Planning Key to Remodel of Riverside Golf Club

A river runs through it. And though it enhances the natural beauty of the century-old Riverside Golf Club in North Riverside, Ill., the waterway created quite a design challenge when it came to planning the renovations.

The club found itself in a situation not uncommon to older, established courses – needing to update their facilities, but having no additional space with which to work. Add to that a very competitive environment for attracting new members and the unique problems created by its location astride the Des Plaines River, and it became apparent that a truly innovative solution would be required.

Lohmann Golf Designs (LGD) was chosen, in part, for its extensive renovation experience, including expertise at designing first-class practice facilities within the constraints of existing course property – as they had recently accomplished at Sycamore Creek Country Club in Springboro, Ohio. Additionally, LGD’s sister company, Golf Creations, could be brought in to provide the construction capabilities required for the job.

The parking lot at Riverside dated back to the 1920s and held barely more than 100 vehicles, making day-to-day parking a hassle and major events a nightmare; and extensive netting, installed to protect cars from the adjacent practice facility, created an unsightly first impression upon entering the grounds. The practice area had been configured from a pair of older, re-purposed holes and accommodated only three to four players at a time. Membership had prioritized these two areas for improvement.

As club pro Karl Bollnow observes, “Our course was built in 1893, and practice facilities were not a priority in golf course design back then.”

The river dividing the property limited the flexibility in reconfiguring the facilities near the clubhouse, but LGD’s initial site planning revealed the best solution was to swap the existing locations of the parking lot and practice facility. “This allowed us to create a new facility that accommodates 15 stations, with multiple target greens – and we were able to incorporate a four-hole short course for junior play,” explained LGD’s senior architect Todd Quitno.

Another feature of their design was the use of strategically placed depressions in the practice area that serve as water retention areas; the water is then released at a controlled rate. These gentle undulations also add considerable aesthetic appeal to the facility.

By relocating the parking area, LGD nearly doubled its capacity. And reorganizing the practice areas around the clubhouse has made them easier to manage.

The 18th hole was dramatically redesigned, with the tee and green being relocated, creating space for an expansive new practice putting green and chipping area. “They did a tremendous job,” says Bollnow, “the hole looks as if it has been there forever . . . and the practice facility seems like part of the course.”

With a project of this magnitude, located in such close proximity to the clubhouse and the 1st tee, disruption of play becomes a major concern. “By careful planning and strategic phasing, we were able to complete the entire project without closing the course and with only minimal disruption for the members,” stated Quitno.

The year 2005 marked the first full season of use after the renovations and, by all accounts, the project has been a complete success. “Membership is on the rise and the new facilities have received a high approval rating,” confirms Bollnow.

Renovations can be a stressful undertaking for any club, but with the right combination of methodical planning and creativity, they can revitalize a facility and ensure its continued success.

In addition to more than 60 renovation projects for golf courses across the country, Lohmann Golf Designs, based in Marengo, Illinois, has created over 35 original golf courses, including Mattoponi Springs Golf Club in Ruther Glen, Virginia and Canyata in Marshall, Illinois—both were recipients of 2005 Golf Digest Awards in the categories of Best New Public Courses and Best New Private Courses, respectively. LGD can be reached at 815/923-3400, or visit