Chicago Golf Club, Glen View Club and Olympia Fields Country Club have hosted six U.S. Opens, twelve USGA events in total (including the upcoming 2015 U.S. Amateur at Olympia Fields), two PGA’s and five Western Opens. Olympia Fields has the added bonus of two championship courses. On our recent visit to each club, it was quite apparent that all three continue to thrive and each course presents a wonderful golf experience.
At Chicago Golf Club in the western Chicago suburb of Wheaton, a quiet ambiance belies a serous test of golf beyond the greeting edifice of C.B. Macdonald. After paying our respects at the tatue of the 1895 U.S. Amateur Champion (at Newport C.C.), we strode to the first tee and surveyed the largely treeless track that revealed a wild golf landscape. Despite Midwestern flat features, it was clear from the start that Chicago Golf Club maximizes its slope, rises and dips. In particular the bold use of wicked false fronts, dramatic drop offs surrounding greens and subtly difficult green surfaces combine to challenge the finest shotmakers. With a steady 25 mile per hour wind sailing across the course, the golfer had to measure the shot and think through the consequences of a strike into, down and across the whipping whisks.
The maxim of Chicago Golf is “Far and Sure” and this apothegm is apparent on the 450 yard first, the 481 yard second (both par-4’s) and the 219 yard par-3 third. Valley, Road and Biaritz are a taxing trio right out of the gate, yet they are great holes and the audacious authorship of these openers can be traced to the incomparable Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald. The best laugh of the day occurs on the fourth tee when after surviving some eleven hundred yards in the first three holes with combined par of 11, the score card reveals that the #1 handicap hole awaits. Fortunately, it’s a par-5 and is a marvelous hole. The front nine meanders around the perimeter of the property and the murderous green complexes make Pete Dye’s creations look downright benign. Our host putted off the fifth hole and the 7th hole presented a seventy foot putt up a fifteen foot false front across a tilting surface to a back left pin, all better understood knowing its the Redan par three template transported from North Berwick.
The back nine at Chicago Golf is a stimulating mix of yardages and pars. Again, wind and terrain demand advance planning, most especially from the back tee on the downwind par three thirteenth known as Eden. The derivation of “eden” is form the imaging of the shoreline of the Eden River behind St. Andrew’s 11th green and Raynor & Macdonald made sure that Chicago Golf honored its history and added difficulty. The Shalley/Cockleshell bunker short right grabbed Ben, the Eden Bunker George the Hail bunker our host and Geoff wide right. In the end, no 3’s at Eden. In the final loop, it’s Raynor’s Prize, Double Plateau and Home and each is a terrific trial. Similar to National Golf Links, Chicago Golf is a primer on the golden age of golf architecture and provides lasting memories of classic design features.