DeKALB – For the Northern Illinois golf teams, short is good.
A new short-game practice facility is just a short ride away.
The Huskies will now hone the delicate-scoring shots that NIU women’s golfer Jessica Parmenter said can make or break a round at a new 40,000 square foot practice facility at the Kishwaukee Country Club.
“It’s great for practices and if we have time to come out here on our own it is awesome to have a facility that is five minutes away,” Parmenter said. “The short game is an art form and the facility is great.”
The facility has a 25-yard deep creeping bent-grass green that is mowed just under an eighth-of-an-inch. The fairway is bent grass that is mowed at one-half inch. There is a fairway bunker at 40 yards and a greenside bunker at 20 yards.
The comprehensive facility accepts just about every shot imaginable from 75 yards and in.
“It is a great facility and I think it will hold up with the offseason use we will give to it,” said NIU women’s golf coach Pam Tyska. “It is a large hitting area and large green which can accommodate NIU players and members.”
The women’s team plays its qualifying rounds at Kishwaukee and the men also use the course for practice. Both teams will use the short-game practice facility. Even though the men’s team calls Rich Harvest Farms home, a Golf Digest Top 100 Course, the proximity to campus makes the facility at Kish a valuable practice asset for assistant coach Kyle Murphy.
“We have Rich Harvest Farms,” Murphy said. “But you know how it is trying to get college kids to drive more than five minutes.”
The facility started as a storage space for Kishwaukee superintendent Jeff Host during a bunker renovation program, but has taken on many entities in a short period of time.
Originally an abandoned tree nursery just north of the 18th fairway, Hoste was piling up soil when he realized there was ample space for a nursery green. Eventually Hoste saw a home for a practice facility. With a financial boost from NIU, he was able to begin the fun part of his job.
“If I came to work and mowed grass everyday it would be a ho-hum job,” Hoste said. “They gave me some artistic license with the practice area and I put my stamp on it.”
The practice facility was seeded late last fall and was ready for use in mid-July. All winter and spring an orange snow fence surrounded the young grass, erected to keep out animals and people.
It served its purpose. But in turn the Kish members and staffers were like restless children unable to sleep on Christmas Eve because the lure of unopened presents created too much anticipation.
So when mid-July arrived, Hoste was finally unable to unwrap the present for all the members and the Huskies.
Because Kishwaukee was built in 1901 the original architects didn’t have the technological advancements available to today’s superintendents. Over the years some greens have been tweaked, updated and replanted. The course has some greens that are 105 years old and some that are 40 years old.
That gave Hoste an additional challenge. He had to make a practice facility mix similar to the on-course conditions.
“In 1901 they brought out a plow on a horse, made a big pile of dirt and threw some grass seed on top of it and that was fine,” Hoste said.“What we did was also make the green here similar to the course so pieces of it could be used to replace any damage done to greens or fairways on the course.”
It is a trip down memory lane for Kishwaukee PGA Professional David Paeglow when collegiate golfers walk amidst the tall, stately trees that line the fairways as they head to the practice facility. Paeglow has worked junior clinics with NIU golfers acting as teaching assistants and has enjoyed the partnership that has emerged with NIU.
“I played college golf so it brings me back to my college days where I would go to class and then come out to the course to practice, go to meets and go through qualifiers,” Paeglow said. “That challenge of judging schoolwork and practice is exciting.”
For Kishwaukee General Manager Dennis Fisher, having the Huskies on the course also ensures the well being of the business he has worked in for the last 15 years.
“This is the future,” Fisher said. “These are the individuals that will carry on the game and the industry. It is exciting to have them out here.”
NIU senior associate athletics director Tim McMurray said the premier facilities that are available for Huskies’ golfers are amongst the best in the Mid-American Conference. It is an important practice tool and recruiting chip. With the search for a men’s golf coach under way, the facilities are a tempting bonus.
“This gives us the opportunity to be dialed in to the needs of our student athletes and the members here,” McMurray said. “Our access to facilities is a difference maker, Rich Harvest Farms is a legit top 50 course. Kish has embrace both golf teams, we also use Whisper Creek and with two DeKalb Park District courses available that gives us access to five very different excellent golf facilities. For a MAC program that is very good.
“Basically, it is a simple business model; reinvest in your consumers and our No. 1 consumer is out student athletes. When they are out here smiling, chipping and working on their short game that means we are doing something right.”
“We updated, renovated or created new practice or competitive space for all our athletic teams,” Tyska said. “It drains great and receives balls well. For the short life it has had so far it is a hardy and well-seasoned facility.”