WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
GOLF OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING

Date:  January 22, 2011 
Place: Wilmette Golf Club
Time:   8:30 a.m.

Attendance
Commissioners:  Crowley, Graham, Wolff, Brault, Murdock
Absent:  None
Staff:   Bowen, Matchen, Locke, Wilson
Visitors:  See Attached

Topics of Discussion
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Communications and Correspondence
4) Managers Reports
5) Old Business
6) New Business
      a) Golf Master Plan Review
7) Additional Discussion
8) Adjournment

Discussion/Decisions:
1) The meeting was called to order at 8:30 am.

2) The Committee approved the minutes of the Committee meeting by General Consent.

3) Under Communications and Correspondence, staff received a thank you letter from Alex Nolly, Manager of the Sunshine through Golf Foundation.  Head Professional Jamie Locke added that the course did a tremendous job of donating clubs for the Sunshine through Golf Foundation.  Thanks to the efforts of Eagle Scout Quinlan Prchal a total of 283 golf clubs and 17 golf bags were donated to the Foundation.

4) Under Managers Reports, Jamie reported the pro shop held its annual holiday sale in December and the mass emails that were sent out were very well received. Approximately $10,000 worth of merchandise was sold in December compared to last year’s total of about $6,000. The Men’s Club schedule has been finalized and will consist of 18 events for the 2011 season including five “Ryder Cup” style interclub matches. The Golf Lottery brochure should be going out soon and it looks fantastic. Thanks to Shelagh Donoghue and her staff for doing such a great job. Jamie also met with the ladies league to discuss ways to increase their membership totals. An open house has also been scheduled for April 6 from 4-6 pm at the golf course. Shelagh and her team also created a very nice logo for their letterhead and that was also well received. Jamie will be leaving on Wednesday, January 25 to attend the PGA Show in Florida.

Golf Course Manager Mike Matchen introduced Golf Course Mechanic Ted Soenksen and Assistant Superintendent Rick Becker and indicated these two staff members are very important to the success of the golf course.  Besides working on the usual projects, staff has also added sand to all of the traps with the exception of the #7. The Parks Department has taken down eight large trees since they were either diseased or had too much deadwood and therefore were deemed unsafe. All the mowers have been ground in all of the traction units.  All of the engines are also being inspected and prepared for next summer. Beginning next Monday, the Parks staff and the Golf staff will be working together on the #6 green and cutting out the trees from the green back to the property line. The purpose of this is to open up the area for the 6th green construction project which is scheduled to begin in August.

5) Old Business: None

6) New Business: Golf Course Master Plan

Committee Chair Crowley introduced Golf Course Architect Greg Martin who presented the first phase of the master plan study for the golf course. Mr. Martin stated that this is a preliminary plan and that the project is about halfway through the process of being created and is far from being finalized. The purpose of this meeting is intended to solicit input as to where the project currently stands and to make sure the patrons have a voice in the direction of the plan.

The Park District has developed the following Mission Statement of the project: 
 
“This study and its recommendations is proposed to define and expose the strengths and improve the weaknesses of this golf course while remaining sensitive to the financial impact, natural environment, existing golf consistency and original design concepts.”

Mr. Martin indicated this statement will be used throughout this project to guide it and to determine what is to be accomplished. He pointed out specifically that the 
drainage and turf conditions improvements are and should be the focus of this plan. Secondly, the District would like to provide greater enjoyment and playability of the course for any caliber of golfer. And lastly, the District also would like to lessen the maintenance requirements and associated costs of maintaining the course. 

The initial analysis indicates that the Park District course has great bones and a solid routing plan. There are some good golf holes that are laid out well and there are also some challenging tight areas. The course has great resources for a relatively flat site. There are also many other positive aspects of the course as well. The negative elements deal directly with drainage issues which have affected the fairways, tees, greens, and bunkers.

The issues related to drainage have caused the amount and cost of the maintenance required to increase and the playability of the course to decrease at certain times. This is also due to the age and inconsistencies of the tee and green construction. Many of the holes were constructed originally in 1922 and others were built in the 1930s, 1940s and 1970s. The soil type and construction does not allow for water to be swept away and does not promote good healthy root growth of the turf plants.  Additionally, the poa annua grass which is prevalent throughout the course is not as hearty as the newer varieties that grow better in extreme conditions. The original main drains were constructed from earthen field tile which has broken down over the years and does not effectively move water from the property.

The playability of the course would benefit from having more options such as the ability to move the tees back and forth. There are also fit and safety issues with some of the holes such as #12. The configurations around #13, #15, and #16 are also tricky. Another comment heard is that the course is too tough for high handicap players but not tough enough for the lower handicap player. This issue occurs at every course.

Regarding maintenance, the bunkers and greens are inconsistent in terms of style and condition. These micro-environments need to be treated differently and gingerly, requiring more intense maintenance care and labor. 

There are some defining points toward which to direct the course over several years. If these items can be accomplished, the course’s infrastructure and playability can be improved to provide a better experience and satisfy the mission of this plan to define the course strengths and improve an aging asset.

The improvement of overland drainage that will direct water into holding catch basins that are connected to the larger underground drainage system will help to improve turf conditions and resume play sooner after a rain event. 

By unifying the themes and concepts of the course features and applying more strategic principals to the design, it will benefit all golfers with varied abilities.

Improvements would include lowering profile design features, reducing bunker size and placing them in better locations, simplifying circulation, removing or consolidating the mounds, removing trees, widening golf corridors, creating better hole definition, being consistent in feature design and doing construction which equals maintenance savings.

The document being developed will not only be an overall plan but also provide recommendations on a hole-by-hole basis. There will also be information on budgets and phasing and will essentially be a road map on what to do and how to do it. This is the first working draft to make everything make sense and cohesive. This is now the best time to offer suggestions and participate in discussion.

Mr. Martin then went through a hole-by-hole description of his recommendations.  He stated that his philosophy was to provide generally for one smaller back tee, one larger longer runway tee, and then a forward tee. The intent is to provide the yardage for the champion golfer, the middle tee that can be pushed back and forth, and then a small forward tee. Actually, every hole will have a similar recommendation although some holes will have four tees where it makes sense. Many holes will also have the mounds blended down and a fairway bunker added on a side.

Mr. Martin stated that cart paths should be placed around the back or to the side of the greens where there is the most available area allowing for quicker access. It is preferred to have continuous pathways for the first three holes which help to keep everyone moving. He also stated that his general standard length for middle tees is about 30 yards. However, yardage will not be his focus since the intent is to make sure the yardage fits the golf hole, not the other way around. The tee surfaces need to be located where they make sense for the golfer.

On the second hole he pointed out there is a lot going on at this hole including access to the maintenance building. The access road to the maintenance building could be relocated taking the hard surface out of place in front of the second green.

His general recommendations were to better align tees with the center of fairways and widen the fairways where possible. Bunkers could be added or relocated strategically splitting fairways and challenging lower handicap golfers but also providing enjoyment for the higher handicappers. Areas are being 
looked at where a redesign can make the hole more functional and aesthetically pleasing. 

A green design would essentially lower the green complexes to better fit the existing contours of the property. Also bailout areas and bunkering would be added to define the green and allow for multiple pin locations. The practice area would also be expanded to enlarge the practice green and double its size and include a chipping practice area. The intent is to take some of physical elements of the golf course and recreate these elements in the practice area so golfers can practice and make improvements to their play.

Yardage for the tees would be as follows: Black: 6,400; Gold: 6,200; Green: 5,600; and White: 4,853 yards. Par will remain the same.

The plan design will address the overland and underground drainage improvements, the playability will be improved for all golfers, the hazards will be improved and the maintenance requirement will be reduced. In addition, circulation system, pace of play, and safety issues will be improved.

Committee Chair Crowley informed those in attendance that the Golf Committee welcomes any feedback and/or questions as this process moves along.

The meeting recessed for five minutes.

7) Additional Discussion

Committee Chair Crowley asked for more information on the drainage issue and what it means to the golf course.

Mr. Martin explained that the intent would be to focus the direction of the water overland to specific areas off the fairways where the water would be held in smaller catch basins that would be tied into the larger underground drainage piping system. This would be accomplished by doing some minor re-grading of the fairways to direct the water to one side and move it into the drainage system. 

The course currently has some main drains that are old and are in varied conditions of effectiveness that need to be replaced. What the course is missing is the arterial piping, the small pipe that runs throughout the course that moves the water into the main lines and then off the property. The varied existing types of soil configurations under most of the tees and greens do not allow the water to be shed. This has created conditions that do not promote hearty turf growth.

By getting the water to move laterally on top of the ground and into the underground system, it will get the water moving and off-site sooner. All of the water in a big rain event cannot be eliminated immediately and will still shut down the course for a period of time depending on the amount of rain received. However, the new system will accelerate the ability for staff to get back out working to make sure the turf conditions are okay and that there is not standing water for a longer period of time which tends to kill off the turf. What is produced with all of this drainage work is the opportunity to additionally improve the features of the course by making the design improvements that have been suggested. Moving dirt is an expensive endeavor and there are economies involved by only moving the material once. 

Commissioner Graham asked after the drainage work has been completed how long after the course is closed will the golfers be able to get back on after a rain event.  Mr. Martin stated a rain event that would currently close the course for three or four days would now cut the closing time in half with the new system. In addition, when the maintenance crew returns out on the course, the focus of their work will not be the same as it is now because the turf damaged by standing water will not be as extensive and they will be able to focus on the regular maintenance duties. 

Commissioner Brault stated that as you expand the financial element of this, what does it mean to the District from a recovery point of view in terms of both rounds of play and dollars. Mr. Martin replied that first you would determine how many rounds of play that will be increased and then secondly what kind of resources or labor costs can be saved or redirected to other work. With the new system you will not have to spend the same dollars on recovery work and you can take that money and put it into fertilizer or other supplies.

Committee Chair Crowley thanked Mr. Martin for the very informative presentation. He then added that cost estimates have not yet been developed for the project and the Committee will be directing staff to develop preliminary numbers within the next two months on the scope of the project, the prioritization of items and developing options including phasing the project over a longer period of time.

Tom Bonnie asked if there was any thinking on what would be the optimal phasing of this project – doing it all at once or spreading it over several years? 
Commissioner Crowley replied that everything is still on the table at this point. Mr. Martin added that there are efficiencies of scale when tackling a project like this. Some courses have completed nine holes at a time and some have done it differently. You want to make sure when doing the project in phases that there could be additional costs such as fuel and labor. The idea is to be as efficient as possible in terms of phasing.  At this time you will have 50 cents on the dollar for your construction costs. If you split up the project, the more you do the more 
efficient your money is. However, operationally it might be something different. Also, the longer these projects go on the more impatient the golfers become. Two years could be a long time.

Committee Chair Crowley thanked everyone for their input. Comments from those in attendance were positive and the preliminary plan was received with excitement. Committee Chair Crowley stated that personally he was excited about the presentation. He then thanked all those in attendance for coming to the meeting.

There being no additional business, the Committee was adjourned at 10:15 a.m. 

MINUTES APPROVED ON MARCH 19, 2011.