Golf Course Flooding – Before, During and After

2017 was a record year for flooding. Not only locally but throughout the country.  Hurricanes battered coastal areas and areas inland seemed to trap rain and surge water for what seemed like weeks

July 2017 Rainfall Event – Northeast Illinois

The July 2017 rainfall event that came through a portion of Lake County, Illinois, was one for the ages.   Rainfall depths in some of the areas of the county reached 6+ inches in approximately 12-hours and water surface elevations of waterways reached levels that had never been seen before.

Photos of flooded fairways and greens  located along the Skokie River in Lake County popped up through email and twitter. For some background of the area, during the early 1900s the low-lying land adjacent to rivers and waterways were prime locations to construct golf courses. How prime?  There are approximately 11 golf courses built adjacent to the 13 miles of the Skokie River.

Bob O’Link Golf Club

The location of Bob O’ Link golf course is unique.  Located near southern boundary of Lake County it is divided by the Skokie River.  The tributary area is approximately 20 square miles with 85% developed with residential, commercial and industrial facilities. The long and narrow shaped watershed allows stormwater to fill streams and sewers quickly, resulting it flash flooding.

These flash flood events produce a devastating amount of damage to residential and commercial structures, they also recede quickly and get back within the banks in a relatively short time period.  For example, by the time the Skokie River had reached peak water surface elevations and returned to its banks, many of the larger waterways in the county were still days away from reaching its peak, let alone recede.

Prior to Flood Event:

Bob O’Link Golf Club

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The Country Club – Brookline, MA

I found this 1938 aerial of The Country Club. At the time of this photo the club was nearly 50 years old so I am unsure if this is how the course was originally routed or if there had been some modification to the routing prior to the date on the photo.

One of the things that stuck out in the 1938 photo is the multi use of what I assume is the polo fields and a few golf holes. Also obvious over the last 70-80 years is the expansion of the existing ponds, changes to some of the bunkers and some fairways were narrowed.

Below is a comparison of the 1938 to 2016. I was able to line these up almost perfectly to make the comparison a little easier. The black and white photo is the 1938 aerial and the color photo is the 2016 aerial.

Take a look for yourself and let me know if you see anything else.

After looking at the The Country Club, I may take a deeper dive into the topography if the data is available.


Chicago Golf Club – 1946 – 2015

Chicago Golf Club

Getting these two images to work with each other was a struggle. For some reason I couldn’t get the 1946 aerial to line up on the 2015/16 aerial similar to what I had done for Shoreacres and Sand Hills Golf Club. Each time I had one point on the golf course lined up, another would skew.  I cursed quite a bit at it, but still want to share the aerial image.

1946 Aerial

Aerial image of the Chicago Golf Club from 1946 that the US Geological Survey had available (click to enlarge).

Chicago Golf Club – 1946

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Shoreacres – 1974, 1997, 2005, 2015

After some feedback from my previous Shoreacres post that showed how the course looked nearly identical in 2015 as it did in 1946,  I wanted to take a further look at how the course looked between the nearly 70 year time period.

Below is what I would consider somewhat of a time lapse. There are still some larger gaps based when aerials are available but over the time period, mowing lines, vegetation and bunkers varied.

Shoreacres – 1946 (Photo from USGS)

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Sand Hills Golf Club Construction 1992, 1999, 2015

I’ve always been amazed by golf course construction. The ability to take heavy machinery, fine grade and carve the land to exact elevations and get it to withstand the elements.

In the few projects I’ve been involved in, its always been a restoration or renovation where a golf course exists and the work is done within the existing footprint.

Sand Hills Golf Club didn’t appear to have a footprint to stay within.

I was able to find a few aerial photos from the USGS that were taken during construction,  after opening and a photo from within the last few years.

The first photo compares during construction (approx 1992) to after opening (approx 1999). First thing I noticed was how many of the haul and access roads went on to become fairways when compete. Also notice the area  and sequencing of when things were completed.

Next photo compares the 1999 photo with the more modern (approx 2015) photo. One thing that stuck out was how much some of the bunkers had changed in that time period.

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Shoreacres – 1946 to 2015

This actually turned out a little better then I thought it was going to.

I was able to take a couple of old images of Shoreacres, click the link for color aerials and topography, overlay the two, add a slider and compare the difference that have occurred over the years.

Outside of the addition of a pond and the ravines becoming more defined, the course looks like it did 70 years ago.

Shoreacres 1946 and 2015

Let me know if you see anything else that sticks out.


Fishers Island – 1941 Aerial

No new topography to push out but I found a few old aerial images of some well known golf courses. Going to see what I can do with these.

Fist up was the aerial of Fishers Island from 1941.

Fishers Island – 1941 (USGS Photo)

The image is bleached out a bit, but you can still make out most of the routing and holes.

Don’t forget updated aerial and topography of Fishers Island can be found here.

Thanks for stopping by!

Fishers Island Club – Fishers Island, New York

The Fishers Island Club was on my short list when I started The Bottom Groove.  I’ve always been interested in how a historic course such as this was constructed during the time period.

After reading the write up Andy did at The Fried Egg and taking a closer look at the pictures Jon Cavalier did that were included in the write up, I became a little more intrigued as to how the course was not only routed, but how elevation played a role in the design.

Fishers Island Club Aerial

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Pacific Dunes – Bandon, Oregon

As a follow up to Bandon Dunes, I wanted to take a look at Pacific Dunes. This course neighbors Bandon Dunes to the north and from what I have been told has a similar amount of fine grading leading up to and around the green complexes.

Another brief touch on history –

Designed by Tom Doak and the Renaissance Golf Design group and opened in 2001. This was the second course in the series of courses that make up the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort experience.

Talking to people who have visited, many say Pacific Dunes is easily their favorite of all the Bandon Courses.


Pacific Dunes Aerial

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