Past, Present and Future on Display at Pottawatomie Golf Course
Stepping into the pro shop at Pottawatomie Golf Course these days may be a little bit like stepping into a time machine. Look to your left and you’ll find a photographic history chronicling the way the course has looked since its inception in 1939 all the way to the present day. Look to your right and you’ll see architects’ renderings of the way the course will look a year, two years, five years and more from now, thanks to a multi-phase shoreline restoration project scheduled to get underway in Fall 2018. Aim your gaze straight ahead and you’ll find an interactive display detailing the course’s present projects: records of patron sightings of bird species, input that’s necessary to help maintain the course’s Certified Audubon Sanctuary status; and a log where followers of today’s fitness phenomenon of counting steps can jot down how many they’ve walked while playing nine holes.
The new display of archival aerial photographs of the course’s development over the past 79 years begins with a stark, black-and-white photograph showing the very beginning of Pottawatomie Golf Course, designed by renowned golf course architect, Robert Trent Jones, Sr., the course’s transformation from 1939 to 2008 unfolds through a series of six photos.
“Pottawatomie Golf Course has a real neighborhood feel about it, so it’s easy for people who have lived here for a long time to forget how the course has developed,” said Ron Skubisz, Golf Course Manager and PGA Golf Pro.
Keeping the course viable and vibrant for, hopefully, another 79 years is the goal of a shoreline stabilization project recently approved by the Park District’s Board of Park Commissioners. The mission of this multi-phase, multi-year project is to protect the golf course from further erosion due to constant wave action and flooding of the Fox River. Using natural materials such as timber logs, native vegetation, boulders and stone toe holds, the shoreline will be stabilized in a sustainable, environmentally-friendly way that will be both cost-effective and enhance the course’s playability.
“You can look at the photographic history of the course and see how nature has changed it and how man has responded to those changes,” said Skubisz. “With 30,000 rounds of golf played here each year, it’s our responsibility to keep the course going and moving forward.”
“We want to keep the integrity of the original mission and protect it for the future,” agrees Denise Gillett-Parchert, Golf Course Superintendent. “It’s our responsibility to be curators and stewards of this property.”
Part of that stewardship involves establishing a thriving natural habitat, an effort that has earned Pottawatomie Golf Course the coveted Certified Audubon Sanctuary designation, an award-winning education and certification program that helps golf courses protect the environment while preserving the natural heritage of the game of golf. First awarded to PGC in 1999, the Audubon Sanctuary designation requires periodic re-certification across several categories. This year, the PGC staff is asking for the public’s help in qualifying for the wildlife and habitat management category by participating in a species census. Players are encouraged to make a note of birds and other wildlife spotted while playing the course and then recording their findings in the “Wildlife Inventory” notebook located on the pro shop’s Audubon Certification display. Not sure if that bird was a Scarlet Tanager or Eastern Oriole? Was that a groundhog or a chipmunk over on 9? There are field guides to mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians to help participants make the right call.
And speaking of record-keeping, the golf course has embraced the nationally-trending “Park Prescription” initiative encouraging golfers to monitor the number of steps taken while hitting the links and incorporating the sport of golf into one’s overall exercise program.
Combining the popular fitness regimen of counting steps with “Park Prescription”, a doctor-recommended program that touts the physical and psychological benefits of being outdoors, Pottawatomie Golf Course has placed a “Count Your Steps” log book at the Audubon Certification display desk. Have a fitness tracker? Keep a written record of your steps at the end of each round. It’s a great way to compete with friends or even yourself.
“One of the things that makes the experience of golfing at Pottawatomie so rewarding is that it is so multi-dimensional,” said Skubisz. “There’s a cohesive idea of nature and history and being part of a national organization like the Audubon Foundation and paying tribute to a legendary course designer like Trent Jones.”
Participating in the present by counting birds and steps. Preserving the past through archival photographs. Protecting the future through planned shoreline management. All these elements show the dedicated teamwork at the heart of Pottawatomie Golf Course.