Canal Shores renovation prioritises youth development and environment

  • Canal Shores
    Quitno Golf Designs

    A 70-yard ‘putting-only’ hole at Canal Shores will play directly towards the Baha’i Temple

  • Landskrona
    Quitno Golf Designs

    A new 27,500-square-foot green will be built that can be used as a putting course, practice, youth development programmes or as a four-hole junior loop when combined with the first green

  • Landskrona
    Quitno Golf Designs

    Quitno’s proposal for the sixteenth will see the green repositioned on the edge of the steep canal bank and surrounded on all sides by hollows of various depth

  • Landskrona
    Quitno Golf Designs

    ‘Hole 17.5’ is a 70-yard bonus hole that occupies the location of the original seventeenth. The green will be doubled in size with a small, pinnable central plateau dividing the surface into sections

Alice Chambers
By Alice Chambers

Todd Quitno will begin a $3.5 million renovation project at Canal Shores Golf Course near Chicago, Illinois, this June.

The project is part of the public facility’s efforts to improve youth development in the community. The initiative is a collaboration between Canal Shores, Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association (EWGCA), KemperSports, Western Golf Association (WGA), First Tee – Greater Chicago, Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, Chicago District Golf Association, and other key donors.

According to Matt Rooney, president of the EWGCA, the non-profit community course, which originally opened in 1919 and was first named after local golf professional and civic leader Peter Jans, has been in need of repairs for some time. The USGA Green Section’s evaluation noted that the course’s turf and infrastructure were in an “end of life” state.

“If we don’t address the infrastructure issues on the course, especially with irrigation and drainage, there’s a chance the course, quite frankly, won’t survive,” said Quitno.

Quitno’s masterplan will see the current first hole converted into a Himalayas-style putting green, with the second playing as the new opener. “The first – as it exists today – will be removed from the routing and become the new half-acre putting lawn funded by a donor yet to be named,” said Quitno. “To compensate for this loss, we have made a three-hole routing change at the north end of the property, where existing holes six and seven will now play as five, six, seven, but in a clockwise fashion. The impetus for this change is multi-fold: first, to replace hole one which was taken away from the clubhouse area; second, to improve safety with the houses that align the west and north sides of the current holes; and third, to better celebrate the incredible Baha’i Temple.

“On select days when youth programming requires extra space, the proposed first hole will also be used for practice, taking it out of the eighteen-hole rotation and moving the round’s start across the street. On those days, ‘hole 17.5’, which is otherwise a bonus hole, will then be added to the line-up to complete the 18. The green here occupies the location of the original seventeenth but doubled in size. A newly excavated wetland area will be added between tee and green to serve as both a stormwater storage area and a buffer for the existing wetland found immediately to the east. 

“Having these extra holes and flexibility in the routing allows the opportunity to maximise the limited space that we have for youth golf development and caddie training, which is the impetus and the inspiration for completing this exciting project!”

Along with the minor rerouting of the eighteen-hole par-60 layout will be the addition of a handful of template greens drawing inspiration from those found at nearby Chicago Golf Club and Shoreacres.

Quitno will also create two new holes, one of which is the sixth that will play as a putting-only hole at 70 yards with the Baha’i Temple as a backdrop. The remaining dozen greens will be restored to their original green pads, which date back to the 1920s when Tom Bendelow first routed the golf course.

“The new sixth hole, dubbed the ‘Temple’, is the first of its kind in the Chicagoland area, and maybe in the greater US,” said Quitno. “Designed specifically to be a putting hole, this shorty plays on a southeast axis deliberately aimed at the majestic Baha’i Temple. Clearing of the invasive scrub growth along the top of the steep ridge behind the green will open an incredible view of the temple.  The green plays along the edge of this ridge and is shaped to hint at a crescent-moon, one of the sacred symbols of the Baha’i faith.”

Other work includes practice grounds, irrigation and drainage upgrades. The First Tee – Greater Chicago chapter will operate from the new practice campus which will be the base for the club’s youth development programme and the WGA’s caddie training academy. Renovations also aim to create more room for wetlands, native prairie and oak forest areas on the layout while combating invasive vegetation as part of Canal Shores’ ecological masterplan, which was put in place in 2017.

“This property has had golf on it for over 100 years and we’re going to bring some of that history back into our designs,” Quitno added in Canal Shores’ YouTube video on the project. “We’re also going to be reflective of the context of this place and the community that is here by keeping our design as simple and effective as possible.”

He added: “Canal Shores is so incredibly ingrained in the greater community. This is not only a golf course, but an ecological preserve, with dog-walking and birding trails, a cut-through for commuters and school children, a running path, a concert venue – for the amazing Out of Space three-day concert – and football parking for Northwestern University. It is a vital green space in an urban centre that not only provides recreation, but also serves a vital storm management and filtering purpose to the waters that ultimately flow into Lake Michigan.

“Making this course economically viable for the long term is critical to its preservation. We’re doing that both with our physical changes to the course infrastructure, but also with the youth programming that will recruit, train and endear future users… especially disadvantaged youth who may otherwise never be introduced to the game.”

Wadsworth Golf Construction will begin work in June with the facility gradually closing holes through to August. Canal Shores is working with owner, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, the city of Evanston and the Wilmette Park District, which lease the property, to ensure that work is completed and ready for reopening by summer 2024.

“Canal Shores is truly a one-of-a-kind golf course that has served its local community for more than 100 years, and we want to ensure its future is even more purposeful and impactful,” said Josh Lesnik, executive vice president of KemperSports. “With support from the Western Golf Association, First Tee – Greater Chicago, Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, Chicago District Golf Association and individual donors, we will be able to improve and enhance the golf course in order to create opportunities for local youth.”