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Golf course beefs up its inside game
Glencoe hires firm for lessons

Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Chicago Tribune
by Susan Berger

With the number of rounds down and costs up, Glencoe Golf Club officials hope a new indoor golf academy will generate interest in the course during the winter deep freeze.

The GreenToTee Golf Academy, which has set up shop in the clubhouse, uses video equipment to help players with everything from chipping and putting to driving.

To create a comfy atmosphere, the setup also features a fireplace, the Golf Channel on a big screen and music by that classical swinger Mozart.

Club and village officials hope that the academy can spark a resurgence at the 18-hole golf course by generating interest among golfers who sign up for lessons and who might not be aware of the facility, officials said.

Village Manager Paul Harlow said that during the 1990s, more than 40,000 rounds of golf were played at the club each year. "This past year there were 23,000," he said.

Village officials gave the company the go-ahead to begin teaching this month. The Village Board is expected to vote on a deal Thursday.

"I trust that by the next meeting we will have an agreement," Harlow said.

Most people agree that the GreenToTee affiliation can only help the 84-year-old club.

Harlow attributes the drop in the number of rounds played to a proliferation of new courses, fewer people taking up the sport and a downturn in the economy. But others see it differently.

Paul Grant, 61, moved to Glencoe 17 years ago and bought a house 100 yards from the 18th tee. The former club champion said changes, particularly a green fee increase, led to problems.

"Season-ticket holders left in droves," Grant said. "It was a combination of policy change and bad management. It had nothing to do with the economy. Prices increased substantially, and people who played there found it was not a good deal and left."

This month the village finished paying off a 10-year, $1 million loan that was used for course improvements.

Harlow said that without the $135,000 monthly payment, the club's financial picture will improve dramatically.

Designed by five-time British Open champion James Braid, the course is owned by Glencoe and the Cook County Forest Preserve District.

"Fifty percent of the club is on forest preserve property," said village Finance Director Dave Clark. "The front nine and parking lot are owned by the county."

The county doesn't contribute any money to club maintenance, Clark said.

Village President Tony Ruzicka said a 1921 agreement with the county states that the village cannot profit from the course.

Club manager Scott Miller said he and his staff have made efforts to attract golfers. Last year they attended the Chicago Golf Show for the first time, a move he said was a financial success and an eye-opener.

"We found the biggest misconception is that many thought the Glencoe Golf Club was private," Miller said.

Things were looking up this season even with some poor weekend weather, he said.

"Out of 27 weekends, only eight with good weather, we still improved over last year," Miller said.

GreenToTee opened 15 years ago and has operated at several locations, including Midlane's Dome in Highland Park and Willow Hill Golf Course in Northbrook. The academy has about 1,800 students, most of them spread around the North Shore, officials said.

When GreenToTee opened up in Glencoe on Dec. 4, the eight-member staff taught 50 students, officials said.

During summer, the instructors will move out to the driving range and use the course.

But right now, the indoor fireplace looks attractive.

"I have been taking lessons for five years," said Donna Pinsof of Winnetka. "This is cozy with a fireplace and beamed ceilings. There is nothing else like this to use in the winter."



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