Requiem for a green: This sportsman already misses Sportsman's

  • The writer holds his follow through during practice in stall No. 11 of the driving range at Sportsman's Country Club, now rebranded as Heritage Oaks Golf Club

    The writer holds his follow through during practice in stall No. 11 of the driving range at Sportsman's Country Club, now rebranded as Heritage Oaks Golf Club Courtesy of Danny Sternfield

Updated 8/12/2021 9:20 AM

Not mad, but disappointed.

That is what parents say when they really want to get their point across. It is also how I feel about Heritage Oaks Golf Club, formerly known as Sportsman's Country Club.


Scheduled to open next week, all indications are that the new facility will be first-class and enjoyed by Northbrook residents for years to come.

This is, of course, a good thing. Change has its place.

But why change the name? And why now does the name need to carry significance and meaning? For decades, the place called itself a country club -- insert joke here -- and that was ok.

The Northbrook Park District will still manage the course, so there is no new ownership, which is why The Cypress became Landmark.

According to a news release from the park district, the "name Heritage Oaks celebrates Northbrook Park District's connection to nature and incorporates the rich history of this 90-year-old course."

If the feeling were that the word sportsman wasn't gender appropriate, that would make sense. But if the goal is for the name to honor history and tradition, can't an argument be made to keep the name that is associated with that history and conveys that tradition?

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A friend taught me how to play golf at Sportsman's' driving range. Then came three seasons on Glenbrook North's golf team, which meant I got to hit a bucket and play nine holes every day in the fall after school at Sportsman's. I was far from a star player, but it allowed me to not have to learn the game for the first time as an adult.

I remember playing miniature golf there for $1.50. You can maybe get one tee for that price now, and the new facility will not have a mini-golf course.

Are more rebrandings coming? Will kids eventually sled at the Sanders Snowporium instead of Wood Oaks Hill? Will Northbrook Court become Lake Cook Community Commerce Center? I still shake my head in frustration when I drive by Tonelli's, err, I mean Walgreens.

To me, golf is synonymous with Sportsman's. I was no Danny Noonan ("Caddyshack"), but I developed my swing on Dundee Road.

To me, it might as well be Augusta National, because I believe golfers cannot genuinely appreciate the beauty of Pebble Beach or Cog Hill unless their game is on a similar level as the course's reputation. It irks me when I hear a friend rave about stunning fairways in Hawaii while his scorecard shows he only hit two of them in regulation on his way to shooting a 109.


My point is that Sportsman's had all the challenge and difficulty most of us golfers would ever need. That and the smell of Brown's Chicken while playing the East 9 are what I liked most about it. I never felt compelled to move on to another course until I broke 80 at Sportsman's -- and that hasn't happened.

I know I sound like the old guy yelling "get off my lawn" when anything new comes around. It's not about lawns (or even fairways); it's about chipping away at cherished connections to our youth.

• Danny Sternfield is a communications professional and a Northbrook native, resident, historian, expert, and advocate. He is a Glenbrook North grad and recently moved back to the village with his wife, who is, of course, also from Northbrook.

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