The Links Across America initiative is working on its first project, an accessible short golf course in Dundee Township, Illinois.
The Links Learning Center at Randall Oaks is scheduled to open next summer. It has been funded by the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Wadsworth Golf Construction, designed by Lohmann Golf Designs, and built by the Bruce Company. Both Lohmann and Bruce donated large portions of their services to the project’s. Construction is complete and grow-in will continue through a summer 2010 grand opening.
Links Across America aims to create new and affordable short courses (from three to nine holes) to provide golfing opportunities to young people, families and adult beginners of all ethnic backgrounds, in addition to individuals with disabilities or injuries.
“The Links Across America project will give us four holes plus a short-game practice area accessible to people with disabilities,” said Randall Oaks superintendent Mike Sprouse. “We brought people in from disability groups during construction to make sure everything was accessible. We are creating a chance for people who might never get involved with the game to finally have that opportunity.”
Randall Oaks expects other non-traditional groups to use the new facility. The township has a longstanding relationship with the local Boys’ and Girls’ clubs, which have a combined membership of 1,100 based out of nearby Carpentersville. “We see the Links course as a way to tie in with those clubs and expose the kids to golf,” said Tom Mammoser, executive director of the Dundee Township Park District. “The clubs are 60 per cent Hispanic and 26 per cent African-American. The course will expose those youngsters to the game, in a comfortable environment that is strong on teaching.”
NISRA has worked closely with groups like Revelation Golf, a local association that has worked with cancer patients and wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “Golf is a sport that benefits them physically and emotionally,” Mammoser said. “The golf industry is changing and becoming more focused on non-traditional customers.”
Lohmann architect Todd Quitno said: “The four hole routing has no tees. It’s all fairway, so they can create the routing any way they want — they can set it up for little kids, so they never have to play over bunkers; or for more advanced players where all the approaches are forced carries. You can turn it around and play it backwards, and you can play to the chipping green to form a fifth hole.”
Mammoser sees tremendous potential for the new Randall Oaks facility to help grow the game in general. For example, about 70 per cent of the children in Dundee play soccer and a majority plays basketball and baseball. Only 14 per cent play golf. “Our goal is to make golf a more typical activity, like soccer, and get that participation rate up to 25-30 per cent or more,” he Mammoser. “At Randall Oaks we can help people move along a learning path in golf from the Links course to the Acorn course (a three hole par three routing] to the championship course. We have a facility correctly sized for new players that can help them learn a lifetime sport like golf.”