Welcome To Downers Grove

Because the course was relatively undisturbed when being constructed with a horse and plow, the soil is very black, light in weight, and averages a 2- to 3-foot depth throughout the course. Modern golf courses (built in the last 40 to 50 years) were built with heavy bulldozers, and much of the black topsoil was sold by owners, leaving a compacted 6- to 8-inch depth over the top of the clay subsurface.

The quality of the soil becomes evident in the spring and fall when thousands of earthworms do their magic and naturally aerate the soil, which controls any thatch that occurs in the top inch of the soil. Subsequently, it is unnecessary to core aerate fairways, which is a labor-intensive operation that also significantly disrupts golfers.

The course also drains exceptionally well because of the depth and “lightness” of the soil, which provides better turf-grass conditions and allows golf carts to be used on the course quickly after a rainstorm, thus providing a better customer experience and increased revenue.

Golfers have been enjoying the course for 120 years.

Pozen advises, “Build up the biological activity in the soils by using organic fertilizers and products with beneficial bacteria in them.”

Last Tree Standing

Planting trees and establishing native prairie areas throughout the course also has been successful due to the richness of the soil. Five years ago, several oak trees were planted, and have quickly adapted to their new home. They now have a vigorous canopy and average 2 to 3 feet of growth each year.

Establishing native prairie areas can prove disappointing on many courses due to the tendency of weeds overtaking the plants after seeding. Downers Grove, however, has had good germination, and areas that are 3 years old are flourishing and providing valuable habitat for coyotes, deer, turtles, and hawks.

The club has kept an original Scotch pine believed to have been planted during the development of the course in 1892. It is the last of five Scotch pines planted there, unfortunately dying in 2009 from the Pine Wilt Fungus. The club effectively named the tree the “Last Man Standing,” located on the left side of the ninth fairway as golfers approach the clubhouse.

If this tree could talk, imagine the stories it could tell. Rumor has it Al Capone and “company” played the course several times.

For more information, visit www.dgparks.org.


MacDonald, C.B. Scotland’s Gift GOLF. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1928.

Sonnefeldt, Paul. Golf course traces past, faces future. 1994.

USGA Journal & Turf Management, September, 1956.

Brandi Beckley is the Public Information Supervisor for the Downers Grove Park District. Reach her at bbeckley@dgparks.org

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