Graham Kilmer
MKE County

Whitnall Park Golf Course Getting Redesign

A public meeting is being held Sept. 14 on changes at golf course.

By - Aug 31st, 2023 01:19 pm

Map of potential changes at Whitnall Park Golf Course.

Whitnall Park Golf Course is getting a redesign thanks to an irrigation project.

The course, which opened in 1932, is one of the most popular in the Parks system. Landscape architect and former parks superintendent George Hansen designed it. Wisconsin golf writer Gary D’Amato wrote that it’s “known for its tree-lined fairways and tricky greens,” and that “the back tees, the elevation changes, tight landing areas and sloping greens give it a level of difficulty one wouldn’t expect from a glance at the scorecard.”

Milwaukee County Parks received approximately $333,000 through the 2022 county budget to design a new irrigation system at the golf course. The existing system had not been replaced since the 1970s. David Gulgowski, a county engineer, wrote in a 2022 report that the system “has been plagued with operational issues for the past thirty years.”

Golf has become a critical part of the parks system budget. In recent years Parks has had to self generate more than 50% of the revenue it uses to operate the entire parks system. Increases in revenue from rounds and cart rentals, as well as the food and beverage sales at the courses, has helped to buoy the system’s budget and keep these popular amenities maintained and open.

But the irrigation project also provided an opportunity to update some of the course features at Whitnall. Parks has worked with a design firm, Short Elliot Hendrickson, Inc., to relocate three greens and reconstruct existing sand bunkers and tees. These changes, Gulgowski said, should “make the golf course safer and improve circulation and playability of the golf holes.”

After a tour and review of the course, consultants from Short Elliot Hendrickson reported that their goal for the project was to celebrate “the character and history of the (near) 100-year-old course” while also “updating infrastructure and freshening its appeal.” Part of updating the infrastructure, the firm proposed, would include modernizing irrigation and drainage to make the course easier to maintain. Changes to tee boxes and bunkers would also add new variation and potentially expand the base of golfers that play the course, according to the firm.

The greens on several holes have “severe slope and safety issues,” the consultant found. ” Golfers today expect great greens, which means consistency, trueness of roll and variety of design,” the firm noted.

The bunkers, according to the firm, present a number of opportunities. For example, the number could be reduced and repositioned to “maximize effectiveness.” Additionally, grass features could replace some of the sand to add variation and reduce sand maintenance.

A new “Life Tee” system could be introduced, the firm observed, that would include a graduated set of tee markers for golfers to learn on. “We’re seeing a ton of interest in forward teeing programs these days, allowing courses to cater to a variety of users and playing abilities,” the firm said.

Even with these potential changes, the consultant reiterated its commitment to preserving, wherever possible, the historic character of the course, while also utilizing modern infrastructure and construction techniques.

The design process is currently underway and Parks is holding a public meeting Sept. 14 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Whitnall Park Clubhouse to gather public input on the future of the course. The consultants will give a presentation and staff will be on hand to explain plans for the course. The meeting will run from

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Categories: MKE County, Parks

2 thoughts on “MKE County: Whitnall Park Golf Course Getting Redesign”

  1. BigRed81 says:

    MKE County is hemorrhaging money. Delayed maintainance in
    City parks impacts many more people. Suburban luxury pales in comparison.

  2. Colin says:

    Return all the golf courses to nature. Way better for the environment and cheaper.

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