Bringing Golf Back to Glenview

Golfers in the Great Lakes region may have heard about Glenview’s Naval Air Station in Illinois and the tribulations of keeping its golf course open over the years. The roots of the 1,121-acre property are traced back to 1850, when it was known as Rugen’s Farm. In 1880 the land changed hands and became the Ranz Farm. Later on, a portion of the Ranz Farm was converted into an onion field that was purchased by one of golf’s early innovators, Joseph Roseman, Sr.

Roseman invented the gang-mower, a key instrument in golf’s evolution because it allowed one mower to do the work previously requiring dozens of people. Roseman was also one of the first to develop an underground irrigation system, which, in 1927, helped turn the onion farm he purchased into two well-groomed 18-hole golf courses, called the Pickwick Golf Club.

By 1942, World War II was in full swing and the Navy took control of both courses. A runway extension paved over one of the 18-hole layouts. The remaining course, called the South Course, later became known as the Glenview Naval Air Station Golf Course. In 1995 the Naval Air Station closed and the golf course was renamed and opened to the public. This time the course was dubbed the Links of Glenview and was operated by the Glenview Parks District for the next three years. During the final months of 1998, however, the course was closed while the military base was being dismantled.

The Village of Glenview annexed the 1,121-acre tract during the dismantling of the air base, with plans of building an upscale luxury retirement community called The Glen. Development of The Glen is underway. It includes single-family, multi-family, and senior housing; a business park; train station; retail shops; a U.S. Post Office; recreational sports facilities; and two golf courses – one designed by Glenview native Rick Jacobson and the other by Tom Fazio.

Fazio was given the task of designing The Glen Club, which will be a members-only 18-holer. Groundbreaking on Fazio’s layout and Jacobson’s nine-hole junior track began in the fall of 1999. Both courses are expected to open in mid-2001.

“Because The Glen Club is constructed on the former (flat) Glenview Naval Air Station,” Fazio said at a recent reception, “we had the unique opportunity to create the features and topography from scratch. We built 35-foot elevation changes and a water system with lakes and flowing streams. Where they existed, we were able to save most of the older trees on the property. The result is a visually stimulating design in the classic tradition, with beautiful rolling fairways and harmonious transitions.”

Jacobson designed 50 to 60 courses before taking the Glenview assignment. His experience should be an asset to a community of aspiring golfers. “It’s definitely designed to be more of a family golfing experience,” Jacobson told Cybergolf. “You have a junior set of tees that are set out even farther than the regular junior tees, so you might have a six- or seven-year-old on a par-4 that plays 150 yards.”

Jacobson has designed several golf practice centers, including the Michael Jordan practice centers, one in Chicago and the other in North Carolina. “I grew up playing on the other park district course that is in place now,” Jacobson said of the nearby Glenview Parkview golf course, confessing that he dreamt of one day playing on the PGA Tour. Now he is building a dream for local youths on the old Ranz Farm, which has been permanently returned to Glenview’s residents and local golf enthusiasts.