Architecture of Winnetka’s Golf Course
Gazette Article by: Rob Meeske
Appeared in the Gazette: Summer 1996
This article was submitted by Rob Meeske, a young resident of Winnetka, who was a member of the New Trier Golf Team and worked at the Winnetka course for eight years while attending high school and college.
The Winnetka public golf course has a long history of evolving course architecture. The course was first conceived in 1915 after controversy about what to do with some of the land it now occupies. Originally marshland, the water had been drained the previous autumn. The original layout, designed by W.H. Langford, was a 2,455-yard, nine-hole course that officially opened to the public on July 4, 1917.
Its many doglegs (holes which bend to the right or left) maximized the limited 30-acre area. In 1918 the Park Districted added nine more holes after Ayles Boal, Sr., donated 40 acres of adjacent land in memory of his daughter, Lesley.
During the Depression the Civilian Conservation Corps created the Skokie Lagoons. The soil excavated from that project was used to fill in the area near the golf course. When this land became available, the course was redesigned and a nine-hole Par-3 was built south of the 18-hole layout. The redesign freed much of the property from the original nine-hole course for use as baseball fields.
The two courses remained unchanged until the early 1980s, when a driving range was added. To make room, the first and ninth holes of the main course were altered. At the same time a major greens improvement program was begun, with two greens slated to be rebuilt every year. Wet weather conditions delayed construction, and currently the final four greens still await redesign.
In 1990 the Park District built a new, larger clubhouse to accommodate increasing traffic. This led to renumbering the holes on the Par-3 course, making hole number six, number one.
The Winnetka course is unique—17 of its 18 holes run north and south; only number 18 runs west to east. The course is marked by well-maintained fairways, bordered on 15 holes by water. Typical of many older courses, the greens are small, and approaches are guarded by well-placed sandtraps.
During the past few years Superintendent of Parks Richard Blust and course superintendent Henry Michna have made special efforts to enhance the course’s natural beauty. They have installed birdhouses to attract purple martins and bluebirds, and boxes to encourage wood ducks to nest. Wildflowers and prairie plantings also have been added at several holes.
If history is any indication, the course is not yet finished evolving.