Two years ago, Stone Creek Golf Course closed to the public for an unprecedented renovation project. Saturday morning’s unveiling of the new and improved course marks “a new era” in Illinois golf programs, according to athletic director Josh Whitman.
The project began in 2020, when the Atkins Group donated more than 300 acres of real estate, including the Stone Creek Golf Course, to Illinois Athletics, an estimated donation of $15 million. Due to the high value of the donation, the course was renamed by Illini Athletics to Atkins Golf Club.
Atkins Golf Club will host both Illinois golf programs in the future and has been specially renovated to aid the success of both teams. The course has been lengthened to around 7,500 metres, from its previous length of 7,100 metres, allowing for better and more satisfying practice.
The men’s team was so excited to practice that they played a game behind closed doors on Wednesday, trying the course for the first time.
“When they were done, they were floored,” Illinois men’s golf head coach Mike Small said Friday. “They were so excited about the challenge this golf course is going to present and the condition it is going to be maintained in.”
Another renovation that golf teams are excited about is the new team lounge in the clubhouse, which is exclusive to both men’s and women’s teams. A touch that didn’t exist before, the dedicated lounge can go further than people think.
“We’re going to have a spring event here next year and have a place where we can hang out and have team meetings; it’s a big deal,” Small said. “It will help current players, but also future players in recruitment.”
In addition, the renovation of the course also brought a new look. Replacing the old bunker sand, there is now gleaming white sand surrounding the fairways and greens, giving the course a luxurious feel.
The greens are also set to look even brighter with a new irrigation system fitted to each hole, helping to create more consistent play and maintain this world-class facility.
Saturday’s grand opening marks the beginning of this new chapter in the history of Illinois golf programs. The ability to host events opens up new opportunities for training and competition, as one of the best university courses now exists at Urbana
“We weren’t interested in a C-level golf course,” Whitman said. “If we weren’t able to do it at a high level, then there was really no advantage for them.”