Fourth generation owners makes Oak Hills Country Club
By JORDAN GRUCZA
Enquirer Democrat Reporter
Oak Hills Country Club and Winery of Girard has always had a McLean involved since its opening in 1924. It began as Oak Leaf. Before it closed its doors in 2017, it was known as Oak Leaf Country Club, a semi-private venue owned by members. Those members approached Pat McLean, great-grandson of one of the club’s original founders, to keep the venue going.
“Considering its history, it just made sense,” said McLean.
Oak Hills has been a Girard tradition for nearly a century, and Pat and Kristi McLean both want to remain faithful to the original venue while at the same time providing something new and unique to Girard and Macoupin County. The original clubhouse remains standing, but has undergone renovations and extended the structure to accommodate a full bar, and new windows give guests a better view of the golf course, pond and towering catalpa tree, as well as some of the vineyard with its 500 grape vines. The catalpa tree boasts an explosion of white blossoms for a brief period at this time of year, making the entire deck area an inviting place to relax and meet with friends and family, as well as dine from variety of options from the full service restaurant, with dishes prepared under the creative and visionary Chef Josh Gosmann.
The McLeans have also opened up access to the golf course to the general public, with golf and fishing memberships available. Since taking ownership of the venue last spring, the McLeans have nurtured an inclusive and family-oriented ambiance. Upcoming children’s events include a drive, chip and putt contest as well as a fishing tournament. A Kids’ League will be available to children from 4th to 12th grade beginning June 10 with a one-time payment of $20. It offers six weeks of play, meets on Monday mornings and is open to the public.
Seasonal activities include a Halloween party and sledding in the winter.
“We love kids here,” said P. McLean. “We’ve got some ourselves.”
“Back in the day, this was a pretty hopping place,” said K. McLean. “Underneath there were locker rooms that were just packed. I had friends who grew up here and just hang out all day. Their kids would swim, the parents would golf or have drinks.”
After a year of business, offering a lovely view for a round of golf, outstanding cuisine, and much more, the McLeans are well on their way to bringing back this tradition.
The golf course
Oak Hills offers a 9-hole golf course open to the public with 28 golf carts available for guests. New grass has been planted on the course, with tee boxes covered in zoysia, a warm weather grass tolerant of heat, droughts and heavy foot traffic.
Guests are greeted with a new and vibrant cherry-wood countertop when they walk toward the extended east section of the clubhouse. As well as regularly offering a full bar, Oak Hills holds a bloody mary bar every Sunday, and boasts a unique wine selection, including labels from California and one from Australia.
“You can’t get these in stores around here,” said P. McLean.
While the property is surrounded in a vineyard, P. McLean says they were planted a year ago, and expects to have their own wine available in three years. The grapes themselves are of the Marquette variety, which he says are good for making pinot noir.
Among the menu items are a smoked chicken flatbread, cajun chicken egg rolls with a homemade honey mustard sauce, clam linguine, and steak and spinach tortellini alfredo. Dessert includes creme brulee and deep-fried chocolate chip cookie dough.
“Everything is homemade,” said K. McLean. “Everything is fresh, steaks are hand-cut and all chicken and pork is smoked in-house.”
If guests run into Chef Gosmann, they will find someone who is passionate and enthusiastic to show you what you and your taste buds will find to be a work of art.
Adding to the family-friendly nature of the place, kids menu items are also offered, with games available for while the young ones wait for their meals.
In addition to the promise of house-made wine in the future, the McLeans are working on a patio area with fire pits and an area for bands. Bands already play in the bar area every weekend, but soon the entertainment will come with the beautiful view of the golf course.
Near the site for the patio there will be the addition of a reception hall. If guests cannot wait for its arrival, Oak Hills already offers its venue for weddings.
Finally, there may be a possibility of more than fishing at the pond.
“We may have water sports in the works,” said K. McLean. “Kayaking and that kind of thing.”
While the McLeans have faced the challenges of keeping up with running a country club in its first year, it is clear in the way they roam the venue and talk about its history that they are quite happy to be here, and even happier to see guests walk through the doors.
It is a lovely time of year to visit Oak Hills, but for those who can’t make it in the coming weeks, they won’t want to miss an event the club is already famous for.
“We throw a monster Fourth of July party,” said P. McLean. “That’s probably my biggest memory of running this place so far.”
An expansive view of the pond is visible from the outside deck of the Oak Hills Country Club and Winery. Enquirer Democrat Photo by Jordan Grucza.
Address: 18698 Country Club Rd
Girard, Illinois 62640
Phone: (217) 627-4103
Restaurant Hours: Tuesday 11-2;
Wednesday & Thursday 11-2 & 4-8;
Friday, Saturday & Sunday 11-9;