Houston White Breaks Down His Favorite Golf Courses
By Andrew Parks
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Like many of us, Houston White was blown away by Tiger Woods’ record-breaking performance at the 1997 Masters, a tournament the 21-year-old won by a wild 12 strokes. To this day, Woods’ triumph over Tom Kite remains the largest margin of victory since The Masters’ founding in 1934, and the first by a person of color.
It was also a turning point in White’s own relationship with the sport. While he’d played on Minneapolis North's golf team when he was a teenager, he hadn’t fallen head over cleats for the game itself until he saw Woods prove just how great a golfer could be. In many ways, he epitomized the Black Excellence tagline White would later celebrate through everything from special events to snapbacks and T-shirts.
"That’s the first time I ever saw a Black man that looked like me," says the fashion designer/serial entrepreneur (the newly opened North Minneapolis cafe The Get Down Coffee Co. and its sister barbershop/store Houston White Men’s Room. “I felt like I was seeing my brother or my cousin."
He continues, “That’s why I speak so much about the need for culture, you know? I ain’t talking about Black faces. Because you could have a Black dude that’s whiter than you. It’s the lived experience — the drip, the slang, the music, the way they dress, the way they talk, the way they act, the swagger."
As a major golf match plays in the background at the Legends Club Grill in Prior Lake, White points out the blue, sweat-wicking Nike shirt one player is wearing onscreen. In a lot of ways, it's about as edgy as pro golf gets — fabric as an incremental form of progress.
“Going from cotton to that kind of material makes it feel like golf has changed," explains White. "But the truth is, its stuffy uniform just got easier to wear in the hot sun…. Whenever the term ‘diversity’ or ‘growing the game’ comes up, I have to laugh because people say that, but then I see the same white men in suits giving out all the trophies.”
While he can’t personally change who’s shaping the PGA Tour’s uncertain future, White has been putting his sartorial stamp on amateur golf for the past five years. The latest example of which is the capsule Victory collection he launched at MartinPatrick3 in late June. More than just technical sports gear, it features a futurist look and pops of punchy color from a reflective material developed in direct partnership with the Maplewood-based scientists at 3M.
The company has worked on competitive sports clothing for Nike before, but White's bold designs are the first of what he hopes will be many innovative collaborations within the golf space. Having already released a refined polo to a market very much in need of some new blood, they're already discussing golf bags, grips and sleek pants that repel dirt and sweat through 3M's signature Scotchgard technology.
As for how this all plays into White's own development as a golfer over the past two decades, White says he spent his twenties treating its many techniques like any other job, taking as much as a month at a time mastering certain shots or swings. “For me, it was work — the driving range, reading, watching lessons, playing on the weekend, rinse, repeat.”
The way he sees it, White didn’t get to the point he’s now at — physically and mentally — until he was at least 35. (He's now 43.) A major part of that evolution was realizing that golf shouldn’t be competitive to the point of forgetting why you play it. After all, it's supposed to be a way of reducing one's stress, not a one-way ticket to increasing it.
“I used to be a two handicap,” says White. “I was really good at golf. I can still play well if I want to, but I'm not that serious anymore. When people try to push me into competitive moments now, I’m like, ‘Bro, at the end of the day, you can beat me by 10 strokes; you’re still not going to get a green jacket. Don’t you want to have fun?'"
Since that’s a major goal of Explore Minnesota — showing visitors how much fun can be had within our state — we asked White to break down some of his favorite courses, starting with the club that’s been a source of inspiration and solace throughout much of his career.
I’ve always felt at home here, maybe because of the history that I have with this place. I don’t know; there’s just something about it. And we share anniversaries in terms of its opening 23 years ago, when I first started playing golf for real.
The folks that work here have always treated me really well. They're very hospitable, very cool people. It also has the country club feel of being secluded, which means a lot to me personally, because it’s the place I go to just get away.
That’s something I tell every single entrepreneur I know: ‘You have to have a release valve.’ Golf, for any aspiring young professional, is a superpower — both a respite and a way to connect with other people.
One thing about this one, though: It’s not a course where I would bring somebody who is just starting to play golf. This is for when you progress a little bit. I mean, you could play here, as long as you’re willing to pick up your ball and move it to the next hole if you’re holding things up.
I love, love, love this place. It’s a links-style course, like what you’d see in Scotland when golf started — no trees, and a big flat area that has a whole bunch of miles [in it].
The difficulty with that is you're playing all these angles with a full shot. Links golf is all about placing the ball, but you don't have the trouble that you have in a traditional golf course, which is you hit it in a tree. So it's more forgiving in terms of space, but more difficult in terms of navigating everything.
There’s just something about the open air here that feels different to me. I really enjoy it. And it’s just a beautiful, challenging course.
I remember when this course first opened. I used to play it every week, but I haven't been there in years. It’s links on the front, and then it turns into a more traditional course on the back. So it’s the best of both worlds. It can play really long, but it’s beautiful, man.
Here's the thing about Minnesota, man: I could go on and on and on about the great courses here, from the Chaska Town Course and Francis A. Gross to Hidden Greens in Hastings. Hastings should have its own golf loop, actually; there's so many little, amazing courses there.
Prestwick, over in Woodbury, reminds me of your favorite dive Irish bar — if it was a golf course. It just has this vibe to it, where it's not pretentious. It's dope. It's chill. It's like, 'We do what we do, and we do it well. We're not trying to be anything else.' It's that type of thing.
Andrew Parks is the multimedia editor at Explore Minnesota. His past lives include copywriting and content strategy for such clients as Food & Wine, Apple, Condé Nast Traveler, Bandcamp, AFAR, Bon Appétit, and Red Bull.
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