UND Today

University of North Dakota’s Official News Source

Ray Richards’ Mr. Golf

To celebrate Saturday’s season opening of Ray Richards Golf Course, enjoy this feature on longtime coach and historian Rob Stiles 

Rob Stiles, who served for 25 years as head golf coach for UND, still golfs at Ray Richards Golf Course and, at 83, ‘still consistently shoots an 18-hole round well under his age,’ the story reports. UND archival photo.

Editor’s note: UND’s Ray Richards Golf Course plans to open on Saturday, April 6, which will be the course’s earliest season opening in the past five years.

Memberships are 10% off until May 1. UND employees will receive special discounted rates throughout the entire season.

Golfers should call the pro shop at 701.777.4340 for details or to set a tee time.


By Kyle Myers and Kevin Fee

Before he began an interview, Grand Forks golf historian Rob Stiles pulled out his phone and showed an overhead picture from an on-campus course at UND in the 1930s.

The clarity of the picture wasn’t great, but Stiles wanted to reveal, through a lens, UND golf history and the sport’s gulf between yesteryear and today.

Stiles is also a Ray Richards Golf Course historian. He can play the game, too.

He once shot a 64 at Ray Richards. Now, at 83, he still consistently shoots an 18-hole round well under his age.

He can thank a lot of rounds around Ray Richards and other courses in the area and the country for his ability to shoot rounds most golfers his age struggle to achieve.

He started playing at the course in 1967 after being hired as head wrestling coach at UND. About 15 years later, he became golf coach at the university.

He spent 25 years as head golf coach for UND.

In some sense, Stiles was a self-taught golfer who augmented his game by using occasional tips from such UND golf and coaching legends as Frank Zazula and Louis Bogan.

Attending golf clinics, including one at UND, also helped.

This photo shows the nine-hole, 1930s-era golf course that was located just east of the then-new, now-demolished Memorial Stadium at UND. Photo courtesy of Rob Stiles.

From wide-open to tree-lined

Stiles said Ray Richards was a wide-open course with patchy fairways and few trees when he came to UND. Now it features plush fairways and tall trees.

“It’s one of the best 9-hole golf courses in the region right now,” Stiles said. “I played it last year and I thought was in awfully good shape. It played totally different than when I was out here before because the trees had gotten higher and bigger. In some of the places where I could hit the ball and go over the trees, now I can’t do that.

“Grass-wise, the fairways were very spotted. It was a new course. They did a good job of seeding and building the greens, but the sand traps were not very good. The pine trees were only about a foot high. They planted them all over the course. Some of them are still out there.”

Stiles fondly recalls some noon golf outings playing for a dime a hole with some UND coaches back in the day at Ray Richards. The foursome usually included Bogan, Zazula, hockey coach Rube Bjorkman and Stiles.

“We would dash over here, play 9 holes, and get back over to campus before 1 o’clock. We did it in a hurry, no carts, just carry a bag and go,” he said.

Back then a farmhouse, formerly owned by Ray Richards, was used as the clubhouse. Eventually the farmhouse was torn down and a new clubhouse was built.

Before it was gone, the farmhouse provided more than a place where golfers came in and paid their green fees.

UND men’s golf team members lived in the building’s upstairs. They had beds and showers, but they weren’t allowed to cook in the quarters.

“That was a way of getting them a little bit of scholarship aid,” Stiles said.

UND’s Ray Richards Golf Course plans to open on Saturday, April 6, which will be the course’s earliest season opening in the past five years. Memberships are 10% off until May 1. UND employees will receive special discounted rates throughout the entire season. Photo courtesy of Ray Richards Golf Course.

Eight career aces — and counting

Funding the program wasn’t easy when Stiles coached. When there were few scholarship dollars available, UND would host a UND golf clinic to raise money. Stiles also sought donations.

When UND decided to drop the program at one point, Stiles and others raised money to keep it alive.

Ray Richards Golf Couse received a different fate. The course closed after the 2016 season. At the time, UND said it closed the historic 9 holes because of budget constraints.

“That was a sad day,” Stiles said.

After looking at possibly building something else at the site, UND reopened the course in 2020.

Ray Richards is the one who, along with three other owners, donated the 150-acre former farm to the university in 1962. The agreement made between Richards and UND included an understanding that the land was being donated for a golf course to be named after Richards. The original landowners transferred the plot to the university for a rate of $300 per acre, for a total of $45,000.

Of that sum, Richards gifted $11,250 outright.

Stiles said because of the agreement UND had with the Richards family, the course was rightfully resurrected in 2020.

A golf coach at UND for 25 years, Stiles led his team to four straight North Central Conference championships in the late 1990s. His teams never finished lower than third. He was named District 5 coach of the year one year and spent several years on District 5 committees.

He also found success as the head of the wrestling program, coaching 15 All-Americans, including standouts Jerry Larson and Rick Lee, while bringing the program to national prominence.

“That’s why I was hired at UND was my wrestling background,” Stiles said.

An all-around athlete from Turlock, Calif., Stiles is a former state high school wrestling champion. He also played other sports in high school and college.

But when it comes to coaching, he enjoyed golf the most.

“I got distracted by lack of enthusiasm in the area for wrestling,” Stiles said.

His love of golf remains today. Last summer, he golfed 105 rounds. The year before, he golfed 128 rounds. And all told, Stiles has eight career aces.

He will no doubt golf more than 100 rounds this summer, too. That’s Stiles’ style.

About the authors:

Kyle Myers is athletics operations director and general manager of Ray Richards Golf Course at UND. Writer Kevin Fee is a Pro Shop manager at the course.