A Windy City classic blows away for good

After 114 years, Chicago's Joliet Golf Club has closed for potential redevelopment.
A view of bunkers at Joliet Country Club

Since the private Joliet Country Club became the public Joliet Golf Club last July, a steady stream of Golf Advisor reviews have been overwhelmingly positive.

Unfortunately, a private club going public is one of my warning signs that a course might be closing. After 114 years, the course has been shuttered, according to the Herald-News. Like many aging classics, especially those in urban areas, it faced too many obstacles - dwindling players, rising expenses, potential for redevelopment - to continue. Last week, news broke that it could become home to warehouses. It appears there's already a battle brewing about the future of the space.

"I want to go on record," City Councilwoman Jan Quillman told the Herald-News. "I don't want to see any warehouses there. It's too beautiful."

Classic courses like Joliet seem to be closing at a higher rate than others. I wrote about the issue last year, noting the closures of historic courses like Mare Island Golf Club in California and Arsenal Island Golf Club in Illinois and pointing out others in peril, Joliet CC among them.

Aging infrastructure can be costly to upgrade and replace at these clubs. Joliet's 6,565-yard course dated to 1905 with ties to Tom Bendelow and later Dick Nugent/Ken Killian (1969) and Dave Esler (2001). Golfers generally liked the course, which averaged 4.4 stars but clearly not enough to keep it alive. Reviews from last fall include:

"Really strong finishing holes. Highly recommended." wrote Local Golf Advisor HOTSPOTTS.

"Fun course with some great holes." wrote epomanmike.

"A comfortable course for the intermediate player. Well groomed," another review read.

Not every private club that goes public falters. Less than 25 miles away, the once-private Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood has blossomed into a favorite Chicagoland public course. The 6,321-yard course (1901) has ranked among the top 25 courses in the state every year since 2015 by Golf Advisor user reviews. It has ties to Donald Ross in 1917 and Esler a century after its opening (2001).

A view of hole #16 at Ravisloe Country Club

"Ravisloe is a great private course that has been opened to the public," wrote user 'aadams4980' in a review last fall. "The course is worth a play or two. It has a great deal of character with small some small greens that can be difficult to putt depending on pin placement. Most holes are guarded by somewhat deep bunkers that require soft hands and skill to come out of and save a stroke."

Should classic courses like Joliet that are struggling be allowed to be redeveloped or should we find a way to keep these historic parklands alive? Let us know in the comments below.

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August 11, 2019
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Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed and photographed more than 1,000 courses and written about golf destinations in 20 countries for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Instagram at @jasondeegangolfpass and Twitter at @WorldGolfer.
27 Comments
Commented on

As I live less than a mile away from this beautiful piece of land, I was thinking this might be a beautiful dog park or animal rescue facility. I AM TIRED OF ALL THE TRUCKS AND WAREHOUSES ENTERING OUR NEIGHBORHOOD! I think this piece of land could be used constructively to serve as a facility for animal rescue and pairing abused and neglected animals with children with special needs. I just saw a beautiful Dr Phil presentation of such a facility in Texas, Safe In Austin. Not only would this be an ideal piece of property for a rescue but Joliet is full of potential volunteers. I would love to be a part of this. Any one on board???

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This is devastating to our small unincorporated community that is already fighting off the big bad wolf (#cityofjoliet) with warehouse development, logistic facilities and truckstops. Any advice you can give would be appreciated! Would the newer sport 'Footgolf' be a good fit for this course? An orchard?

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Keep.it, you fools.

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A well maintained golf course is much nicer than more apartments or shopping centers. I’m for more grass and less concrete.

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We are seeing the same thing happening in Western New York, Buffalo area. With decreasing play; new courses

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I have never played Joliet GC so I have no idea of the club, land or players. I'd like to ask the people who play there on a regular basis if they would support their club with their wallet. This course sounds like it charges a modest fee to play. I can imagine the up roar if they upped their greens fee to make them profitable. Number of rounds would plummet and the outcome would be the same. Running a golf course is an expensive, labor intensive enterprise to keep conditions to a Muni+ level. Support your local club!

Commented on

I think all golf courses should find a way to stay open and playable. I prefer to see
a golf course than warehouses or buildings.

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I played Joliet Country Club a couple times and found it be a nice place to play,. I would prefer that they keep this Parkland course as is, but then I am not handling the financial considerations.I would NOT want the land to be redeveloped into warehouse. Joliet has far too many of these and not enough open land. To make this course work, you need a strong marketing and advertising budget to attract golfers from Chicago. Unfortunately, the competition for golfers from nearby courses of a similar nature, e.g., Cog Hill, Mistwood, Big Run, etc., make this hard to make ends meet. In addition, getting the word out that the course went public was slow to hit the airwaves. Finding the addicted golfers who play the great public courses in the Chicago area, from Lake Geneva, Wis. to Michigan City, Ind., was not very successful.

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It’s a shame that greed or pressure are taking so many gem courses away these days, especially after these courses open to public play. So many more golfers could now enjoy these pristine courses for the love of the game.

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How sad that another course will be destroyed just because of greed and the almighty dollar. What about the environment? Where will the animals go? I was an asst mgr at a popular course in suburbs for a couple years and it was so rewarding to see nature at its best and have the deer practicality walk right up to you while you're golfing. Too many older courses get redeveloped, but then sit there half destroyed due to the project not being managed properly. There's plenty of room along I-355 if you want to build warehouses and there are already a lot of them out there that were built and now stand empty with no tenants. It's time for the park district to step in or contact the Billy Casper golf group who could probably hell turn it around. As a cancer survivor, I'll be looking for courses like this to play this summer.

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A Windy City classic blows away for good