Wilmette Golf Club: Remodeled, Reopened, & Revealed

WILMETTE_GOLF_CLUBBy count, there were 344 days from the date of its closing at the end of July, 2013 to the rededication date of Thursday, July 10, 2014 for the Wilmette Golf Club, and within the time frame of eleven and one half months the course at the Wilmette Golf Club was remodeled, reopened, and revealed.

With a budget of $2.5 million for the Wilmette Golf Club’s reconstruction, the Wilmette Park District hired golf course architect Greg Martin and Wadsworth Golf Construction Company to proceed and complete a major plan of grounds overhaul to accomplish three targeted goals of improved turf conditions via drainage upgrades, reduced maintenance requirements, and greater enjoyment and playability for all caliber of WGC’s golfing guests.

Under Martin’s guidance, work began at a rapid pace in August, 2013 , and soon every fairway had been re-graded and drained, resulting in the movement of 80,000 cubic yards of soil and incorporating 17,000 feet of new drain tile along with 150 new catch basins. Ten tee complexes were rebuilt;14 of 18 greens were entirely rebuilt, while the remaining 4 greens and the practice green were re-grassed. The number of sandtraps was increased by ten, up from 41 to a total of 51. All 51 traps have new sand and new drainage. Martin skillfully addressed the ‘love / hate’ relationship of cart path existence, location, and material, as the old cart paths were removed and replaced with crushed granite paths that proceed past the most forward tee but offer minimal interference to golf play.

Officials of the Wilmette Park District and members of the Wilmette Golf Club’s staff, including business manager Adam Kwiatkoski, were hand to revel the ‘new’ WGC on Thursday, July 7 with the ribbon cutting and ceremonial tee-off festivities.

In conjunction with the rededication ceremonies, the rich history of Wilmette Golf Club, previously known to very few individuals, was revealed and released to the media and the public. Ninety-two years of traditions, stories, changes, facts, and even secrets were shared by members of the WGC staff, long-time WGC members, and local historians. Here’s what we learned about the history of the Wilmette Golf Club.

In 1922 three men purchased land belonging to the Hoffman Dairy Farm, which was located just west of the Northwestern Railroad Freight line and just north of Lake Avenue (Wilmette, IL) and converted it into an 18-hole golf course. One of these three men was Joseph A. Roseman, of Glenview, a gifted inventor and golf entrepreneur, who is credited with designing this course.

The name given to the course in 1922 was Playmore Golf Club, which was operated as a pay-when-you-play (daily fee) course. Playmore GC attracted enthusiastic crowds of golfers, and the regular players hatched the idea of making this course their own, and in 1924 public-fee Playmore became members-only Wilmette Golf Club. By 1926 Wilmette Golf Club had more than 350 members with a substantial waiting list. Joseph Roseman continued his involvement with WGC, and in 1932 Roseman designed and built a 9-hole course on the western grounds of WGC that was truly revolutionary as it was a par-3 lighted course named the West Wilmette Illuminated Golf Course.

Unfortunately for Roseman, the course was financially unsuccessful and closed three years later. The Great Depression also adversely affected the 18-hole course and in 1936 the private club was liquidated and the City National Bank of Evanston took over operations of Wilmette Golf Club and all its properties. Near the end of WWII, Northwestern University purchased the 132 acres from the bank holder; 106 acres of golf course remained as a golf facility, while the other 26 acres was subdivided into 78 residential lots. In 1972, NU offered to sell the golf facility to the Wilmette Park District, and spurred on by Wilmette Citizens to Save Open Space, the WPD bought the property for $4.2 million and renamed the golf facility — Wilmette Golf Course.

Clubhouse fires have been a part of WGC’s past. Two infernos, roughly 50 years apart have twice destroyed the Wilmette Golf Club’s main building. In 1952 a blaze incinerated the first clubhouse, and just over five decades later, on July 13, 2003, another fire severely damaged the restaurant and clubhouse, resulting in its demolition. The new (current) clubhouse was dedicated on August 14, 2005.

Mike Matchen, WGC’s general manager and course superintendent commented “Within the next few months all the grasses will mature and strengthen, such that our golfers’ patience throughout the eleven month reconstruction and the grown-in period will be justly rewarded.” Amenities at Wilmette Golf Club include a full service restaurant and grill, bar, practice putting green, 260-yard driving range, and professional instruction offered by Jamie Locke and Kim McCombs. Location: Lake Ave. & Harms Rd., Wilmette, IL. Phone: 847-256-9777.


Greg Miles

Greg Miles has been a writer following golf in Chicago since 1990. For the past 28 years he has been a member of the Golf Writers Association of America and currently is classified as a GWAA "Life Member". He played his first round of golf on his 11th birthday, and since then has played more than 7,200 rounds of golf in his lifetime at 517 different courses. He has interviewed more than 280 golfers across all the professional tours along with famous celebrity golfers. Additionally, he is a member of several other competitive and honorary golf associations, as well as the Golf Nut Society.

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