DuPage forest preserve board OKs new vision for Maple Meadows golf course
Maple Meadows Golf Club prides itself on reasonable prices and well-conditioned greens.
The public course, formerly part of Brookwood Country Club, logged about 37,000 rounds of golf this year. But in its current state, Maple Meadows has drainage issues and nearly 30-year-old infrastructure.
For the average golfer, all the massive bunkers can slow the pace of play and make for a frustrating round. Some bunkers are filled with standing water after heavy rains.
In an effort to modernize Maple Meadows, DuPage County Forest Preserve officials are laying the groundwork for an overhaul of the district-owned property in Wood Dale.
Golf course architect Greg Martin has prepared a new master plan calling for an extensive renovation of Maple Meadows. Martin's firm recommends reducing the number and size of bunkers, making better use of the “wonderfully rolling topography” and expanding a practice area where golfers could sharpen their short game.
Traditionally, suburban golf courses have been perfectly groomed, resource-intensive operations. But following a trend of “greener” golf courses, the district also wants to transform Maple Meadows into a more environmentally responsible “golf preserve.” That would mean creating larger blocks of natural areas and reducing the amount of mowed space.
“The goal is not to go and necessarily double the greens fees and make this a much more expensive property,” said Ed Stevenson, the district's executive adviser and business enterprise director. “ ... Golf has been profitable. It's on a trajectory that continues that way. One of the ways we stay profitable is by managing the expenses.”
With the master plan in place — forest preserve commissioners approved it Tuesday — district officials suggested they could start to have design and construction documents drawn up in 2024.
“That would allow us to start construction of the golf course, natural areas and parking lot in either '25 or '26 ... depending on what future conditions hold for us,” said Jessica Ortega, the district's manager of strategic plans and initiatives.
If the board moves ahead with the proposed project, commissioners will have to figure out how to pay for it. According to a preliminary estimate, the course improvements would add up to roughly $9.85 million, not including professional fees, permitting and other “soft” costs. Replacing the irrigation system alone would cost $2.85 million.
“Like any master plan, it's going to take a potential phased approach and would take a variety of (funding) sources,” Stevenson said at a recent board meeting.
In addition to Maple Meadows, the district operates its more challenging sister course, The Preserve at Oak Meadows, across the street. Officials say participation in golf has continued to increase each year since 2020.
“The industry is projecting sustained demand for some years to come,” Stevenson said. “And these improvements help position us to be able to endure through that sustained demand.”
According to Martin's assessment, the Maple Meadows putting greens, averaging around 5,000 square feet in surface area, are “quite small considering the scale of the property and the usage of the golf course.”
It's not the most walkable course, either. After the third hole, golfers must go south, across Dominion Drive, past the clubhouse and around the parking lot to get to the fourth tee.
Under the master plan — Stevenson described it as a road map — course renovations would shorten the distances between greens and tees. Golfers would only have to cross Dominion Drive once instead of three times over the span of 18 holes.
Martin also handled the redesign of Oak Meadows, turning what was originally a 27-hole layout into a premier 18-hole facility.
The Preserve at Oak Meadows welcomed back golfers in 2017 after a two-year, $16.8 million project that also corrected flooding problems and restored a part of Salt Creek. True to its name, Oak Meadows sits on 288 acres — only 15% of which is dedicated to fairways, greens and tees.
At Maple Meadows, the district also intends to enhance wetlands on the 179-acre property.
Ortega said the district envisions clubhouse improvements in a future phase of the project.