Heritage Oaks renovates, golf team relocates

$13 million park district project continues

During+a+private+lesson+on+April+3%2C+Michael+Wenzel%2C+director+of+instruction+at+Northbrook+Golf+Academy%2C+observes+a+player+using+a+TrackMan+Golf+Simulator+at+the+Chalet+at+Meadowhill+Park.+The+simulator+will+be+moved+to+Heritage+Oaks+once+the+renovations+are+complete.+Photo+by+Natalie+Sandlow

During a private lesson on April 3, Michael Wenzel, director of instruction at Northbrook Golf Academy, observes a player using a TrackMan Golf Simulator at the Chalet at Meadowhill Park. The simulator will be moved to Heritage Oaks once the renovations are complete. Photo by Natalie Sandlow

Kate Leverenz, Staff Writer

At the end of his 2019 high school golf season, sophomore Jason Gordon and the rest of the varsity golf team found out that their home course, Sportsman’s Country Club, would undergo major renovations and be closed for the 2020 season. The team was excited to have a renovated facility, and Gordon was looking forward to utilizing the updates to the course.

“I feel that good practice is playing [the course] and seeing what you need to improve on, … so I’m probably looking forward to the new greens, everything on the course that’s new,” Gordon said in a video conference.

The Northbrook Park District Board of Commissioners approved a plan in 2017 that included renovating Sportsman’s Country Club, now branded as Heritage Oaks Golf Club. Renovations for the course and its amenities began February 2020 and are predicted to finish by July 2021 at the earliest, August 2021 at the latest.

Golf Operations Director Greg Baron said in a video conference that $13 million from district reserves were allocated for the project.

“We completely renovated the greens, I mean we dug them out and then rebuilt and reshaped them. 

“We also added drainage throughout the golf course in troubled areas,” Baron said.

Along with the new greens, other renovations include regrassed fairways, tee boxes closer to each hole, irrigation improvements, bigger practice areas for chipping and putting, three golf simulators and a new clubhouse offering year-round dining. Another new feature of the course is the TrackMan Range, which traces golf balls, gathers performance data and gives players a chance to play simulated rounds. The renovations do not include changing the layout of the course.

According to Gordon, “The greens were not good, the tee boxes were not good, but the layout was actually quite decent.”

The decision to rebrand was made based on community feedback and help from an outside consulting company.

According to Baron, the “Heritage” part of the name captures the history of the course as it enters its 90th year of operation, and “Oaks” honors the approximately 775 oak trees scattered throughout the district, with about 200 of them on Heritage Oaks’ property.

“At this day and age, Sports‘man’s’ is not encompassing of what we want to be, [which] is welcoming to children and families and female players and male players,” Baron said.

According to Gordon, he and his team did not have a home course during the 2020 season because of the renovations taking place. He was frustrated the team had to train at Anetsberger Golf Course because it did not provide the best practice for him.

Justin Gerbich, boys varsity golf coach, said in a video conference that because of the caliber of the team, the absence of a home course advantage did not hurt them. The team won conference, regionals and sectionals. A state tournament was not held due to COVID-19.

Once the renovations are complete, the team will have a big advantage in home matches because other schools will not know what to expect from the renovated greens, Gerbich said.

According to Gordon, it is beneficial to have played at a course multiple times before a match.

“When you’ve played the course 15, 20 times and another team’s only played it once or twice, it’s a big help,” Gordon said.