Park district brings in KemperSports to oversee overhaul of Winnetka Golf Club
The Winnetka Golf Course is an essential facility in the intragovernmental plan to mitigate stormwater issues on the village’s west side.
With construction closing the course, the Winnetka Park District figured, why not fix up the joint?
Facility renovations began in August, and in November, the district brought in KemperSports to manage the improvements and the facility’s two golf courses moving forward.
Winnetka officials say the cost to enlist Kemper is $7,500 per month until the course reopens — scheduled for the start of the 2024 golf season — and $10,000 per month after that.
“We are extremely excited to partner with KemperSports to help the park district successfully complete this extensive renovation and ensure a bright future at Winnetka Golf Club for the benefit of Village residents and visitors,” Park Commissioner Mickey Archambault said in a press release released by Kemper on Dec. 15.
The Winnetka Golf Club, 1300 Oak St., dates back to 1914, when a nine-hole course was constructed adjacent the Skokie Lagoons, according to the club’s website. Nine more holes were added in 1922, and today, it boasts both an 18-hole, par 71 track and nine-hole, par 27 track.
With the past few years, the courses became part of a massive plan to improve stormwater drainage in Winnetka — a plan that involves the Winnetka Park District, Village of Winnetka, New Trier High School District 203 and the Cook County Forest Preserve District. Stormwater will be pumped to the Winnetka Golf Club to be held in two water features along the courses.
The above-ground storage, officials say, saved the Village millions of dollars, and the Village will pay for nearly $10 million of the work being complete at the club. The park district is picking up about $2 million of the costs, said John Peterson, executive director of the Winnetka Park District.
Renovations to the courses — designed by Rick Jacobson of Libertyville-based Jacobson Golf Course Design — include crowned fairways, a contiguous cart path, better drainage, resurfaced greens and fairways, and reworked bunkers.
During the Dec. 15 meeting, Park Board President Warren James commended the “thoughtful, forward-thinking design.” The new courses, he said, will use the stormwater as irrigation.
Work on the Par 3 course began in August and is nearly complete, according to KemperSports’ Vince Juarez, who spoke during the Winnetka Park Board meeting on Dec. 15. Construction on the 18-hole course began in November.
Peterson said the park district enlisted Northbrook-based KemperSports because of the group’s industry expertise, local knowledge and the importance of the project. He said the park staff had limited experience in golf-course renovations.
Kemper was selected in 2021 to manage Canal Shores Golf Course in Evanston, and oversees 11 other golf facilities, including Deerpath Golf Course in Lake Forest and The Glen Club in Glenview.
“The Winnetka Golf Club has been a special part of the Winnetka community for more than a century, and we are proud to help Rick Jacobsen lead the restoration of such a prized local asset right here in our backyard,” KemperSports CEO Steve Skinner said. “The golf course has great bones, and this renovation will take it to the next level.”
Peterson said every park district employee who worked in golf maintenance and golf operations was offered a job with Kemper and many of them took it, including facility manager Matt Johnson, who will be the general manager of the course under Kemper. Some employees reportedly were offered other opportunities within the park district, while others chose to move on.
The Winnetka Golf Club will be closed for the entirety of the 2023 season. Juarez told the Park Board that Kemper staff is working with participants in the club’s golf leagues to find consistent tee times at other courses in 2023.
Kemper is also working to enhance the facility’s food and beverage services, and Juarez said more information will be provided in early 2023.
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319