A little more than a year ago McKendree University purchased a neighboring golf course.
It was a move that caused folks in the community to scratch their heads. What would a private school want, after all, with the aging links?
People don't need to worry about the fate of the former Locust Hills any longer. McKendree has poured about $350,000 into sprucing up the course and completely renovating the clubhouse and the course now known simply as The Hills.
It's an investment university president Jim Dennis said should benefit students, faculty, golfers and the Lebanon community for years to come.
"I certainly hope that it's well received," Dennis said of the work that has been done at the course. "We're trying hard to make it more appealing and more attractive, more playable. The clubhouse and the course itself needed quite a bit of love and care. There was certainly a lot to do."
Sally Collins, general manager and director of The Hills, said the course dates back 80 years.
"It's been added onto quite a few times," Collins said. "But the original course dates back to 1931 and it has a very loyal following."
Built as a nine-hole course, it was expanded to 18 along the way. Many of its fairways and greens were sculpted into the rolling hills of what were once orchards.
Collins said longtime patrons will appreciate the complete overhaul of the clubhouse, which got new carpeting, a lot of paint, new furniture and televisions and a remolded back deck overlooking the course.
They hope the space not only will be a spot where golfers will hang out between rounds, but that it will be an attractive space that can be rented out for parties and meetings.
On the course they'll notice that the brush and trees have been cut back to not only make the course more picturesque --- but also to make it play more cleanly.
A golf cart bridge on the eighth hole has been rebuilt as has a foot bridge on the fifth. Below the surface, improvements to the course irrigation system will make it stand up better to the hot summer months.
While the course is open for play, school leaders are planning a big grand opening weekend. But rain has slowed the work, so the exact date of the festivities has not been set.
Dennis said the main idea behind the purchase of the golf course property was to secure neighboring land to allow for growth in the distant future. But for the foreseeable future, the course makes a nice selling point for prospective students and faculty members.
"We offer student discounts and discounts for faculty and staff," Dennis said. "The course also allows us to give students opportunities to work in golf course management and to employ students in a variety or roles. We're still feeling our way to see what we can offer. But the opportunities are almost endless."
In addition to practice opportunities for McKendree's golf team members, the course is used by cross country runners to get their hill work in and its ponds are used by biology students to study the water ecosystem.
And, of course, the links make a nice attraction for prospective students or faculty members who like to hit the links in their free time.
Collins said students can purchase a $50 season pass that allows them to play as much as they want all year.
The public can play 18 holes walking for $18 on a weekday or $27 on weekends. To rent a golf cart costs an additional $12.
"If golfers liked it before, we think they're going to love what we've done with it," Collins said.