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By Design

Photos: Greg Martin


riginally built in 1922, the

course at Wilmette Golf Club

has undergone a variety of

modifications over its 90-year history.

Greens were constructed or reconstructed

in the 20s, 40s, 70s and 90s. The course

had an assortment of bunker styles, shapes,

sizes and infrastructure. Tees had little

or no uniformity. And some beautiful

stands of oak trees were obscured by new

plantings that had overgrown fairways.

The course had poor drainage capacity

and, due to its proximity to the North

Branch of the Chicago River, suffered

frequent flood damage.

These factors led to numerous turf

issues, and maintenance became reactive

to flooding and the summertime heat

stress, with playability suffering.

The challenge was to enhance this

public golf course to better serve the

golfing community, providing wider

playing corridors with tougher green

settings, while simplifying maintenance

and creating a golf course that was more

resilient to rain events, with sustainable

development options.

After extensive research, ASGCA

President Greg Martin, ASGCA, created

a master improvement plan. It called for

13 new greens to conform with the five

existing USGA greens, full renovation of

all bunkers, new tees for 12 holes, a full

drainage system overhaul, ‘through-the-

green’ shaping and irrigation upgrades.

Most importantly, the plan called for

water management solutions focused on

solving the drainage and maintenance

problems and reducing the impact of

floods on golf-specific areas. Ponds were

expanded to accommodate greater storm

surges, and connected with a bioswale

that meandered through the course and

slowed the movement of water during

rain events. Wetlands were introduced

to provide active buffer systems and

improve water quality. And using the

material generated by these expansions,

fairways and playable areas were raised to

acceptable standards.

With the renovation complete,

maintenance is now focused on tees,

greens, fairways and bunkers, and

golfers are enjoying the more consistent

conditions. The course can now withstand

two-day rainfall totals of 2.5 inches,

which would have previously halted play

and required significant clean-up and

restoration. Turf resiliency and water

quality is better, neighborhood storm

water management has been expanded

and the environment is more diverse.

The renovation of Wilmette Golf

Club has been successful thanks to the

environmental approach to the project.

Golfers have been enthusiastically

supportive throughout the process

and—describing the revitalized course as

‘fun,’ ‘beautiful,’ ‘challenging but fair’ and

‘enjoyable’—are thrilled with the outcome.

An environmental approach

Environmental considerations were a primary focus of the successful

renovation project at Wilmette Golf Club

Wilmette Golf Club


Wilmette, Illinois

Golf course architect:

Greg Martin, ASGCA President

Martin Design Partnership, Ltd

Project summary:

The course

at Wilmette Golf Club needed

significant work. Poor drainage

and its proximity to the North

Branch of the Chicago River

meant it was frequently flood

damaged. An environmental

approach to renovation was key

to successfully updating this well-

used and beloved golf course.


Wadsworth Golf

Construction (construction); Rain

Bird (irrigation)