The cost of the project at the Highland Park, Ill., golf course has grown from $2.8 million four years ago when the plan was conceived. Planned course updates will include reconstruction of all 18 greens, re-grassing of tees and fairways, renovating bunkers, and addressing drainage issues. The project is expected to close the course for the 2017 season and reopen in summer 2018.
Heeding the priorities of golfers who play at Sunset Valley Golf Course, park commissioners in Highland Park, Ill., have agreed to put the majority of the $7 million renovation budget into course improvements and perhaps scale back on proposed clubhouse enhancements, the Chicago Tribune reported.
“Many of the golfers have recommended that more of the financial resources be allocated to golf course improvements,” said Dan Malartsik, director of facilities and information technology for the park district.
Added golfer Shawn Gordon, “I have played golf all over the world, and I’ve never played a course because of the clubhouse.”
Gordon, a member of the Sunset Valley Golf Resident Advisory Committee, cited a study concluding that course improvements provided the larger return on investment, the Tribune reported.
The park district is preparing for a major renovation of the golf course in 2017, including new tees, fairways, bunkers and greens. The park district also plans to replace golf-cart paths in poor condition and improve drainage and stormwater management, among other improvements. The number of golf rounds played annually at Sunset Valley has dropped from about 45,000 when golfing was at its peak, to 28,000, the Tribune reported.
“We would like to be in the mid-30,000s range,” Malartsik said.
Liza McElroy, executive director of park district, noted that neighboring public courses have been improved or will be undergoing improvements. She said the goal is to be competitive in what is a very competitive market. “We get one crack at this,” McElroy said. “We want to do the best we can for our golfers, and we want to stay within our financial means.”
The renovation of Sunset Valley Golf Course emerged as the park board’s highest near-term priority in GreenPrint 2024, a park district master plan developed with community input. Based on consultants’ assessment of Sunset Valley and the 18-hole golf course at the Highland Park Country Club, the park district decided to continue golf operations at Sunset Valley, and eventually eliminate golfing at the country club. Park officials have talked about converting the country club course to walking and biking trails, the Tribune reported.
The GreenPrint plan estimated the cost of the Sunset Valley renovation at $7 million and, of that amount, allocated $2.8 million for course improvements and $4.2 million for a new clubhouse. According to the park district’s website, both the 1956 clubhouse and the golf course—which still features some of the original 1920 elements—are in vital need of renovation, the Tribune reported.
At a minimum, the course renovation was to include re-grassing of tees and fairways; reconstructing nine of the 18 putting greens to U.S. Golf Association (USGA) specifications; renovating bunkers with erosion control; and addressing drainage issues throughout the system. GreenPrint envisioned the project would include a new clubhouse with lower-level cart storage and elevated outdoor seating that would enable golfers to look onto the course and enjoy the sunsets, the Tribune reported.
However, park commissioners learned July 12 the cost of minimal course improvements had risen to $3.2 million in the four years since the park district obtained the cost estimate. Moreover, park officials learned that all 18 greens are in need of reconstruction to meet USGA specifications. The reconstruction of nine additional greens, along with hole reshaping and storm water management, has driven the cost of course improvements to $4.9 million, the Tribune reported.
“When you look at a round of golf, theoretically half of your round is played on the greens, so they are very important surfaces,” said Rick Jacobson, who is designing the course renovation for the park district. “It’s a good opportunity to create an exceptional golf experience.”
Jacobson noted that improving drainage will enable golfers to get back onto the course quickly after a storm, and minimize the park district’s loss of golf revenue. Jacobson detailed eight additional improvements that, he said, would help differentiate the course from competitors in the area and create a unique golfing experience. Were all of the suggestions implemented, the cost of the course renovation is estimated at $5.65 million, the Tribune reported.
“We are not committed to spending $5.6 million,” McElroy stressed. She said the park district will wait to see how the bids come in and looking for value-engineering options to lower the cost. She noted that Sunset Valley is a community golf course and golfers are looking for a good experience, but also good value, the Tribune reported.
The project team asked the park board to decide the allocation question July 12 so consultants could begin preparing construction documents to put the project out to bid. Under the project’s schedule, the park board would award bids in mid-December and construction would begin next April, the Tribune reported.
The course would be closed for the 2017 season and reopen in the summer of 2018, the Tribune reported.