. Smith.