Presentation offers ideas on how to turn conversation away from flooding at Palatine Hills
Financial incentives for large bookings and creating private club-quality greens are seen as ways for Palatine Hills Golf Course to boost its image in an effort to combat perceptions it's often a flood-prone, unplayable layout.
In 2019, heavy rain led to flooded conditions on eight occasions at the 18-hole Palatine Park District-owned facility, according to an annual golf course report. The final four holes are particularly vulnerable to flooding.
"Golfers do hesitate to book rounds or outings to Palatine because of a fear of flooding or lasting effects from previous rain on course conditions," said Dan Hotchkin, the course's head golf professional.
Palatine Hills lost three outings due to rain or the course's closure in 2019. Five other outings attracted fewer than half the number of anticipated golfers, with poor course conditions from rain or inclement weather the cited reasons.
Forty-five outings brought 930 golfers to Palatine Hills last year. One potential financial incentive to encourage group bookings would be to offer a future half-price outing in case of a washout, Hotchkin said during a presentation to the park board last week.
Golf course Superintendent Brad Helms said while Palatine Hills typically receives compliments for its playing conditions in online customer reviews, flooding also is mentioned.
"It is affecting us and, unfortunately, that word is out there and you can't take it back," said Helms, a Palatine village councilman.
Helms said another idea to boost the course's image is to take the greens to private club standards. Unlike the weather, he said, that's something Palatine Hills can control.
"They're probably the best greens around," he said. "We can start pushing it a little bit, so that's what we're going to do. We're going to start to increase the speed on the greens. And I think that's going to be fun for all golfers and put a fun buzz out there, 'Hey, go play Palatine Hills Golf Course, the greens are second to none.'"
Open since 1968, Palatine Hills was created from farmland, park district Executive Director Mike Clark said. The final four holes are in a floodplain unsuitable for development, he said, and serving the overall community by taking on stormwater and protecting property near the course.
"So, I always try to remind people that that land, even though it's a golf course and it floods, it is doing the purpose that it's meant to do and it's not flooding people's basements," Clark said.
Clark added that park officials last year determined expenses would outweigh potential financial benefits of spending at least $1 million to widen a culvert for stormwater collection under Smith Street on the course's east side.
Despite fewer rounds in 2019, Palatine Hills' $641,503 in total greens fees slightly topped the $638,548 from 2018, according to the annual report. Last year's $11,197 in revenue from The Hills three-hole, short-game area was 10% above 2018's total.