Canal Shores Golf Course in Evanston and Wilmette

A few short miles north of the city along the western shore of Lake Michigan lies Canal Shores, an 18-hole, par 60 course suitable for golfers of all skill levels and ages. The course plays at 3,867 yards from the blue tees and features narrow, tree-lined fairways with two signature over-the-water holes. 11 holes on the course are located in Evanston, while 7 are in Wilmette.

Canal Shores was designed in 1919 by prolific golf course architect Tom Bendelow, a native Scotsman credited with designing and building over 600 golf courses in America during the first half of the 20th century including the South course at Olympia Fields and all three courses at Medinah. Bendelow famously used a naturalist approach to golf course design integrating the organic features of the site – trees, water and hills. At Canal Shores, Benedelow utilized the El train tracks, five public roads open to traffic, the Bahá’í House of Worship and The North Shore Chanel.

Benedelow’s goal was to build a golf course that all levels of players could enjoy. One hundred years later, that goal endures.

The golf course is home to youth golf camps and clinics and is now the only provider of summer golf programming in the City of Evanston. Last year, 500 young golfers from surrounding neighborhoods participated in these programs. In the last two years, 100 youth benefited from scholarships and programs in the community, including programming coordinated with Family Focus and the YMCA.

Canal Shores has also achieved designation as a “Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary” through the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf Courses. TOnly 53 golf courses in Illinois and 894 in the world to hold the title of Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary.

Canal Shores began the process of working towards certification in 2015 recognizing the course’s proximity to migratory birds’ flight paths and the opportunity to enhance valuable natural areas and wildlife habitats. The course has successfully met criteria to qualify for achievement in all Audubon categories – Environmental Planning, Water Conservation, Water Quality Management, Outreach and Education, Environmental Case Study and Chemical Use Reduction & Safety.

“Canal Shores Golf Course has shown a strong commitment to its environmental program. The Association is to be commended for efforts to provide a sanctuary for wildlife on the golf course property,” said Tara Donadio, director of Cooperative Sanctuary Programs at Audubon International. “To reach certification, a course must demonstrate it is maintaining a high degree of environmental quality in a number of areas.”

Canal Shores continues to be a leader demonstrating best practices in environmental sustainability – restoring, installing, maintaining, nurturing and enhancing the natural habitat and working diligently to make the space environmentally friendly through removal of invasive species.

The Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association, which manages and maintains Canal Shores, is also committed to maintaining the tradition of the golf course and improving it to serve the needs of all its stakeholders. The Association is a 501(c) 3 not-for-profit charitable organization of neighbors from Evanston and Wilmette. The course receives no public funds or taxpayer monies, depending on the revenues from golfers and donations, in addition to a group of committed volunteers.

Canal Shores Golf Course is embarking on a multi-year initiative to develop and implement a Master Plan that will guide operations of the course and responsible land stewardship, positioning it to grow, flourish and serve future generations of golfers and the community. This project, if approved and implemented, is targeted to be completed in 2019 and will coincide with the 100th anniversary of the development of the land that has become Canal Shores.

The goals of the Canal Shores 100 initiative are:
1) ensuring economic and environmental sustainability for the course
2) providing a complete golf experience and making golf relevant again to a broader audience
3) connecting families and the community to the outdoors and nature through multi-use recreational facilities

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Walter Lis

Walter Lis is the managing editor of Chicago Golf Report, which launched in 2010.

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