How our Green Star winner tamed the floods.
THE PRESERVE AT OAK MEADOWS, a daily-fee in Addison, Ill., might be the most important new golf course of 2017. Its harnessing of a notorious creek demonstrates that a golf course can serve golfers and the greater community. The creative way it addresses floods and storm water makes it the winner of Golf Digest’s Green Star environmental award for 2017.
The aptly named Preserve, formerly known as Oak Meadows Golf Club, and before that Elmhurst Country Club, was a busy municipal course—except when Salt Creek, which ran through its center, would overflow. Acres of turf would sit under water for days and die.
The course’s owner, the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County, brought in Chicago-based golf architect Greg Martin, who talked with storm-water experts and hydrologists. They decided the solution was to allow Salt Creek to “breathe” as it passed through during floods. That would require extra room for overflow. After three years of planning and permitting, in July 2015 construction began on the $17-million project to build 18 new holes on mostly new land.
Crews diverted Salt Creek into a narrow channel and reshaped the main stream bed into wider and deeper twists and turns to slow water down, with an irregular bottom to aid in sediment disbursement, water filtration and habitat enhancement. Adjacent to the creek, they created 35 acres of wetlands. Beyond that, they established 40 acres of prairie savannahs to accept water if levels rose that high.
To make room, they had to abandon many golf holes along the creek and cut down 1,500 mostly low-quality trees. But many of the trees’ root balls were upended and placed at purposeful spots along the mile-and-a-half stretch of rebuilt creek to buttress outside turns, prevent erosion and provide wildlife habitat. Officials estimate the property can accept 20 million more gallons of storm water than it did before, enough to deal with a 100-year event.
Martin gave a tour last summer, a day after rains had closed many area courses. The Preserve was dry and playable; Salt Creek was out of its banks, wide as a delta, lazily flowing over newly planted wetlands and around a few lowland trees but never threatening a single hole. By the time it exited the property, it was a manageable creek. Homeowners downstream were none the wiser.