Designers renovating old golf courses face one less obstacle than renovating an old football stadium such as Soldier Field. For starters, they don't have to worry about whether to keep the columns.
The chances for success also are much greater.
Existing courses are getting major updates, much like remodeling your home. Among the public courses fitting into this category are Village Links in Glen Ellyn. The course will re-open June 23 with significant changes. All the topography has been reshaped. The once straight and flat fairways now "move up and down," according to pro Noel Allen.
Then in some cases, existing course are pretty much being torn down and getting rebuilt again. Public golfers have several old/new facilities to check out. They might not recognize what they see.
Indian Lakes Resort, Blackhawk Trace course, Bloomingdale: Rick Jacobson projects the pictures on the wall. First, he shows shots of Indian Lake's old west course. They look dull, and the bunkering is flat and uninspired.
Then Jacobson shows the updated version. The pictures appear vibrant and the new bunkers look interesting and exciting.
The shots say a lot for advancements in photography and golf course design.
Jacobson, a Libertyville-based architect, says about the only thing left from the old layout is the routing of the holes. Otherwise, the course is basically new.
It is part of a $20 million renovation of the Indian Lakes resort. The since renamed West course opened last summer. Work will begin soon on the East course.
Jacobson and his crew basically took the old washed-out West course and breathed some life into it.
"Every hole was bunker left, bunker right," Jacobson said. "The course needed an update."
Tees and greens were rebuilt and an irrigation system was installed to water the new bent grass fairways. But the highlight of the new course is Jacobson's bunker work.
Inspired by Augusta National designer Alistair McKenzie, Jacobson built bunkers that slope dramatically from the green with high sand flashes. He also incorporated fescue grasses to provide contrast and texture to the turf.
The end result is a big upgrade on what Indian Lakes had before. When everything grows in, it will be a premium facility.
The resort soon will have two. Jacobson says he will use many elements of Ross' design in the East course.
Traditions at Chevy Chase, Wheeling: This course has a long history dating back to 1923. Tom Bendelow, who laid out Medinah's No. 3, originally designed it.
However, recent history hadn't been kind to the course. The quality and conditioning of the course was far below other area courses.
When Wheeling redesigned the clubhouse in 1999, it wanted a quality golf course to complement it, according to Chevy Chase general manager Margie Arnold. Two million dollars later, it now has one.
Architect Bob Lohmann's design firm basically did a complete revision. The course now features bent-grass fairways and greens. Lohmann's team installed 50 new bunkers.
Many holes were improved. The par 3 ninth went from a short wedge shot to a challenging 195-yarder (from the back tee) with water in play on the right. An improved 16th, another par 3, makes Chevy Chase's short holes some of the best on the course.
Chevy Chase doesn't have a lot of length. But with a slope of 128 from the back tees, it has plenty of challenges for most players.
Makray Memorial Golf Course, Barrington: The former Thunderbird Country Club is set to reopen in May after being shut down for two years.
According to head pro Don Habjan, the course has been redone "from the ground up."
"There's not one iota of the same golf course," Habjan said.
Architect Harry Vignocchi's redesign involved moving more than 1.5 million yards of dirt. With new bent grass fairways, Makray will fit into the premium, upscale public category.
The course, named after late Thunderbird owner Paul Makray, will have four sets of tees, with the championship tees extending beyond 7,000 yards.
Out with old, in with new
Several area courses have undergone major face lifts
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