Redesigned Addison golf course passes rainy May test
There was a time when downpours like the ones this week would have left tees, greens and fairways underwater at the former Oak Meadows golf course and forced the Addison facility to close for days at a time.
But the redesigned 18-hole course -- now dubbed The Preserve at Oak Meadows -- ended the wettest May on record without a single closure due to flooding.
The Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, which owns the 288-acre property, says it's proof that roughly $16.8 million in upgrades to the site have been successful.
"The math worked," said Ed Stevenson, the district's executive director. "The engineers did their job."
While portions of the property still flood during heavy rains, the water is held in areas intended for that purpose. The course's tees, greens and fairways remain playable.
"We're holding an additional 20 million gallons of stormwater ... but the golf course is still open," Stevenson said. "So we're flooding smarter. We're flooding in the right places. That's good for business. It's also good for the community."
Originally built in the 1920s, Oak Meadows was known as the Elmhurst Country Club until the forest preserve district acquired it in 1985. In addition to an 18-hole course, the property featured a 9-hole facility called Maple Meadows East.
Because the forest preserve district bought the land to retain stormwater, the courses always were allowed to flood, which created problems for the golf operation.
"Every time we flooded, not only did we lose a customer for the day, but there was a chance that customer never came back," Stevenson said.
So several years ago, officials decided to pursue a plan to improve stormwater storage and make golf more sustainable. It called for consolidating the two courses to create a single facility with 18 holes that are higher and drier.
As part of the project, which started in July 2015, the portion of Salt Creek that runs through the property was restored, and about 500 native trees and more than 300,000 native wetland plants were added.
Work on the property's native areas will continue through 2021, but officials say there already are signs the habitat has improved for aquatic life in the creek.
Meanwhile, the golf features are complete, and the course began its inaugural season in mid-April. So far, more than 4,000 rounds have been played.
Stevenson said that number would have been significantly lower without the improvements to the course. In fact, it's estimated the former golf course layout would have been closed about half the days in May.
"There would have been cleanup," Stevenson said. "There would have been dissatisfied customers. There would have probably been additional days of closure just to get things back up and running."
Now the course is consistently available to customers, which is expected to help the golf operation turn a profit.
"Our projections going into this was that with fewer interruptions and just a better product we would be profitable," Stevenson said. "We're going to get a good chance now in our first full year."
The Preserve at Oak Meadows' inaugural season runs through the end of October.