The difference between 12+6 and 18 is not a mathematical one. The distinction, however, is causing some consternation among neighbors who reside along the Canal Shores golf course, which runs along the North Shore Channel (the canal) in north Evanston.

The golf course, which has undergone several name changes since it was created in 1919, lies on land owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and subleased to the non-profit Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association under a lease from MWRD to the City of Evanston and Wilmette. The lease runs through May 31, 2032.

The course has 18 holes, four of which are 200 yards. The natural setting and the relaxed atmosphere that welcomes golfers of all ages and abilities also attracts dog-walkers and urban wildlife such as coyotes, deer, foxes, rabbits, and raccoons.

A few years ago the association and the golf course were in such financial straits that they were in arrears on their water bills. With support from neighbors and friends of the golf course, the Board has brought the course if not to solvency at least to the point it is no longer hemorrhaging. Looking to the future, a committee called Canal Shores 100 headed by Evanston resident and Canal Shores Board member Jay Ryan is looking for a way to keep the course vital for, say, the next 100 years.

At present, the revenues come from greens fees, youth camps – though many attend on scholarship – clinics, charitable events and tailgating parties for Northwestern University home football games, but the income is not sufficient even for upgrades of equipment. 

In the past several months, Canal Shores has received two grants that will affect its future – one from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources and another from the United States Golf Association (USGA) and the American Society of Golf Course Architects (USGCA).

Trees and Greens

The IDNR grant – a $20,000 matching grant – will help the association create a framework to enhance the natural setting, particularly along the canal banks, where invasive buckthorn is choking the undergrowth, contributing to erosion there. Nine landscape architectural firms have submitted proposals to create a master plan for the course, said Chris Carey, chair of the Grounds Committee. Planning Resources, Inc. has been selected. PRI’s plan would include pocket parks, plant communities, buffer zones, and ways to manage stormwater, he said.

This ecological master plan will drive the redesign, said Mr. Carey to an audience of about 100 persons at a special Seventh Ward meeting about the future of the golf course, held at the American Legion Hall on May 24.

Mr. Carey said he and other members of the Canal Shores Board have spoken with Linda Krumin of The Talking Farm “to identify spots that could grow edibles” – “hops” someone in the crowd suggested. Both she and Wendy Pollock of TreeKeepers offered advice about “how to handle the overgrowth,” he said. The design would include native plants, plants that attract birds, and rain-garden plants, he said. The course has received a certificate for environmental planting as part of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program for Golf.

Changing Courses

A free evaluation and proposed redesign of the course was provided by a USGCA/ USGA award. The lead architect for the redesign is David Zinkand, with design consultants Drew Rogers and Luke Donald and project manager Todd Quitno.

The proposed redesign is for four courses: the 12-hole Jans course; the Kids Links; the Rolling Green; and the Back Lot. In combination, there can be 41 holes to play, said Jason Way, a self-described golf geek, who was instrumental in securing the USGCA award.

The 12-hole course stretches north from Lincoln Street into the Wilmette area. South of Lincoln Street, the design proposes more intense, and some have suggested, more chaotic use, such as holes that require shots across the canal in each direction.

In an earlier interview, Mr. Way told the RoundTable, “The new design allows players to choose the number and types of holes they want to play, based on how much time they have. Eighteen-hole options for play will be available every day.” 

The goal of redesigning the course, Mr. Way said, is “to get something that is unique enough that we can get some donor who will give us enough money to keep it going.”

Mr. Ryan said the cost of the redesign for the course, including the habitat restoration is about $6 million.

Mr. Donald and Northwestern University Golf Coordinator Pat Goss have expressed interest in housing their youth-oriented golf organization, First Tee Association, at Canal Shores – another potential revenue source, Mr. Ryan and Mr. Way said.

Mr. Way said he and Mr. Goss had similar ideas of how to redo the golf course “while not sacrificing the level of fun or interest.”

Teed-Off Neighbors

Many of the neighbors who attended the May 24 meeting said they did not like the redesign or the fact that the neighbors had not been consulted earlier about the proposed changes.

Berms and other artificial hills would diminish the vista now offered by the fairways. Trees would be removed – and it was not clear whether those trees are invasive ones such as buckthorn or merely in the way of the proposed course.

Speaking on behalf of several Canal Shores neighbors, Pam Ferdinand said, “While it’s nice you have spoken to so many experts in golf, you haven’t spoken to us.”

“Four years ago there was uncut grass, brown grass, no money and bills that hadn’t been paid in three years,” said Mr. Ryan. “We came up with some new things – a new Board, all neighbors. We are looking for people like you on the Board. … Our goal and fiduciary responsibility is to keep this course going – not today, not tomorrow but for the next 100 years. … We didn’t get the community involved, because we didn’t know the community cared. But now we’re involving you.”

Larry Mages, Vice President of the association said, “A significant percentage of the Board feels that the community has not had sufficient input.”

Mr. Way and others said several times that the design is a proposal only and that the Board and the association are seeking feedback, which they will give to the architect. “We will combine the ecological piece with the golf course redesign,” he said. “When Mr. Zinkand has the constraints [of the ecological design] and the feedback [from neighbors], he can proceed with a revision.”

“For a no-plan,” this looks like a pretty sophisticated plan,” Ms. Ferdinand said. She said the area south of Lincoln Street “is a bit of a golf circus, with a multi-directional site, driving balls in different directions across the canal. There are very dramatically undulating, rolling greens, and trees will be cut down. … Personally, I question whether this is the right architect for the job.”

Nearby resident Barbara Janes asked the rationale behind creating four courses. “In the British Isles there are multi-level courses,” said Mr. Way.

“Professional fundraisers have told us donors want to donate to something unique,” said Mr. Ryan.

“You’re going to chop it up and we’re not going to have those open spaces,” said another neighbor. “When you have chopped it up with berms, how is that going to impact what we consider a gem on the North Shore?”

Another resident said, “It looks like you are clear-cutting those greens.”

Mr. Carey said he did not think there would be a change in open space, per the ecological plan.

Opportunity for Compromise?

Debbie Weixl, who lives in Sissila Apartments along the canal and who is a member of the Canal Shores Board, said, “We need to talk about the whole layout. There are opportunities to get it right.”

Ms. Ferdinand also said, “We can create a plan that will satisfy everybody and make a financially sustainable golf course.”

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, who convened the meeting, said, “I do share your optimism. I do think we can come together.”

Mr.  Mages said, “No spade will be turned until we have all the money. No work will be done until this is sustainable without the need for further fundraising.”

Next Steps

Steve Neumann, who is overseeing the IDNR grant for the association, is offering walking tours of the golf course south of Lincoln Street at 7 p.m. on June 22 and at 1 p.m. on June 26. Residents will meet at Leahy Park.

Mr. Ryan said, “subcommittees are accepting feedback on the golf concept, which will be sent to the architect for his review on options.”

Ald. Revelle told the RoundTable she plans to hold three meetings over the next few weeks “with neighbors and Association board members to identify priority concerns and consider options to address those concerns … and then be able to present some recommendations to the Association board later this summer.  She also invited neighbors to email their concerns and suggestions to her:

12 vs. 18

There are 18 swigs in bottle of Scotch whiskey, and some golf lore has it that that is the reason for 18 holes in a golf course. The proposal for a 12-hole course rankled some Canal Shores neighbors.

Jason Way, one of the leaders of the proposed redesign of the golf course, said 12-hole courses are becoming more popular.

Jay Ryan, head of Canal Shores 100, told the RoundTable, “Should the redesign be approved, the course will still have 18 holes, and all holes will be available for play. The areas of the concept may just be … referred to as something different for sponsorship purposes.”

Whether 18 should be divided, and, if so, how, remains with the neighbors and the Canal Shores board.

Mary Gavin

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...