While visiting the Chicago area, preparing for the 2012
Ryder Cup, The Back Nine had the opportunity to visit a couple of the finest
public golf facilities in Chicago. As
golf crazy as Chicago is, there seem to be no shortage of high end Public Golf
Facilities so delivering on the promise of an exceptional experience can be a
challenge. Well the two properties we
visited, on recommendations from locals, certainly delivered.
Bolingbrook Golf Club, located about 30 minutes Southwest of
Downtown Chicago offers a true private club experience, while allowing for
public play. The enormous clubhouse is a
beautiful back drop for the large practice facility that has hitting areas on
both sides for their golf academy.
The golf course is very open giving an appearance of being
wide open, but the well maintained rough is definitely thick enough to provide
a challenge if you miss the bent grass fairways. The strength of the golf course, despite its
overall great condition is the greens and surrounds. Many of the greens have tightly mown fall off
areas that gather slightly missed approach shots and can make up and downs
challenging, but do provide options including putting up steep slopes.
My favorite holes include the short par-4 6th
that gives you a lot of options off the tee.
With the right wind conditions the green could be reachable, but it is
well protected in front and right and water down the entire left side of the
hole. A laid up tee shot is no bargain
with 4 well placed bunkers including one in the middle of the fairway that
would make your 2nd shot extremely tough.
The Par-3ís are very strong despite only one playing over
165 yards from the Blue Tees. The 4th
hole played only 125 yards for us but the front right pin tucked over the
bunker make it nearly impossible to get a shot close. The 8th hole played about 150
yards, but with a strong tail wind you almost had to hit the front of the green
to stay short of the back right pin.
With the deep bail out area to the right of the green up and down was no
bargain. The Par-3 13th was
by far the longest playing almost 200 yards and with water down the entire
right side, bailing out left seemed safe.
Probably the signature hole at Bolingbrook is the Par-3 15th,
an island hole playing about 140 yards for us.
Better get the club selection correct because the down-hill, down-wind
and very firm green can be tough to hold if you fly the ball pin high.
Despite the heat in the mid-West during our visit,
Bolingbrook was in outstanding shape thanks to Golf Course Superintendent Jeff
Gerdes, which is a huge plus for the members and regulars in the area. Finding a property with the dedication to
providing outstanding playing conditions, regardless of the weather is a
special thing to find.
Learn more at www.bolingbrookgolfclub.com
The next morning we had the privilege of heading into what
seemed like a secluded forest in suburban Chicago at Cantigny. Cantigny Golf Club is the centerpiece of the
former estate of Colonel Robert R. McCormick, long time editor of the Chicago
Tribune. In addition to the 27 hole
layout, complete with a 9 hole youth links and full practice facility, the area
includes 2 museums, Cantigny Park and the McCormick Foundation.
Cantigny is a beautifully tree lined course that will catch
almost all errant tee shots and well protected greens that make getting up and
down a challenge. The greens were in
magnificent shape as a result of the hard work by Superintendent, Scott Witte,
and his crew that were out all day watering greens to keep them in perfect
shape throughout the round.
We played the Woodside and Hillside nineís. The Woodside has several distinct holes
including the Par-5, 2nd hole with a creek down the right side and
an interesting layup choice on your 2nd shot. You can play safe and layup to about 140
yards short of the creek or play more aggressively across the creek to a
smaller area, leaving a short wedge into the hole. The creek also protects the front right of
the green, making going for the green in two only for the really long
hitters. The Par-4, 5th was
recently redesigned bringing the water down the right side of the fairway in
play all the way to the green. I laid
well back with an iron off the tee and paid the price by having 190 yards left
to the green. The Par-3, 8th
is nearly an island green and with the pin placement in the front for us, your
approach shot had to be precise or risk three putting from the back of the
The Hillside nine as it sounds has less water than the other
two courses but that does not make it any easier. The 3rd hole is not a long par-4
at just 360 yards but you must avoid the huge hillside and multiple fairway
bunkers on the right edge of the fairway or a big number is in store as I found
out the hard way. The Par-4, 6th
hole is visually intimidating with water left and right of the fairway, but if
you can realize the fairway is very ample it becomes a much easier tee
shot. Again navigating water to a very
deep green (double green with the 8th hole of the Woodside Nine),
your distance control with your approach is crucial to having a reasonable
birdie putt or 2 putt par. One of the
most beautiful holes on the Hillside nine was the Par-5, 7th. Not so much because of the setting but the
uniquely undulating fairway that plays up hill on the tee shot and then back
down towards the green. Leave your 2nd
shot in the right place or getting close to the pin can be impossible.
Cantigny is a prime example of what is great about the game,
an atmosphere that is both kid friendly and first rate for a business meeting
and round. The golf course is fair but
challenging and will test every club in the bag if you play the right tee box
and the staff could not have been more welcoming during our entire experience,
from the Marshalls, that actually monitor the pace of play, to the cart and
Learn more at www.cantignygolf.com.