Metro-East News

Tamarack Golf Course still teeing off 50 years later

Steve Liter, general manager and PGA Pro at Tamarack Golf Course in Shiloh. Tamarack is coming up on its 50th anniversary, with several planned events to recognize the event.
Steve Liter, general manager and PGA Pro at Tamarack Golf Course in Shiloh. Tamarack is coming up on its 50th anniversary, with several planned events to recognize the event. News-Democrat

Tamarack Golf Course has sprawled and flourished from humble origins that continues to thrive five decades later.

Named for the only tree that grew there, the once clay-covered farmland sports a more scenic landscape of grassy greens and fairways, numerous trees, sand traps and ponds.

The Shiloh golf course began as a vision of businessmen who just wanted a place to play. Bill Adrian’s father, also named Bill who worked as a business manager for Local 101 Plumbers and Pipefitters, partnered with Bud Dahm, a mechanical plumber and heating contractor, and Leo Lubkuecher, a sheet metal contractor, to bring 21 other stockholders together to form the corporation that would fund and create the golf course.

Adrian said each stockholder invested $5,000. He remembers visiting the farmland with his father, who helped negotiate the terms of the sale.

“It was in the clubhouse, where the farmhouse originally was,” Adrian said. “I remember it very vividly. That would have been in 1964, when they bought the property, then they later developed and brought in the well-known Pete Dye.”

Today, at 89, Pete Dye remains a renowned designer of golf courses that are known for their unique landscaping and pedigrees. The venues that he has designed have hosted several professional golf’s championships.

In the early 1960s, he was getting his start in the golf course design business. In 1961, along with Belleville-native and PGA champion Bob Goalby, Dye designed Yorktown Golf Course, also in Shiloh.

Tamarack Golf Course General Manager and PGA professional Steve Liter (pronounced like “lighter”) has overseen the metro-east golf course for the past four years. Liter has worked in the golf industry for 40 years and has played and managed his share of signature golf course designs, including his most recent position at Stone Wolf Golf Club in Fairview Heights, which opened in 1996 and was designed by pro golf legend Jack Nicklaus.

Liter said Dye, who lives in Indiana and still designs golf courses to this day throughout the country, was paid $4,000 for his sketched plans of what would become Tamarack Golf Course. Dye’s hand-drawn layout still hangs in a frame inside the Tamarack’s clubhouse. Dye is paid about $2 million per course today, Liter said, but still creates his prototypes by hand. Adrian still has the original letters his father and Dye exchanged when they were plotting out the course.

Tamarack has all of the distinct features of a Dye-designed course with its sand traps and water hazards lying amid each of the uniquely contoured and landscaped greens and fairways. No two holes are the same. Each varies in distance and difficulty, from as short as an 117-yard par 3 on Tamarack’s 17th hole to as far as the 525-yard-long par 5 on the course’s fourth hole.

“It has a nice variety of older mature trees and a lot of the modern-day courses, which they call link-style courses, do not have that kind of character,” Liter said. “I think the traditional golfer finds Tamarack more suitable for them.”

Tamarack Golf Course opened on June 12, 1965, as a semi-private venue. The 18-hole course is still open to the public but maintains 15 paying memberships.

Denny Luehder, 74, lives in the neighborhood that surrounds the 125-acre golf course, where he has been playing since 1966. The retiree, who once owned and operated Luehder Auto Supply at 17th and West Main streets in Belleville, said he remembers the course being barren and void of little landscaping when he first teed off 49 years ago.

“When I started playing here, there weren’t any trees,” Luehder said. “They probably planted 95 percent of the trees that are on this golf course now. Back then, you’d hit a golf ball and it would probably roll about 100 yards, because it was clay. There wasn’t a lot of grass.”

The clubhouse remains mostly the way it looked the day it opened in 1965, and the layout that Dye created also remains the same, with a few enhancements along the way. About 15 years ago, zoysia grass was planted in fairways about 15 years ago in place of the original blue rye mixture to provide a better playing surface. A new golf cart shed is under construction after a fire destroyed 70 golf carts and the building two months ago.

“The golf course has stood the test of time,” Liter said. “For the modern golfers who play this, the greens could be an example for a lot of the modern-day greens they build today. So Dye was really ahead of his time.”

The metro-east golf course has remained competitive in an industry that has become over saturated. Liter said more golf courses have closed than have opened within the last five years. About 31,000 rounds of golf are played each year at Tamarack, which has endured and remained a course anyone can play.

“Compared to a lot of the modern-day courses that have been built, Tamarack is not really difficult,” Liter said. “One of the problems in recent years is that the newer built golf courses are so difficult and so hard that they don’t get a lot of repeat business. I think that has helped Tamarack stand the test of time, because it is a course that all levels of golfers can play and enjoy. If I was going to invest my money in a golf course operation, it would be this one, a facility like Tamarack, because it is not so difficult to maintain.”

Tamarack still has a couple of the original 24 stockholders in place as well as their children, who serve as second-generation board members.

“You don’t see many facilities like this stay in business this long,” Liter said. “For this group to have the original stockholders as the owners, it’s pretty unique, really.”

Adrian has served on the board and said that like him, others from the next generation have maintained the golf course.

“A lot of stockholders had children (who) became avid golfers and mainstays here,” he said. “We played a lot of golf on that golf course. There were quite a few young boys who grew up and played golf at Tamarack. It created a lot of good memories and created a lot of good amateur golfers, and so many young children were given the opportunity to play at Tamarack.”

“Obviously, the ownership has made a lot of good, sound business decisions over the years,” Liter said. “And they have treated people fairly, because when you have golfers that have played for many, many years, that’s a hallmark of the strong ownership and good management practices.”

The golf course will celebrate its 50th anniversary on Saturday with a golf tournament and banquet.

Contact reporter Will Buss at wbuss@bnd.com or 618-239-2526.

Tamaradck Golf Course 50th Anniversary

Where: 800 Tamarack Lane in Shiloh

When: Golf tournament begins at 1 p.m. Saturday. Dinner and awards banquet to follow.

More info: Call 618-632-6666 or email tamarack@wisperhome.com

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