ParkTalk Blog - Springbrook Golf Course: A Look Back at Nearly 50 Years of its History
Monday, September 11, 2023
On the cusp of its 50th anniversary, Springbrook Golf Course is newly renovated, welcoming golfers who have played there for years and those who are just discovering the course. The renovation included a complete rebuild of all tees and bunkers, reconstruction of two ponds and two bridges, new collection areas and mounding at green surrounds and drainage work, improving playability and the overall experience for golfers.
Springbrook's Hole #1 in May 2023, after the renovation
The 18-hole championship course challenges even the experienced player, and the natural turf driving range, putting greens and short game practice green accommodate all skill levels. A shaded patio overlooks the course, known for its lush foliage, rolling hills and mature trees.
The land that would become Springbrook Golf Course was purchased by the Naperville Park District in 1969, only 3 years after the District came into existence. The District received a $162,000 grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in 1968 which was matched by the District to purchase the 162-acre Fraley Farm. The site was named the Fraley Outdoor Recreation Area and in 1970, its first public use was to host 55 garden plots.
The Park District began planning to build Springbrook Golf Course and sold revenue bonds to finance the construction. According to Walter C. Johnson, who served as the Park District's second executive director from 1973-1981, the bonds were paid off through golf fee revenue within four years after the course opened. Prior to golf course construction, the Fraley farmhouse remained on site for several years and the first floor was rented to District employees for $135 per month.
Springbrook Golf Course Opens
The Park District broke ground for Springbrook Golf Course on June 25, 1972. The site was developed and shaped by the Wadsworth Co. and was designed by Golf Course Architect Roger Packard. Springbrook Golf Course held its official opening ceremony on May 5, 1974. The Naperville Sun captured the photo (above) of former Park Board President Harold Cromer and Executive Director Walter Johnson inspecting hole #1 prior to the course opening.
Program from the Grand Opening on May 5, 1974
Hugh Hill speaks at the Grand Opening
Original entry sign for Springbrook Golf Course
Park District staff planted many of the trees on the course. Former Executive Director Walter Johnson told the story of where the trees came from:
"The Park District was given the right to remove the entire tree stock from a nursery in Aurora. It consisted of thousands of trees. We purchased Vermeer tree spades and Caterpillars and large trailers and planted trees in all of our parks. One day my superintendent of parks, Scott Reese, came to my office and said we have no more ideas about where to plant the remaining trees. I said let's plant at Springbrook Golf Course. We did that for about a year. All in all, we planted most of the trees located there today."
View of the golf course in its early years
A Golfer Recalls Springbrook in the 1980s and 1990s
One of the regular players at Springbrook, Dave Taylor, has been playing at the course since 1984. He shared the following memories of the course in the 1980s and 1990s:
"I have been playing Springbrook since 1984. This is the summer we moved back to Illinois from Pittsburgh. I grew up in Hinsdale and back then Naperville was next to Iowa as far as we were concerned. Back in those days, Springbrook was the only municipal course in Naperville, and it was crowded. Rounds used to take over 5 hours since they didn't have a 'keep pace' policy or any rangers. The course was wide open back then. The trees hadn't grown up so being in the rough was not an issue. In fact, back then, since Springbrook only had a center sprinkler system that ran down the center of the fairway, water never got to the roughs. So, the roughs were hard pan and if you hit your drives in the rough, they would run an extra 20 yards. It made the course much easier.
"In the early 1990's, Springbrook implemented permanent tee times for the weekends for players to secure the same time every weekend without calling in each week. This made playing much easier. Along with this they hired rangers to keep the course moving at a 4 1/2-hour pace. We had a permanent tee time for 25 years. One fond memory of these times was the starter, Robin Mair. He died in 2017 and there is a plaque just off the first tee commemorating him for his long service. We only got to talk with Robin a few minutes each Saturday morning because he had to keep the players moving off the first tee, but we discovered he was a very learned man. He could discuss philosophy, politics, science or any other subject we wanted to discuss that week. He would always call our group to the first tee bellowing out 'Taylor David S.' and we still to this day use that phrase before we tee off to remember him."
Dave Taylor's golfing friend, Dave Moser, added another story about golfing at Springbrook:
"One of my favorite memories is of the pond near the green on hole number 15. It was larger before the renovation and always was a challenge for us to clear as we hit our approaches after a good drive and second shot. One round, after careful calculation of the distance, wind, slope of the green, etc. I proceeded to put my shot directly into the pond. In one of my weaker moments I threw my wedge into the water in a fit of fairway rage. Right away I felt ashamed and decided I needed to pay the price. So, thinking the pond wasn't very deep, I waded in to retrieve it. Big mistake. In addition to the water being dog-day green, I ended up chest-high by the time I got to the club. My playing partners were up at the green by this time and looked back to see me almost submerged. They could barely finish the hole due to the convulsions of laughter. All I could say to them was "Thank god irons float at the handle. Otherwise I was prepared to stick my head into the green water to find it."
League Play at Springbrook Over the Years
Director of Golf Kevin Carlson, who began working at Springbrook in 1997, recalls that league play has been a constant over the years.
"Much like our Permanent Tee Time program, the women in our Thursday's ladies' league have been with us for years, with some going back to the early years of the golf course. The league is very competitive and has won several championships against other suburban women's golf leagues. Springbrook also has been home to leagues from residential subdivisions, such as the Hobson Hackers, or local companies, such as the Lucent League, which started years ago as the Bell Labs league. Several of these leagues have been with Springbrook nearly from the start."
One of the early Naperville Men's City Championships
Pearl Thoman (left) and Pauline Eovaldi (right) played in the women's leagues and were given the Lifetime Golf Award at Springbrook Golf Course in Sept. 2010
Regional Competitive Tournaments at Springbrook
Head Golf Professional Mike Lyzun, who began working at Springbrook on the grounds crew in 1990, noted that Springbrook has hosted many regional competitive tournaments over the years, including the Illinois Professional Golfers' Association (PGA) Section, Chicago District Golf Association (CDGA), United States Golf Association (USGA), Illinois High School Association (IHSA) and Illinois Junior Golf Association (IJGA).
"Springbrook has always been known by competitive amateurs and professionals to be a challenging test. The course's design is enjoyable for all but can be set up to be difficult for competition. The undulating greens and tree lined fairways are what makes Springbrook a fair test of golf.
"We hosted the Illinois Section PGA qualifying event for the Western Open when it was held at Butler National and Cog Hill, from the mid-1980's until 2005. Springbrook and Naperbrook (one round at each course) hosted the US Amateur qualifying event in the mid-1990's. We also hosted the Illinois Section qualifier for the LaSalle Bank Nationwide Tour from 2006 to 2008. I was lucky enough to play a good round in 2007 and qualify! Springbrook continues to host regional tournaments each year."
Springbrook's Staff Then and Now
Dave Taylor complimented Springbrook's staff, both in the early days and in their current roles.
"The staff has changed over the years, but Kevin and Mike have always been the mainstay. I remember playing golf with Kevin when he was just on the grounds crew. He would show up at the first tee in his work boots and tee off. He could hit the ball a mile and was a good player. Mike was a player on the Naperville North team in high school, and he was always a good player.
Dave Moser and I have retired and we play many courses now, but always keep Springbrook in the rotation. The changes they have done have made the course more 'playable' for older gents like us. Mike and Kevin have been the anchor that keeps us coming back. They always remembered our names and have been friendly to us."
A Naperville Men's Championship tournament in the 1990s or 2000s
Springbrook's 50th Anniversary in 2024
With the surge in golf participation over the past few years, and the completion of the course renovations, Springbrook continues to be a popular place for all ages to enjoy the challenging game of golf. Plans for the 50th anniversary celebration will be announced in the spring of 2024. Watch for details to be posted at golfnaperville.org and napervilleparks.org.