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).
"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.