Jacobson completes major renovation of Sunset Valley

  • Sunset Valley

    The twelfth hole of the renovated Sunset Valley course

  • Sunset Valley

    The same hole before the renovation began

  • Sunset Valley

    Jacobson’s concept sketch for the fifth hole

Richard Humphreys
By Richard Humphreys

Sunset Valley Golf Course in Highland Park, Illinois, USA, is preparing to reopen following a major renovation by Rick Jacobson of Jacobson Golf Course Design.

The project is part of the Park District of Highland Park’s GreenPrint 2024 vision to improve its park areas, including Sunset Valley, where $7 million has been invested into the renovation of the course and clubhouse.

“Long term deferred maintenance negatively impacted the overall quality of the golf course and resulted in the development of a golf course master plan,” said Jacobson. “The goal was to improve infrastructure while enhancing the golf experience for all levels of golfers. The master plan process utilised extensive community engagement to define a comprehensive outline of design criteria for the reconstruction of all greens, renovation of all tees, bunkers and fairways, drainage/infrastructure improvements, habitat restoration and storm water management.”

All greens now meet the USGA specification, with holes five and thirteen having new sites altogether. Each hole now has a multiple tee complex that provides variation in hole length and angles of play. Bunkers have been renovated throughout the course and added in places to enhance the strategic challenge. Greens have been recontoured to provide a range of options for pin placement and collection areas around the green are designed to encourage short game creativity.

“Proposed feature concepts were reviewed with the golf course superintendent prior to final design to guide a process that was respectful of long term maintenance practices and operating expenses,” said Jacobson.

“A conscious effort was made to exploit the site’s existing natural features of wooded parkland and open links characteristics,” he said. “This combination resulted in the evolution of a heathland style golf course that is unique to the Chicagoland market and reconnects the property with its historical origins of 1920s-era golf course architecture.

“A comprehensive landscape management approach identified the removal of non-native species of trees and transformed the previous linear golf hole corridors into naturalistic corridors where golf holes blend seamlessly into the surrounds. The grading concept delineated locations for swales and strategic landforms that virtually transformed a flat site into a golf course with sweeping elevation changes that provide dramatic panoramic views throughout the property.

“Landforms were accentuated with flowing masses of fescue that provide an impactful visual aesthetic while accentuating the risk/reward design philosophy applied during the design process. The dramatic transformation of the golf course will make it barely recognisable to long term patrons while providing a new dynamic and high-quality golf experience.”

The course is currently in the grow-in phase and Jacobson reports that it is responding well, particularly given some adverse weather conditions. “Extensive erosion control techniques were utilised as a preventative measure to stabilize the seedbed during initial establishment,” said Jacobson. “Long term planning included the exceptional foresight to establish off-site and on-site turfgrass nurseries in 2017 to provide sod for specific problematic areas prior to the course opening.”

Asked for his highlight of the design, Jacobson said: “The expanded lake, new rock wall and peninsula green put an exclamation point on the picturesque signature par-three fourth hole and new golf experience at Sunset Valley.”

The course is scheduled to open in the late summer of 2018.