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Lake Co. forest district may scale back Ft. Sheridan golf course plans
By Russell Lissau | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 5/4/2010 3:30 PM

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With Lake County Forest Preserve District officials insisting an 18-hole golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is too costly to build, an advisory committee is investigating if a 9- or 12-hole golf course is more feasible.

A smaller course could satisfy golf enthusiasts and leave room for public trails or other more traditional forest-preserve amenities, officials said.

"There's some middle ground there," said Andy Kimmel, the district's deputy executive director.

A leading golf proponent thinks the concept could be the compromise that brings the sport back to the Highland Park-area preserve after a seven-year absence.

"If they do it right, our committee will accept that," said Ralph Pfaff, a resident of the Town of Fort Sheridan and a member of the advisory group debating the issue.

Even so, Pfaff isn't sure the 23-member forest district board will go for a plan, if one eventually is brought forth. Some commissioners have been vehemently against building a new golf course of any size.

"(I'm) relatively optimistic the committee can come up with some kind of compromise," Pfaff said. "I'm not optimistic the county is going to go for it. They have a lot to prove to sway me."

Pfaff's group, which includes forest board members and representatives from the neighboring cities, has been meeting every other month since December.

Their sole focus is whether to build a new golf course at Fort Sheridan.

When the forest district acquired the 259-acre preserve from the Army in the 1990s, it agreed to keep a golf course there forever. Other parts of the base were turned into the Town of Fort Sheridan residential development.

The district tore up an 18-hole course in 2003 to make way for a new one, but the work halted in 2004 after updated cost estimates came in much higher than originally proposed.

Pfaff and other golf-course advocates have called for an 18-hole course similar to the one designed nearly a decade ago, but those pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

An 18-hole course isn't off the table, but they're now focusing on a 9- or 12-hole course that could include alternate tee boxes and give golfers a different experience when they repeat holes.

"I think we can live with nine or 12 (holes)," Pfaff said.

He would like at least one hole to overlook Lake Michigan, which was an eye-catching feature of the original plan. A fancy clubhouse isn't necessary, he said.

The forest district's golf consultant now is looking into the economic and environmental feasibility of the golf-course options, Kimmel said.

Kimmel believes a 9- or 12-hole course could be in compliance with the deed restrictions requiring a golf course at Fort Sheridan in perpetuity.

A smaller course might also be more popular with golfers who don't have the time to play a full 18-hole round, he said.

The advisory committee is next scheduled to meet June 9 at the Gorton Community Center in Lake Forest. Kimmel expects the golf consultant's report to be ready for review then. Following additional discussion, the group could make a recommendation to the forest board this fall, he said.