"Ewe" can golf "fore" free in New York Mills
Golf is not an easy game. It takes practice, patience, a lot of luck and there are just some times on the course when only verbal exhortations, exclamations and even execrations--for instance, my game stinks like...well, you know what I mean--can help a bad day on the links.
There's a place just outside of New York Mills where golf meets such pastoral excrement, or as famous Minnesota sports writer Patrick Reusse put it, "sheep debris."
The place is Balhepburn, a former sheep pasture turned nine-hole golf course, created and managed by former veterinarian Howard Legried and his wife Lou at Valhalla Farms.
"I used to have over 500 ewes here and I was the only one doing the shoveling," he said.
Over the years, Legried has had to make changes, some subtle and some not so, to accommodate both the sheep and the golfers.
Fences were added to spare golfers on the third hole, a green where the aforementioned 500 sheep used to gather and also where Howard would work his shovel magic.
Hole number seven has a raised green to keep the sheep off and apparently, most of the golfers.
"That's the toughest shot on the golf course," Mary Lee Legried, Howard and Lou's daughter, explained in the middle of her round.
The par three seventh, named Windy View, for a reason, is 190 yards to the small, elevated green and on this particular day was playing into a stiff headwind.
All nine holes are named with respect or warning from the "Double Trouble" ninth to the par four fifth "Without Mercy" to "Sheepshed," the first.
Grass traps, patches of longer grass, take the place of sand traps and play by the same rules.
But other stipulations at Balhepburn will not be found in United States Golf Association Book of Rules.
Five stroke penalties are assessed for littering and climbing fences, while leaving a fence gate open will cost 10 strokes.
Mary Lee was party to finding a discarded beer bottle during her round but says the regular golfers at Balhepburn do a decent job of monitoring and keeping a watchful eye out.
"We have some guys who used to act like idiots when they were younger, who are now in their thirties and they police the place," she said with a laugh.
The clubhouse is loaded with history, interesting décor, 50-cent cans of pop, balls for sale, along with donated clubs for use. There is no charge to golf, as long as one remembers to shut the gates.
The course is host to summer league play and the annual Lions Tournament.
This year it will be held July 7, at 3, 5 and 7 p.m. The tournament is a four-person scramble event with a cost of $100 per team. There is room for nine flights of golfers per time frame.
All proceeds go to Lions functions throughout the community. Hot dogs and refreshments will be provided after the last flight completes play and will be served upstairs in city hall.
Contact Al Berube to register 218-385-2300.