The original Bob O’Link course, designed by Donald Ross on a tight, 125-acre site, was completed in 1916. Seven years later, an additional 36 acres of land were acquired to the west of a nearby drainage canal and C. H. Alison was then engaged to redesign the layout. The new course opened on 4 July 1925.
Located on the flood plain of the Skokie River, the course has always struggled with drainage issues but things came to a head in 2014. The old drainage system and 20-year-old irrigation system were unable to support firm and fast playing conditions and many of the trees that had been planted down the years were stifling turf growth.
The harsh winter of 2013-14 also resulted in 80% turf loss on six greens and all eighteen had been damaged to some extent. The club then made the bold move to embark on an all-embracing overhaul termed “Centennial Initiative” at a cost of $10 million which would improve drainage and irrigation, address arboreal issues, and restore Alison’s trademark green complexes.
Jim Urbina, co-designer of the Old Macdonald course at Bandon Dunes and the man behind recent restorations at Pasatiempo and Yeamans Hall, was tasked with bringing back the original Alison playing intent. Around 700 trees were removed, with 40 others transplanted to strategic positions. Poa annua greens were replaced with bent grass and tee boxes were lowered.
width was increased and surface drainage improved. A sand top
dressing program was also introduced (2 to 4 inches over five years)
to promote better ground game conditions. Finally, all of the new and
repositioned bunkers were constructed with bunker liners and
replenished with angular bunker sand.