Skip to main content

Surpassing Expectations in the Windy City

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois – suburban Chicago’s provider of parks, recreation and natural preservation – owns one of the nation’s largest municipal golf portfolios of 10 golf courses and one stand-alone driving range.

BACKGROUND

The Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois – suburban Chicago’s provider of parks, recreation and natural preservation – owns one of the nation’s largest municipal golf portfolios of 10 golf courses and one stand-alone driving range. In early 2002, after several years of declining rounds, revenue and customer satisfaction, the Forest Preserve District sought professional management services.

An exhaustive national RFP process narrowed the field to one firm – Indigo Golf Partners – to manage this portfolio of courses back to prominence of the luster years when Golf Digest rated its flagship course among “America’s Top 25 Public Golf Courses.” By placing our corporate operations, maintenance and marketing team in Chicago a full five months before the contract commenced, Indigo Golf Partners birthed what could be the nation’s greatest municipal golf course portfolio turnaround.

IMPLEMENTATION

Opening the courses for play in mid-March 2003, an accomplished team of experienced golf course superintendents, head golf professionals and marketing specialists began the arduous task of rebuilding, revitalizing and rebranding a ten-course portfolio that played only 250,000 rounds in 2002.

Course and facility conditions were not up to par. Greens, fairways and tees were in urgent need of a long-term agronomic plan that included aeration and stability of the turf’s condition. The retail and food-and-beverage operations needed major overhauls. Each golf shop required new fixtures, point-of-sale systems and a full stock of competitively priced hard and soft goods. Each snack bar and grille needed a full line of new kitchen equipment along with new, value-priced menus. With the courses being closed in November 2002, a new staff of energetic, service-oriented employees needed to be hired and trained to properly staff the 11 facilities across Cook County.

Course and clubhouse revitalization were Indigo Golf Partners' first priorities with customer service and marketing improvements close behind. Chicagoland golfers were eager to see what the new management team would bring. Upon the return of the core golf season, they were pleasantly surprised with the soup-to-nuts, night-and-day changes. Not to be outdone, a new, professional, 24/7 reservation service with well-trained, helpful employees welcomed them back to “The New Forest Preserve Golf.”

RESULTS

The results speak for themselves. Rounds in 2003 eclipsed 395,000 (up 58% from 2002 and up 28% from 2001). This in a market that encompasses more than 180 golf courses open to the public. The revenues returned to the County through our economic partnership have far exceeded its expectations, turning a once money-losing portfolio into an economic and recreational success.

Fast-forward to 2020 and this storied partnership continues to thrive. Indigo Golf Partners has returned more than $22MM to the Forest Preserve District of Cook County through rent payments and capital investment.

Additionally, the Forest Preserve District has entrusted Indigo Golf Partners to manage other recreational assets, including five campgrounds and five indoor event pavilions.

Share
About the Author
With 30 years’ experience in golf, Mike oversees Indigo Golf Partners growth plans and specific lease, acquisition, consulting and third-party management opportunities. He enjoys an invaluable talent of dissecting ways golf courses, country clubs and resorts can create significant new revenue and save expenses without compromise to quality. Previously, Mike managed the company’s vast southeast portfolio. A PGA member, he is a graduate of Mississippi State University, an avid cyclist and diehard college football fan.