The semi-private Shiloh, Ill., golf course opened in 1965, and has been owned by the 22 original stockholders and their families since then. Though General Manager Steve Liter notes that it’s “increasingly more difficult to make money in the golf business,” he attributes the club’s success to the stockholders, who he says have made a series of good business decisions.
Tamarack Country Club in Shiloh, Ill., has sprawled and flourished from humble origins that continues to thrive five decades later, and is this year’s recipient of the O’Fallon-Shiloh Chamber of Commerce’s Heritage Award the Belleville, Ill., News-Democrat reported.
Named for the only tree that grew there, the golf course began as a vision of businessmen who wanted a place to play. Bill Adrian, who worked as a local business manager for Local 101 Plumbers, partnered with Bud Dahm, a mechanical plumber and heating contractor, and Leo Lubkuecher, a sheet metal contractor, to bring 21 other stockholders together to form the corporation that would fund and create the golf course, the News-Democrat reported.
“Even from the back tees, it’s still a challenging golf course,” said Steve Liter, General Manager and PGA professional. “You have to be on your game to shoot good golf here.”
But Tamarack is not your typical golf course success story by any means, said Liter, who has worked at Tamarack for the past five years, the News-Democrat reported.
“A golf course like Tamarack would have normally changed ownership several times over the 50-plus years has been in operation,” Liter said, noting that Tamarack has been owned by the 22 original stockholders and their families since its inception in 1965. “That’s unusual.”
Liter attributed the golf course’s success to the courses stockholders and families, who have have made a series of good business decisions, the News-Democrat reported.
“The golf industry business is not the easiest business to be in, especially over the last 10 to 20 years,” said Liter, who has worked in the golf industry for over 40 years. He has played and managed his share of signature golf course designs, including his most recent position at Stone Wolfe Golf Club in Fairview Heights, which opened in 1996 and was designed by pro golf legend Jack Nicklaus, the News-Democrat reported.
Oscar Pearce of Shiloh has played at Tamarack for the past 50 years, and continues to play there because of its reasonable cost, quality, and friendly management. “They know how to run a good business,” said Pearce who has played exclusively at Tamarack for the past 15 years. “And they want the players to have a good time. This is a very nice play to come. I feel like I am part of the family.”
Liter believes the rapid growth in golf courses came about as a result of information posted by some golf organizations who said golf was growing faster than it was. There have been a number of golfers who also have since left the game, the News-Democrat reported.
“Families don’t want to take five to six hours to play a round of golf,” Liter said. “The cost of playing at some places has been a barrier. The game’s degree of difficulty is also a factor. A lot of the recent course developers have gotten away from practicality of the game. They have built some courses so difficult, golfers couldn’t even enjoy it.”
There are now a number of golf courses in the area, making it even a more competitive industry, the News-Democrat reported.
“It’s getting increasingly more difficult to make money in the golf business,” Liter said.
Tamarack sits on the same 145 acres, which was farmland, when Tamarack’s original board of directors bought the property in 1963 and brought in Pete Dye to design. When the original stockholders bought the property, there was not a tree on the course, Liter said.
The cost to maintain a golf course has increased by 100% over the past 15 years, Liter said, and the cost of chemicals, fertilizers, demand for products, demand for skilled labor, and equipment have continued to go up, the News-Democrat reported.
“It’s hard to keep up with that, especially if your rounds of golf are going in the other direction,” he said.
Tamarack Golf Course opened as a semi-private venue. The 18-hole, 6,300 yard course is still open to the public. The clubhouse remains mostly the way it looked the day it opened in 1965 and the course layout remains the same, with a few minor enhancements along the way, the News-Democrat reported.
About 15 years ago, zoysia grass was planted in the fairways in place of the original blue rye mixture to provide a better playing service, Liter said. The golf course has remained competitive in an industry that has become over-saturated. About 31,000 rounds of golf are now played each year at Tamarack, which has endured and remained a course anyone can play, Liter said.
Liter believes the business plan, which Tamarack’s board of director wrote over 50 years ago, could still be in effect today, the News-Democrat reported.
“Someone could look at and say this is what we want to do,” he said.