WILMETTE PARK DISTRICT
GOLF OPERATIONS COMMITTEE MEETING
Date: June 18, 2011
Place: Wilmette Golf Club
Time: 8:30 a.m.
Commissioners: Brault, Murdock, Shelley
Staff: Bowen, Eppelheimer, Matchen, Locke, Wilson
Visitors: Fred Watson, Tom Bonnie, Bob McHugh, Frank Charhut, David Kritzler, Bill Lemieux, Danny Healy
Topics of Discussion
1) Meeting Called to Order
2) Approval of Minutes
3) Recognition of Visitors
4) Presentation: Final Golf Course Master Plan
5) Managers Reports
1) The meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m.
2) The Committee approved the minutes of the April 16, 2011 Committee meeting by General Consent.
3) The Committee recognized the following visitors: Fred Watson, Tom Bonnie, Bob McHugh, Frank Charhut, David Kritzler, Bill Lemieux, and Danny Healy.
4) Golf Course Architect Greg Martin began his presentation of the golf course master plan and pointed out that earlier in the process a mission statement was prepared and finalized which stated that the study was to address aspects of the golf course in order to improve the golf facilities at Wilmette Golf Club. The study and its recommendations were proposed to define the strengths and improve the weaknesses of the golf course while remaining sensitive to the financial aspects, the natural environment, the existing golf constituency and original design concepts.
Greg stated there are some specific items to be accomplished and many of those were exposed early on in the process. His initial analysis was that this is a great course and has “good bones”. The biggest problem is drainage on the course and that was discussed at length in regard to consistency and playability. It was also apparent more tee surface is needed and there are age inconsistencies as well. In addition, there are a few safety issues and the course is probably too difficult for the high handicap player and not tough enough for the better golfer which is always a challenge for golf architects. The path and circulation systems also need to be reviewed.
These are the issues that were provided by staff from early comments received from the user groups. Drainage is the first item on the list. Tee surface and length options, themes and concepts and features – obviously a lot of these were built 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s. Chipping and run-off areas – the 18th green is great and we want to see more of that. Circulation – maybe consolidate some of the extraneous mounting and remove the trees and widen corridors.
Golf Course Manager Mike Matchen then presented a series of photographs that indicated the drainage issues on the course. Mike stated we will never be able to stop the river from running over its banks but we can improve how it recovers and how much turf damage there is. Greg added that the Turf Advisor reviewed the conditions of the course and the following are quotes from the report: “Improving course-wide drainage should ultimately harvest a strategic plan for the course and include it as a primary component in developing a much needed master plan. A master plan is the only way to ensure that all future projects and course enhancements be done with a goal in mind and with a consistent architectural theme moving forward.”
Greg stated that course-wide drainage would include water features to figure out where you are taking the water and how to get it there with sub-surface drainage main line spurs, catch basins, etc. An important component is the soil profile which is something that was illustrated on the 18th green. Then there is feature drainage and drainage in the greens and bunkers and they’re all connected to the sub-surface drainage.
He provided the following quote from the Turf Advisory Report: “The lack of a master plan is part of the reason why putting greens and bunkers are so inconsistent across the golf course. They have been constructed during different eras and different methods of varying architectural design. Looking forward is the only way to achieve consistency across the greens and that some or all of the bunkers would be renovated at the same time.”
He is not saying we have to do everything at the same time but is suggesting that the issues occurring on the golf course are based upon inconsistencies which need to be taken care of. That means renovation – the sooner the better. Addressing these issues is vital to the ongoing successful operation of the Wilmette Golf Club.
In general, all of the tees will be redone to try to get as much length as possible in order to have consistency and uniformity. We will also be trying to go with a much simpler bunker style and reduce the square footage of them.
Greg then presented a hole-by-hole description of the proposed reconfiguration options for the course.
Superintendent Bowen asked if Greg could explain a USGA Green. Greg replied that about 35 or 40 years ago the USGA came up with a consistent standard specification for the building of the green which has since been modified a bit. The idea was that the construction of the green is based upon layers of gravel and they have modified that since. But it is still essentially layers of gravel on the bottom of the green with drainage at the bottom. Then there is sand with peat mixture on top of that. As that sand and peat mixture fills up with water, the gravel below will be down and away from the surface and moved into that drainage system. The reason that the green has held up in bad weather is that the moisture is moving through and being moved away. Whatever sand mixture is used for the greens needs to bridge with the gravel. It’s tightly tested and the thing to do is to provide the course superintendent with the ability to operate and treat the golf course as consistently as possible.
Commissioner Brault asked what the cost would be if we did one green and Greg answered $50,000 to $125,000. Commissioner Brault then asked about the possibility of doing multiple greens. Greg replied there would be other costs involved including trucking, labor, shaping, and other costs but there would be a cost savings of 10-15% if you do the work all at once. It is not recommended to do the course one hole at a time but you could do sections of the course at a time.
After additional discussion, Greg stated that this is the master plan as proposed to improve the underground and overland drainage, turf conditions, playability and challenge for all golfers as well as creating wider areas and some green settings to locate pins and positions. Hazards would be improved and be more consistent and maintenance requirements would be reduced. Circulation systems would be improved and the safety issues have been addressed.
Greg then presented a slide show of bunkers at the Arrowhead Country Club that he thinks would work at Wilmette. Greg stated that if the course is done 9 holes at a time, it would probably take one full year from July 1 to the next July and it would be aggressive.
Commissioner Brault asked for a show of hands on what would be preferable – lose 1½ to 2 years in a row or do the project over two separate years with nine holes closed one year and nine holes closed the next year. The result was an even split among the golfers.
Commissioner Brault stated there are several aspects of the analysis and the financial aspects have not been reviewed yet. He stated we are starting to look at other issues like what can be saved by making these improvements and how quickly can we get the course back in condition. The flip side is what the revenue impact this project will have if we spend the money now. Commissioner Crowley stated that this is the beginning of a long process and we may even end up with a different variation of what is now being proposed.
Greg stated that in regard to construction phasing, there are also other options. If the project began on September 1 and we were able to get the greens in and finished what we needed to do in the spring and early summer and then seeded, the course would be ready to open the following year. So rather than impacting the middle of two years, you would only be impacting essentially one full season. Commissioner Brault stated there might be other ways to do this but at this point this is the plan and today we need to say whether to approve or fail to approve the master plan.
Commissioner Brault stated that from this point on the financial analysis would come next. The Master Plan currently has a $3.5 million budget but we would not be spending all of that so we need to figure out how to fund it which is probably our biggest issue. The timetable for adopting the plan is very near term and then discussion on the funding would be held at the full Park Board level.
Commissioner Brault complimented Greg on the plan and thanked him for his hard work.
Golf Course Manager Mike Matchen stated he agrees it is a good plan and that a number of longstanding issues are finally being addressed. He agrees the big question is how do we pay for it and how do we implement it which will require further discussion.
Commissioner Shelly agreed with Mike that it is a great plan with excellent potential. She would like to see the project go ahead but realizes it is a matter of how we pay for it and what phases we do it in. She thinks starting in September and through the following year makes more sense since the course would be closed for only one full season.
Greg added that the impact on golfer expectations will probably be the bigger issue. To do the job once, money is saved and you get people on board who will be aware of what is coming.
At this point, Commissioner Brault asked the members of the Golf Committee to vote on adopting the plan as submitted with the understanding that the plan does not mean we are “moving dirt” tomorrow but rather this is a guidepost for our long range vision which will be used as the basis of what our next several steps should be and how we can potentially fund it over time.
By a voice vote, voting Yes – 3; Voting No – 0; Absent – 0
5) Managers Reports:
Mike reported the month of June has been much better in terms of weather than the last three months. In fact, the course is only down 87 fee paid rounds in June compared to June 2010 and June revenue is down $1,781 in rounds revenue. Year-to-date, the course is 24% down. Moving forward we’ll be doing the same as last year if we continue to watch expenses.
Mike also talked about the award from the USGA Women’s Publinks Qualifier which was held at the course on Wednesday, June 8. There were 27 players ranging in age from 13 to 51. Five of the ladies who qualified will be going straight to the national tournament in Oregon. The course took its turn hosting the event with the USGA and we were able to open the course at 10 am for the rest of the day. We received the award in recognition of our hosting the event and doing our part. There is also some revenue associated with their practice rounds but otherwise the golf course was turned over to them for the event.
Superintendent Bowen added that Jamie Locke also videotaped the event and learned how to some things differently. Many discussions have been held with the Men’s Club regarding handicapping and how we mark the course such as out of bounds, etc. As a result, the USGA’s Chicago District Golf Association came out and marked the course so we are now adopting what they did moving forward. The course also hosted the 47th Al McLean Tournament this past week with over 60 golfers and the winners are posted on the web site. Tom Bonnie asked if the course would be able to get the Al McLean Tournament on rotation for Illinois juniors and Mike stated that staff is discussing this possibility.
6) There being no additional business, the Committee was adjourned at 8:48 a.m.
MINUTES APPROVED ON JULY 30, 2011