1920s Era & Travis Phillips
The first golfers at the Phillips Park Golf Course hit the links on the hilly 9, back in the mid 1920s. The original 60 acres for the park were donated to the city by the estate of Travis Phillips in 1899. Phillips had served as Mayor and as an Alderman in Aurora and was also a downtown merchant.
The hilly area consisted of several wooded coves and lagoons that had been used for picnics and family outings as far back as 1835. It was known as "Scharsburg's Woods" in the 1860s, and as "Sharp Shooter Park" in the 1870s when it featured a beer garden, a shooting range, and a vineyard, followed by Evan's Parks in the mid 1880s when attractions included a dance hall and a refreshment hall, and then as City Park in 1899. Residents commonly referred to it as Phillips Park, prior to it being officially named so by the City Council in 1902.
New Deal Program
By 1915 the property was expanded through the purchase of a 40-acre grove, northeast of the original property. This acreage was earmarked for the development of a 9-hole golf course that took place in the mid 1920s. During the Depression in 1934, the Civilian Conservation Corps undertook improvements to the golf course as part of the "New Deal" program to combat unemployment.
Building & Expansion
A Beacon article, dated September 11th, 1938, titled, "Start 200 Men Tomorrow On Park Project," explained how the WPA improvement project was going to spend the $189,000 allotted for the project by both the government and the city. It also noted that park employees tore down the old golf course the week prior. In a statement issued by Mayor Harry B. Warner, he indicated that approximately $44,000 would be used to rebuild the golf course, which would consist of re-grading the greens, enlarging the tees, providing clay tees at each grass tee, and rearranging traps with the idea of dividing the fairways, to make playing at the park a little safer, as well as planting trees at the back of the tees and in general to beautify the course. After the expansion, the course encompassed 100 acres that included 80 acres of fairway and 20 acres of rough, with a clubhouse.
The course remained much the same until 1996, when the Aurora City Council approved $1.1 million for the purchase of 25 more acres for further course expansion. But it wasn't until the fall of 1999 that major improvements to the course began.
Modernization & New Features
The course, designed by Greg Martin, who was born and raised in Aurora, officially opened to the public on Saturday, July 14, 2001. The 18-hole course now boasted modern features like "USGA" Greens, a computerized irrigation system, multiple tees, larger greens, better overall drainage systems, strategically placed bunkers and water hazards, cart paths, a driving range and new clubhouse, as well as a 3-hole Junior Course, resulting in a quality championship caliber golf course. The new driving range has both "All Weather Teeing Surface" for inclement weather and a massive grass tee for a more realistic feel. With 3 sets of tees, the golf course ranges from 4,760 yards to 6,200 yards, providing a wide range of challenge for varying abilities.