In the spring of 1999, ThunderHawk Golf Club in Beach Park, Illinois, took its place alongside Prairie Landing (in West Chicago) and Crystal Tree (in Orland Park) as the culminating member of an exceptional trio of Robert Trent Jones II-designed golf courses in the greater Chicago area. ThunderHawk is the flagship course for the Lake County Forest Preserve District, a venerable park system first conceived by Frederick Law Olmsted, the founding figure in American landscape design and the intellectual grandfather of golf course architecture. We balanced the financial strategies of this public agency with the creative benefits of professional design to mold a trio of courses that are imaginative and appropriate to their sites.
ThunderHawk occupies former farmland, a large site (243 acres) dotted with remnant forests and groves of oak and hickory. RTJ II's plans called for planting more than 1,000 trees on a total of 17 acres, a complement to the creation of 15 acres of wetlands on areas once drained for farming. The golf course also has expansive practice facilities, and the overall plan sets aside 57 acres for native prairie where switchgrass, Indian grass and big bluestem thrive. Wildlife from butterflies to birds to hawks-of course-also thrive in these restored habitats.
From the moment of its ribbon cutting, ThunderHawk has received rave reviews from the discriminating press and the golfing public. Not only has the course been acclaimed environmentally, it has provided exceptionally enjoyable golf for players of every skill level. As one golf writer said, "no two holes even remotely resemble each other, another plus in my book, and the design doesn't favor any particular type of player."