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Sunset Valley Golf Club in Highland Park, Illinois


Jacobson Re-Opens Sunset Valley Golf Club

By Brian Weis

The re-opening of Sunset Valley Golf Club in Highland Park, Illinois concludes a summer in which the work of golf course architect Rick Jacobson has been featured prominently in top professional and amateur tournament settings.

Jacobson's 18-hole renovation of Sunset Valley succeeded in re-establishing the course's original 1920's architectural style while making infrastructure and design improvements essential to its continued vitality for decades to come.

"The goal in renovating Sunset Valley was to restore the beauty and challenge of the original layout while addressing practical issues such as stormwater management, improving playability for a broad spectrum of golfers, and upgrading playing surfaces," Jacobson said.

Golfers immediately will notice visual changes to the course, which now has a unique British Heathland aesthetic characterized by a combination of links and parkland-style golf courses with wide vistas, flowing masses of native grasses, and strategic landforms, he said.

Players also will notice expanded multiple teeing areas aimed at accommodating various levels of golfers, contoured greens with more strategic pin placement zones, and undulating fairways (no longer flat) designed both to efficiently move water off the playing surface after storm events and give the course a subtle flowing characteristic, he said.

In the 1920s and '30s, Sunset Valley hosted the North Shore Open, which featured legendary players, such as Walter Hagen, Tommy Armour and Jock Hutchinson. Horton Smith played in the 1931 North Shore Open, three years prior to becoming the first player to win The Masters in 1934.

This summer, five Jacobson courses - either original designs or major renovations - hosted tournaments, including:

* Kemper Lakes Golf Club in Kildeer, Illinois (renovation/Dick Nugent-Ken Killian) - hosted the Women's PGA Championship, an LPGA major title won by Sung-Hyun Park in a sudden death playoff;

* Sei Young Kim won the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic at Thornberry Creek golf course in Oneida, Wisconsin, a Jacobson original design near Green Bay;

* Sunset Ridge Country Club (renovation/William Diddel) - host of this year's Western Amateur championship won by Cole Hammer.

* Ibaraki Kokusai Golf Club in Osaka, Japan, host of the Japan LPGA's T-Point Ladies Golf Tournament

* In addition, North Shore Country Club (renovation/Harry Colt & Charles Alison), host of the 2011 Western Amateur and three subsequent PGA Tour Champions events, reopened this summer after all 18 greens were reconstructed to USGA specifications and all bunkers were reconstructed to visually reflect the design character of 1920's golf course architecture.

"Whether designing a new course or renovating an older one, our philosophy is to give the course a dynamic 'look' while giving it the kind of flexibility it needs to accommodate beginners, mid-to high handicap golfers as well as professionals and scratch players," Jacobson said. "It's easy to make a golf course difficult for the average player. The challenge is to make it a strong test for the best golfers and fun for everyone else."

During his career, Jacobson has renovated Ridgemoor Country Club in Chicago; Glen Oak Country Club in Glen Ellyn, Illinois; Oak Park CC in River Grove, Illinois.; Des Moines G&CC in West Des Moines, Iowa., in preparation for the 1999 U.S. Senior Open; Cantigny Golf in Wheaton, Illinois., in preparation for the U.S. Public Links.

Jacobson also has designed a number of highly-praised courses across the United States, including local courses such as Bowes Creek CC in Elgin, Illinois and Strawberry Creek in Kenosha, Wisconsin. In recent years, he has been one of the more prolific American golf course architects working in China.

Prior to starting his own firm, Jacobson worked for several years with Florida-based Jack Nicklaus Golf Services. Jacobson was involved in some of the Golden Bear's best-known courses, including PGA West-Private & Resort in LaQuinta, California; The Club at Nevillewood outside Pittsburgh; Wynstone near Chicago; English Turn in New Orleans, former home of the PGA TOUR's annual New Orleans event; Desert Mountain-Renegade Course in Scottsdale, Arizona, and others.

A native of Glenview, Illinois, Jacobson received his degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He has served on the board of governors for the American Society of Golf Course Architects and is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects. For more information visit

Revised: 08/29/2018 - Article Viewed 2,038 Times - View Golf Course Profile

About: Brian Weis

Brian Weis Brian Weis is the Publisher of, a network of golf travel and directory sites including,,,, etc. Professionally, Brian is a member of the Golf Writers Association of America (GWAA), International Network of Golf (ING), Golf Travel Writers of America (GTWA), International Golf Travel Writers Association (IGTWA) and The Society of Hickory Golfers (SoHG). In 2016, Brian won The Shaheen Cup, an award given to a golf travel writer by his peers.

All of his life, Brian has been around the game of golf. As a youngster, Brian competed at all levels in junior and high school golf. Brian had a zero chance for a college golf scholarship, so he worked on the grounds crew at West Bend Country Club to pay for his University of Wisconsin education. In his adult years, his passion for the game collided with his entrepreneurial spirit and in 2004 launched In 2007, the idea for a network of local golf directory sites formed and was born. Today, the network consists of a site in all 50 states supported by national sites like, and It is an understatement to say, Brian is passionate about promoting golf and golf travel on a local, regional, national and international level.

On the golf course, Brian is known as a fierce weekend warrior that fluctuates between a 5-9 handicap. With a soft fade, known as "The Weis Slice", and booming 300+ drives, he can blast it out of bounds with the best of them.

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