August 8, 2023 at 7:33pm

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Elena Ferrarin

Article by Elena Ferrarin

Communications Coordinator
Northbrook Park District


The Northbrook Park District’s two golf courses are getting a major underground infrastructure renovation thanks to a nearly $1.2 million capital project.

The project, which affects the water wells and irrigation systems at Heritage Oaks Golf Club and Anetsberger Golf Course, was approved by the park district’s board of commissioners in the fall. The park district switched from city water to well water in the early 2000s, and it’s important to steward that investment, said Chris Leiner, director of parks and properties for the park district.

“Although it’s an element that is below the ground, it really does function as the heart of the golf course,” he said.

One well services Heritage Oaks, which is about 198 acres, and the other services Anetsberger, about 22 acres, plus Techny Prairie Park and Fields, about 8.5 acres. Both wells were nearing the end of their expected lifespans, at 23 years and 17 years, respectively, Leiner said.

Well water is drawn from an underground aquifer and pumped into reservoirs at both golf courses, and then used for irrigation. At Heritage Oaks, the well reaches 782 feet below ground, or about 150 deeper than the height of the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. At times, more than half a million gallons of water are pumped nightly, depending on weather conditions and course needs.

The work at Heritage Oaks entailed replacing the well pump, motor, pipes and wiring; at Anetsberger, the motor, pipes and wiring were replaced, and the pump was rebuilt, said Bill Meyer, superintendent of grounds and golf maintenance for the park district.

The project is almost finished after a delay from its expected March completion date, Meyer said.

Both wells have been renovated and are fully functional, as is the main irrigation pump station for the 18-hole Classic Course at Heritage Oaks, Meyer said. “We are still waiting on components to complete our pump control replacement at the 9-hole Legacy Course at Heritage Oaks, and we are still waiting on the total pump and control replacement for Anetsberger,” he said.

The contracts were signed in December, but the Texas-based motor manufacturer experienced delays in getting components, Meyer said. The increased demand for golf infrastructure components following the boom of interest in the sport — and outdoor activities in general — prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic likely played a role, he said.

More than one-third of the U.S. population over age 5 played golf, followed the sport on TV or online, read about it, or listened to a golf-related podcast in 2022, up 12% from the previous year, according to the National Golf Foundation. Golf play in 2022 was down about 4% from 2021’s record high, but still finished up 13% compared to the 2015 to 2019 pre-pandemic average.

While the wells were not operational, the park district normally would have used supplemental water from the reservoirs, but their levels were low due to a Midwest drought that started in April.

“We got some timely rain in March, and in cooler temperatures you don’t need as much water. As it started to get warmer and we started to not get those rains, we started to see the reservoir level go down every day,” Meyer said.

Irrigation systems in the Midwest are designed to supplement rain, not replace it, so the park district doesn’t have sprinkler coverage for the entire 220 acres of golf land, Meyer added.

This year, Heritage Oaks is experiencing its best golf season to date, with 25,972 rounds played through June, or up 8,071 compared to 2022. While it’s wonderful, the 45% surge in usage increases the “wear and tear” on the courses, Leiner said.

Park district staff members have been working hard to live up to the course quality expected by players, said Greg Baron, director of golf and PGA professional.

The new infrastructure is much more efficient than the old one. For example, in case of malfunction, the old pump system only indicated an unspecified error, so staff members would spend a couple of days troubleshooting to identify and repair the issue. The new pump system logs more than 20 types of errors.

“The new pump system texts me, and I can call the service provider, and he can log in and troubleshoot from his phone,” Meyer said. “We’re talking about, maybe, an hour to fix a problem.”

For more information about this project, contact us by email or call 847-291-2993.