New Village Links Of Glen Ellyn Now Officially Tough

The renovated Village Links Of Glen Ellyn was recently ranked among the top-10 most difficult public courses in the region. The Chicago District Golf Association has bestowed a course rating of 74.7 on the newly renovated Village Links in Glen Ellyn, Ill., an increase of 1.1 points over its previous rating of 73.6.

The rankings restore Village Links to its place in the pantheon of top public golf courses in the Chicago area and beyond. The new rating makes the layout the ninth highest-rated public course in the CDGA's four-state jurisdiction, a dramatic jump of 23 places over its previous rating of No. 32 among 208 public courses. Village Links is now rated 20th overall among the district's 354 public and private courses, compared with its previous rating of No. 55.

The improved course rating is the result of a $5 million course renovation project that increased the length of the golf course by 275 yards; rebuilt, expanded and resurfaced all of its 18 greens; installed as many as five tee boxes on every hole, and removed hundreds of trees. The course now measures 7,208 yards from the tips compared to 6,933 yards before the renovation.

"We are pleased that the Chicago District Golf Association has recognized the vast improvement the Village Links has undergone as a result of our golf course renovation project and placed it among the top ten most challenging public courses in the region," said Village Links general manager Matthew Pekarek.

"We also are pleased that while the renovation has made the golf course more challenging for expert golfers, average or beginning golfers also will find the course more playable because of the addition of more tee boxes and the expansion and resurfacing of the greens," Pekarek said. "We welcome golfers from across the Chicago metropolitan area and beyond to come to play the Village Links and give it their own personal course rating."

Village Links, which was closed for 20 months during construction, reopened for play on June 23. Five days later, on June 28, the venue hosted the Cialis Western Open's Monday four-spot qualifier, where its layout and conditioning were widely praised by contestants, including touring professionals and highly accomplished amateurs. It was the 22nd time in the last 24 years that the Village Links has hosted the Western Open qualifier.

The renovation was designed by golf course architect Garrett Gill of River Falls, Wis. Gill's father, the late David Gill, designed the original course, which opened in 1967. As a teenager, Garrett often roamed the property with his father, helping out with various duties.

All tees, greens and bunkers were rebuilt, and the irrigation system was replaced. Drainage was upgraded and some water hazards and bunkers were repositioned to account for improvements in club and ball technology.

The impetus for the renovation arose when the Village Links lost greens on several of its holes three times during the 1990s (1995, 1998 and 1999). In rebuilding the greens, Gill also expanded them and gave them more contours. This resulted in more pin placement zones on each green, an important factor in minimizing wear and tear on a golf course that hosts some 40,000 rounds a year.

The new greens were seeded with A-4 creeping bent grass, a new, denser form of turf that is expected to create a putting surface that produces truer putts, higher speeds and better color, along with absorbing the wear and tear of heavy play, Gill said. Other premier Chicago-area golf courses now in the midst of green renovation are using A-4 bent grass.

In order to balance the length of the front and back nines, holes 7 through 12 were renumbered. A number of trees were also removed. On No. 14, willow trees were taken down to reveal the water hazard and make it part of the golfer's strategic approach to the hole. Gill added a beach bunker along the water on what might be the most beautiful hole on the course. Another willow was removed on the par-5 15th, the longest hole on the course, to reveal the water hazard. No. 16 was lengthened from a par 4 to a par 5 and now plays 554 yards from the tips. The formerly flattish course was re-graded so that it now contains more undulations in its fairways.

"The basic structure of the golf course did not change, but we literally took it all apart and recreated the golf course," Gill said. "We updated the course for length because technology has changed the way people play the game in terms of hitting the ball farther. We wanted it to be subtle and sleek. We wanted it to be fast looking and smooth."

In addition to providing recreation for golfers, Village Links was one of the first golf courses ever designed to serve as a storm water management facility. According to Pekarek, 30 percent of the rain that falls in Glen Ellyn drains through the property. The renovation also increased the course's capacity for storm water retention, he said.

Village Links also has a nine-hole course that was not renovated and that remained open during the renovation of the 18-hole course. The facility also features a 33-station driving range, a large practice green and a short game area with sand bunkers and chipping areas.

Village Links has one of the strongest junior programs in the Chicago area. Over the years it has also pioneered many areas of golf course management. It was the first course to adopt a Keep Pace program to speed up play and was the first golf course in the country to receive an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary designation.

Greens fees for walkers are $52 weekdays and $57 weekends. For a tee time, call 630/469-8180.