In the late 19th century horse-drawn trucks from the Peter M. Hoffman dairy farm wended dirt roads lined with stately oak trees as they made their deliveries through Wilmette.
In 1922 three men bought the land north of Lake Avenue and immediately west of the Skokie Valley branch of the North Western Freight line that was home to the dairy farm and converted it into a daily fee golf course. Many of those oak trees lined a number of the fairways on the 6,515-yard course which was originally named Playmore Golf Club and touted a “pay-as-you-play” policy.
One of the original three owners was also its designer-Joseph Roseman, a gifted inventor and groundskeeper. Roseman is credited with inventing the hollow roller mower to preserve turf while mowing. In an effort to make course maintenance easier, he modified a Model-T Ford to pull gang mowers, an invention that revolutionized the business, and he was one of the first to employ underground irrigation systems at the courses he designed.
Other area courses designed by Roseman include: Elmgate, which later became the Glenview Park District Golf Course; Pickwick, which was later acquired by the U.S. Navy as the Glenview Naval Station Course; and the old Illinois Country Club, which became the Green Acres Country Club in Northbrook.
Playmore attracted enthusiastic crowds and course regulars soon decided they wanted a club of their own, so they lobbied for a “members only” course. In 1924 Playmore became the Wilmette Golf Club, and by 1926 the Wilmette Golf Club had 360 members and a two-year waiting list.
At the time of the 1933 World’s Fair, the Century of Progress Exposition, the Wilmette Golf Club became one of its great off-site attractions. A 27-hole facility at the time, the Wilmette Golf Club included a nine-hole “illuminated” golf course making it one of the only, if not THE only, golf course in the world that could be played under the stars.
The Depression exacted a toll on the operations of the course, and in 1936 the Liquidating Committee of the City National Bank of Evanston took over the Wilmette Golf Club and all its properties.
In 1944 Northwestern University purchased the 132 acres of wooded land for $113,732 as part of a post war program to provide additional athletic and recreational facilities for students and faculty. Acreage not immediately in the 18-hole golf course was subdivided into 78 lots, and by 1952 home sites were being sold to faculty, staff, alumni, and university trustees and associates who desired to “live in the country.”
In 1972 the university decided to sell the now 106-acre golf course and approached Wilmette with its proposal. Legal battles about the value of the property, and community fears of massive sub-division development on the site, mobilized community groups and residents to lobby for the preservation of the open land. The Citizens to Save Open Space (SOS) committee backed a Wilmette Park District tax bond referendum to purchase the golf course.
In June 1972, a $4.4 million referendum was overwhelmingly approved by a vote of 5,704 to 785, and in November of that same year a Cook County Circuit Court judge set a sale price of $4.2 million on the property. Renamed the Wilmette Golf Course, rehabilitation of the facility was set as a priority by the Park District. A practice driving range, four new greens, 10 new tees, an automated irrigation system, and four small irrigation lakes were created as part of a major renovation plan.
In the years since, progress has continued, turning Wilmette into one of the finest park district golf courses in the area. A master plan developed by Dick Nugent has served as the course’s guide for numerous recent improvements. The Wilmette Golf Club is justifiably proud of its history and plans to continue its tradition of service to the community.