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Canal Shores tees off on renovations
New renovations change layout of local course to accommodate youth programs
April 20, 2023
The Canal Shores golf course, stretching from Sheridan Road in Wilmette to Noyes Street in Evanston, is looking to renovate the links from top to bottom. The renovations, totaling around $5 million, are slated to start June 5 and will continue all year until July 1, 2024.
According to Matt Rooney, President of the Canal Shores Board of Trustees, the renovations were desperately needed. Four years ago, the golf course superintendent in charge of running the course, expressed his concerns about the longevity of the grounds in their current state.
“[The superintendent] told us that he was very worried about whether the golf course was sustainable in its current condition,” said Rooney. “There was a lot of shade on the golf course, our irrigation system was in bad shape, and we essentially had very poor drainage on the golf course.”
This prompted Rooney and other Canal Shores administrators to bring in the United States Golf Association (USGA) to confirm the need for renovations.
“[The USGA] agreed with our superintendent that we really needed a major renovation of the place, or it could not last for another 10 years,” said Rooney.
Among the issues with the golf course was the irrigation system, which was more than 30 years old, and an excess amount of shade on the greens.
Starting June 5, the administration will begin closing down holes on the course. However, not all the holes will be closed down at once, allowing golfers to continue playing into the summer. Starting at the north end of the course, holes will be closed down every two weeks, until they all have been closed by Aug. 1. Assuming all goes well, the course is slated to reopen July 1 of the following year.
The Canal Shores golf course is currently home to lots of events other than golf. Notably, the Out of Space concert series is held on the course every summer, and this one will be no exception.
“We actually are scheduling the construction this year so that the last areas to be redone on the course will be the area where the Out of Space concerts will take place,” said Rooney. “The concerts will take place the weekend before the golf course is completely closed.”
Other activities that the course is home to, such as bird watching and cross-country skiing, will be put on hold during renovation, because of the fencing that will surround the grass. However, the dirt trails on the side of the course down by the canal will remain open, so that some runners and walkers can continue to use the paths.
“The whole top level of the golf course above the canal banks has to be fenced off because we’ll be growing all new grass there, which will take a good nine to 10 months,” said Rooney.
In addition to future-proofing the course so that it lasts for many years to come, the goal of the renovations was also to change the layout so that it is more accommodating to youth golf programs that they plan to host throughout the year.
“We decided in terms of renovating the course that we want to emphasize and work towards youth development as part of what Canal Shores was offering the community,” said Rooney.
As part of this new goal, the golf course is partnering with multiple different organizations that teach children and young adults important life skills through the medium of golf. Currently, Canal Shores is partnered with an organization called Golf Practice and, in the future, will add two other organizations, First Tee of Chicago and the Western Golf Association (WGA) to their list of partners. First Tee of Chicago focuses on kids up until high school age, raising money and giving scholarships to children in need. Since the 1930s, the WGA has run a program called the Evans Scholars program, which teaches high schoolers how to caddy. Once the renovations have been completed, there will be a caddy training program run by the WGA at Canal Shores. Individuals that go through their caddy training program and work as a caddy for two years afterwards can qualify for college scholarships given out by the WGA.
“[The WGA] has sent 11,000 kids to college since the program started,” said Rooney. “They have about 1,200 in college right now, on full-ride scholarships.”
All the programs listed above will be held in some capacity on the Canal Shores golf course.
“That entails some major changes to the golf course in order to facilitate all this youth development and training and caddy training,” said Rooney.
However, to successfully host the multitude of youth development programs, the golf course will need to physically change its layout as well. Holes One and Two, located right outside the clubhouse, between Lincoln and Central Street in Evanston, will be significantly changed after the renovations.
“That whole area is going to be reconfigured to put in a very big putting green on the south end of it that will be used for training,” said Rooney. “In the same area, there will also be one golf hole”
That hole will only be available for use during periods when there is no youth training ongoing, meaning that for large parts of the summer, it will be closed.
To compensate for the loss of two holes and to maintain the 18-hole nature of the course, additional holes will be added to the north and south ends. In each of these areas, one by the Bahai Temple, and another south of Lincoln Street, there are currently two holes. These spaces will be remodeled to accommodate a third hole in each instance, while still preserving the variation and uniqueness of each hole.
To raise the money for the renovations, the Canal Shores golf course has relied on fundraising, getting donations from individuals and organizations alike.
“We’re raising all this money to renovate the golf course by basically getting gifts from people and institutions,” said Rooney.
Among those that have donated are the First Tee of Chicago and the WGA. Another group that has given money for the renovations is the Wadsworth Golf Charities Foundation, which is also the organization responsible for the actual construction of the course over the coming year.
“It’s all being done by voluntary contributions without any money from any governmental entity,” said Rooney.