Under the heading, “An ‘innovative’ way to make golf cheaper, faster and more fun,” the Chicago Tribune recently looked at the work of Mike Benkusky, ASGCA, at Arlington Lakes Golf Club, Arlington Heights, Ill.

Golf writer Teddy Greenstein spoke with Benkusky, USGA Director of Parnerships, Outreach and Education Hunki Yun, and others about the redesign that addresses the needs and desires of today’s golfer…while opening the door for new players.

Players can knock out a three-hole loop in about the same time it takes to watch a sitcom. If they set aside an hour, they might be able to complete a six-hole loop. The third and six holes now return to the clubhouse.

And the rates look like something from the 1970s — $14 for six holes, $9 for juniors and seniors (cart not included).

To make Arlington Lakes more playable, enjoyable and quicker for juniors and high handicappers, architect Mike Benkusky expanded greens, removed two-thirds of the bunkers and turned some trees into timber. At 5,432 yards from the back, it plays to a par-68.

There are driveable par-4s and reachable par-5s. Beginners and tykes can play from tees set at 2,905 yards. And there’s a digital clock on some holes to encourage fast play.

The first hole is just 333 yards from the tips, but a lake threatens slices off the tee. And the
approach is uphill and protected by two bunkers. None of us hit it in regulation. The par-5 second hole (501 yards) has water on both sides. Neither offers an easy par.

The greens are in spectacular shape, and the 37 bunkers were puddle-free the morning after getting 2 1/2 inches of rain. Superintendent Al Bevers said it would have taken his five-person crew two days to clear out the 106 bunkers before the renovation. Now it takes less than four hours.

Lower maintenance costs lead to lower green fees.

The USGA has been pushing junior golf leagues, water conservation (lower maintenance costs) and courses that are shorter and more playable.

Yun wrote a recent report on two USGA initiatives: “Tee it forward” and “Play 9.”

He had Arlington Lakes officials speak at a USGA-sponsored symposium in January, saying: “As the golf industry faces more challenges for revenue, this could be a way to get more people to the golf course. We’ve really seen nothing (nationally) to this extent. We’re curious to see how it affects play, revenue and customer satisfaction.”

The complete Chicago Tribune article can be found here.