Duo developing master plan for former U.S. Women’s Open site

ASGCA members Todd Quitno and Nathan Crace are combining to develop renovation options at Merit Club north of Chicago. The club, which hosted the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open where Karrie Webb won the first of her two consecutive Open titles, commissioned Quitno and Crace earlier this month to begin the work of creating a master plan starting in December of this year.

The course, which also hosted the 2016 UL International Crown Championship, was designed by Bob Lohmann and opened in 1992.

“It’s a great layout,” Quitno said. “Bob did an especially great job with the routing; but like so many other courses that are now 20 to 30 years old, we’re seeing clients wanting to investigate options to renovate bunkers, add tees and evaluate green surfaces.”

Crace added: “Merit Club has great bones and a wonderful routing on a tremendous piece of land. We want to maximize the potential that already exists. What Todd and I have discussed with the club is more akin to a facelift than full reconstructive surgery.”

According to the pair, the master planning work will focus on bunkers, tees, greens and how those features can be improved for today’s golfers. They will also develop a tree management strategy, investigate irrigation needs and upgrades, look at possible options to expand green surrounds, and realign some hole angles that have changed as a result of advances in club and ball technology.

“We look forward to Todd and Nathan getting started,” said director of golf Don Pieper, who has been at Merit Club since the club first opened. “We met with them twice and were impressed with their professionalism and understanding of what we’re looking to do. They have some great ideas and an eye for detail that really impressed me.”

No timeline has been established yet for any actual construction work to be done on the course, which is maintained by longtime director of grounds John Nelson and team.  

“We don’t want to get ahead of ourselves,” Quitno said. “To the club’s credit, they’ve asked us to take the necessary time and do our due diligence in ensuring that the best interests of the club and its members remain the top priority.”

“And we wouldn’t have it any other way,” Crace added. “We look forward to getting started.”

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