WINNETKA – Times may have changed since the Winnetka Golf Club first opened on July 4, 1917 on what was then marshland, but people still enjoy the game of golf. Over the past 100 years the golf course went from a small 9-hole layout where playing fields are currently located, to a larger 18-hole layout, with an additional 9-hole Par 3 course and driving range.
“There aren’t many public courses that have all of those amenities in one location,” Mary Cherveny, communications manager for the Winnetka Park District told DailyNorthShore.com.
The Park District is celebrating the club’s centennial this year, seeking community input as it compiles a historical timeline of the golf course that will be available both online and in a permanent display at the clubhouse by the start of the golf season in April. The Park District sought stories, photos and memorabilia not only from the community, but also from the Winnetka Historical Society, which was instrumental in putting together the golf club’s history.
Cherveny said they’ve found a treasure trove of old photos, play books and equipment from over the years. In addition to wooden clubs on display at the clubhouse, there is talk of hanging an old lawn mower from the rafters.
The original 9-hole golf course was created on a 30-acre plot owned by the Park District on land that needed to be drained and cleared. The course was later expanded into an 18-hole course, after Winnetka resident Ayles Boal donated 60 acres of adjacent land. In the 1930’s, when the Civilian Conservation Corps created the Skokie Lagoons to alleviate flooding problems, the golf course was redesigned to its current layout and the original 9-hole course was converted to playing fields.
While the Winnetka Golf Club has changed over time, the sport itself has remained almost the same. “Golf is a pretty traditional sport and is resistant to change,” Matt Johnson, PGA Head Golf Professional told DailyNorthShore.com. According to Johnson, the rules have experienced few changes relative to other sports. The most significant changes have been to equipment and playing surfaces. Different varieties of grass, better mowing equipment and irrigation systems have all contributed to improved turf. “The expectation of the golfer is to have a more manicured look,” Johnson said. He also noted that in the old photos of the club, the course looked much rougher.
In addition to a historical timeline, the centennial celebration is centered around three community events. A driving range fair on May 20 will kick-off the celebration, where families are invited to hit some balls at the golf range and learn more about the current golf club and its history. A Par 3 Centennial Junior Open will be held on June 11, where kids can gain exposure to tournament play in a low-key and friendly atmosphere.
Wrapping up the centennial celebration on July 22, is the Centennial Golf Outing and Party. “It is going to be our really big bang celebration,” Cherveny said. A golf outing during the afternoon will be followed by a party at night. The Park District is working with the Winnetka Parks Foundation, which will be sponsoring this event instead of Party on the Pier. “Even if you are not a golfer we want you to come out. It is a community celebration in the evening that is adult oriented,” Cherveny said.
While the popularity of golf has experienced ups and downs over the years, the Winnetka Golf Club appears to be enduring community asset. “The thing that is great about our course is that we have something for everyone,” Cherveny said.