Looking for a course? Golf guide is online

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The Evergreen Country Club, which had been open the last 87 springs, is closed for business. | Tim Cronin~Sun-Times Media

Online golf Guide

To access the SouthtownStar’s golf guide, visit SouthtownStar.com or http://specialsections.suntimes.com/sports/golf/4136671-555/golf-guide.html

For the last 87 springs, there was one sure thing in the area golf scene.

With next to no fanfare, Babe Ahern’s Evergreen Country Club would be open for business.

Not this year.

Ahern died Dec. 12, only a few weeks after selling the 95-acre course to the Sterling Bay development group for $7.5 million.

At the time, Ahern, who sold the property on Nov. 16, her 103rd birthday, was optimistic that golf would be played at Evergreen this year. “Happy,” she called herself.

Then she died.

It appears the course will die with her.

A visit to the course by a reporter on Friday found nobody there. The lights at the clubhouse door were on, as were the porch lights to Ahern’s residence, on the east side of the parking lot. But there were no workers on the course or at the maintenance building near the railroad tracks that bisect the course. The flimsy gate leading to that building was locked.

And the course’s telephone was disconnected. A call to Sterling Bay was not returned.

If Evergreen does open this year, it’ll take some time to get it in playable shape.

The only life on the course was wildlife. A goose was nibbling at grass on what was for years the 11th fairway. Another goose stalked the 10th green. A branch served as a flagstick on the ninth green. The 11th green appeared to have been all but washed away by the severe winter. Several branches were scattered about the landscape. At least one tree was down along 91st Street.

For the time being, users of the SouthtownStar’s online golf guide still can click on Evergreen, one of about 250 courses from the greater Chicago metropolitan area listed. Just don’t expect to make a tee time. If the course opens, the listing will be revised.

Every other course in the guide is open, or will be in a matter of days. As has been the case the last few years, prices have generally held steady. The combination of the Great Recession and the weakness in the golf market has made the public game a buyer’s market, with earlier twilight times and other specials commonplace. Many courses also have temporary spring rates in place. Our guide lists the summer rates, so check courses for bargains.

Only the absolute top of the upscale courses, from Cog Hill’s Dubsdread, where new superintendent Scott Pavalko takes over today, to Erin Hills in Wisconsin, where the U.S. Amateur will be held in August and the U.S. Open in 2017, have been able to hold the line on prices. In Erin Hills’ case, its price has increased to $200. Dubsdread remains $155.

The online guide is a work in progress. Some courses were unsure of their 2011 summer rates. Those facilities will be updated as developments warrant.