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Revisioning a NIKE Missile Base: The ALGC Story

Players get ready.
© Staff photographer

How the Arlington Heights Park District is Upping its Game
at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club 

The Arlington Lakes Golf Club (ALGC), whose 18-hole, 90-acres course has undergone an extensive renovation in the past year while the clubhouse remained open, is making a comeback.  Both staff and the course architect are banking on new features and trends to reawaken the 36-year old municipal golf course, which once served as a Nike Missile Base. To make this story even more interesting is that this is the first major renovation of the course since opening its doors in 1979; culminating 14 years of a citizen-driven effort to acquire the parcel of land from the US Navy in 1976.

Michael Benkusky, ASGCA of Michael J. Benkusky, Inc. was tasked with elevating the course from its existing condition to a course that could attract golfers of all ages and that would allow the course maintenance team to primarily focus their efforts on preserving the overall aesthetics of the course. After engaging the District’s volunteer-based Golf Advisory Committee and receiving Board approval in January 2015, the club staff and architect Benkusky finally broke ground for the year-long project in June 2015 as part of the club’s Master Plan.  

We recently caught up with Benkusky, Tim Govern, Golf Operations Manager/PGA Professional and Course Maintenance Supervisor/GCSAA certified, Al Bevers.   Here’s what they had to say about the innovative restoration of the ALGC.  In January, the trio shared this innovative new course design at the 2016 SCGA Pace and Innovation Symposium in Pasadena, California where they were keynote presenters.

Q:  What makes this renovation unique?

GOVERN:  Unique features to the design include altering the routing of the entire course. The current routing is reversed which means that the back nine is currently the front and vice versa.  Reversing the routing will allow golfers to play our course in 3, 6, 9 and 18-hole increments.  Our club staff is excited because we are improving accessibility by offering time strapped golfers more options to get their quick golf fix in perhaps during their lunch hour or right after work.

The routing of holes 7-9 is being reversed and golfers will now play from green back to tee. This addresses the issue we had with the former course where holes ran parallel to each other running in the same direction. It also eliminates bad circulation patterns around the clubhouse.  Changes to our new 18th hole will also be significant. The old green was very difficult and the player could not see the putting surface from the fairway. The hole also had a forced carry over the water and sand bunkers to get to the green.  The new design features a green tucked along a pond. However, part of the pond is being filled in so a golfer has the opportunity to play around the water to get to the green.  In keeping with the spirit of the original design staff wanted to tuck the green behind the water to keep a carry over the water to get to the putting surface. Many golfers enjoy this part of the hole, but the new design will make the green more playable.  This unique feature creates an exciting new finishing hole for the player who accomplished it as they complete their round with us.

Q: How will reversing the routing improve playability?

BENKUSKY: Where most courses have been making changes to attract better golfers, the Park District is making changes to attract the novice, senior, junior and beginner golfer. This is something that is much needed in the sport today.”  

According to Govern, the course is still challenging but a very playable par 68. The new layout created some additional tee options for juniors, families and seniors designed to enhance their enjoyment of the facility.  

Q: How will the new junior tees promote new player development?

BENKUSKY: Research shows that the average new golfer takes 5-6 shots to get to the green.  From there, they take another 2-3 shots to get on the green and yet another 2-3 putts to get in the hole.  After about two holes they become frustrated and quit for the day.  This frustration often results in that player never returning to a course.  Creating more playable teeing options allows the novice golfer, such as junior players to get to the green in perhaps 2-3 shots much like the more skilled golfer.  Ultimately, we see that the more enjoyment the player has, the more likely it is that he or she will continue to play and recommend the sport to their friends and colleagues. 

Arlington Lakes originally had 106 sand bunkers and most of the greens were completely surrounded by sand. The new plan reduced this number to 37 which still keeps the course enjoyable yet playable for all golfers and assists the course maintenance staff to concentrate on the overall aesthetics of the course.

Q:  You must be thrilled to have eliminated so many sand bunkers.  What else can you tell us?

BEVERS: Nine greens have been rebuilt due to slopes that left much of the greens unusable and others because the routing was being reversed to construct a new putting green which will sit in a more central location. All of the greens have been re-grassed with a better variety of bent grass, tees are either being leveled, rebuilt or regressed and continuous cart paths are being added throughout the course and this will make the course playable even after rain events.  This translates into an improved pace of play and better drainage.

One final goal of the project was to create more area around the clubhouse and to improve circulation.  Staff is moving and building a new practice putting green which created space for a new cart staging area. This opened up the existing cart staging area to become an expanded outdoor terrace featuring a pergola with shade canopy for golfers to relax and have refreshments after their rounds.  

In addition to the major course reconstruction, the 11,392 square foot Clubhouse at the Arlington Lakes Golf Club is also getting an interior space remodel to create an inviting and contemporary guest experience.  The project addresses the renovation of both the men’s and women’s restrooms on the first floor as part of the District’s accessibility transition plan.  A modern design scheme with upgraded finishes and paint throughout is just the beginning.  Additional storage space for the golf operation is also planned. 

By emphasizing dining and social spaces that enhance guest interaction, the Arlington Lakes team is reinventing the overall club experience.  The improvements will help pave the way for years of enjoyment at the club. 

The renovation is scheduled to be completed in time for the grand re-opening event on July 1st.   Visit  to learn more about the Arlington Lakes Golf Club.  

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