Lohmann Quitno Golf Course Architects has started a renovation project at the 27-hole White Eagle Golf Club in Naperville, Illinois.
The firm is overhauling the bunker scheme on the course, to reduce the maintenance burden and make placement more relevant for modern distances. The project also includes the addition of new tees and expansion of some greens.
White Eagle was created by developer Harold Moser in the late 1980s. According to head golf professional, Curtis Malm: “Moser wanted to create a world-class housing community along with a golf course that would match the high-end houses that he was building.”
Moser engaged Arnold Palmer’s firm to design the facility in 1987 – creating what are now the White and Red nines. “A few years later Palmer came back and opened the final nine holes – the Blue nine – to make it 27,” said Todd Quitno. “Since that time, the course has only received typical maintenance and infrastructure upgrades.”
In 2014, the club’s renovation committee approached Lohmann Quitno to develop a ‘modernisation plan’. “The concept that was developed included a comprehensive overhaul of the golf course bunkering, with additional plans for several tee additions and a few green expansions and re-contouring,” said Quitno. “The bunkers were always the primary focus, however. With an existing area of about 160,000 square feet over the three nines, they were large, expansive and cumbersome to maintain, plus quite contaminated with years of washouts and storm damage – much of the internal drainage was completely blocked with sand as well.
“The positioning of the bunkers was also based on 1990s ball flights, so many of the bunkers were out of place for today’s game, and they were so big that they often extended into areas where balls simply never went, meaning the club was maintaining a lot of sand area that never came into play.”
The decision to hire Lohmann Quitno was taken by the club on the eve of their 30-year anniversary. The firm was tasked to produce a renovation strategy that would cut the bunker area by more than 50 per cent, and, according to Malm, “to make the course interesting for the entire membership, with tons of fun playing options for the various handicappers that enjoy playing the golf course.”
Quitno said: “The planning process took a couple of years to complete, with the club’s committee determining a feasible working budget. Ultimately, the final concept was value-engineered to meet the club’s fiscal capacity, which was being shared with clubhouse renovations.
“In 2018, we were given the green light to move forward with the comprehensive plan and prepared final documents to secure proper bids and permits,” said Quitno. “The final scope of work will include a complete renovation of the bunkering, reducing the overall sand square footage to around 86,000 square foot over the 27 holes. Much of the eliminated sand areas will be replaced with bentgrass run-offs and run-ons, providing a variety of different ways to approach the greens by using the surrounding slopes.
“The greenside bunkers will be cut directly off the edge of the green collars, with bentgrass extending to the bunker edge on both the greenside and fairway side. Same for the fairway bunkers, where the short grass will run directly into the bunker fronts – and out the backs in some places, extending the effective reach of the hazards. All of the short grass used for the expansions will be harvested from fairway fronts and/or sides.”
Bunkers will be styled with flashed faces to maximise visibility, edged with clean, straight lines and fitted with Better Billy Bunker liners and Pro Angle white sand.
“A few greens will be expanded, and two greens will be rebuilt to reduce some severe slopes – existing bentgrass will be lifted and replaced for these expansions as well,” said Quitno. “All greens will be re-irrigated to allow for greater control of water placement, but also to allow for greater freedom in the placement of the new bunkers.
“The comprehensive strategy also seeks to improve practice offerings at the club, with enhancements to the range tee and the previous addition of a state-of-the-art short-game area,” said Quitno.
In the 2018/19 winter, the club completed tree removal to prepare for the renovation and will continue with tree management as needed during the project along with a couple of in-house fairway expansions.
Leibold Irrigation was selected as the contractor and work started this month on the first nine holes and will continue consecutively through the remaining nines. Eighteen holes will always be open for member play and the project is expected to be completed by August 2019.
According to Malm: “All involved have been very active and open to ideas and desires for what the club is looking for as a result. Bunkers are proposed in places that our members will have to challenge to get to prime spots, while novice golfers will be able to find fun new ways to navigate through the course without being unduly penalised. The club is extremely excited to see this vision finally come to fruition later this year and believe that White Eagle will be one of the most desired clubs to play and visit in the Chicago area for years to come.”
Quitno said: “As a precursor to the current project – and a little momentum-builder toward seeking overall approval – the club completed the short game project in 2016. The tees on the existing tenth hole were moved to make room for the short game, turning that golf hole into an intriguing short par four.
“The new short game area includes two USGA greens, one dedicated to putting and short chipping, and the other for pitching with two separate fairway areas allowing shots of 50 to 100 yards. The layout of the fairways and practice bunkers were meant to emulate the design intent for the rest of the golf course to allow for authentic practice, but also to illustrate the greater renovation goals.”