From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:
I’ve long been a fan of Medinah Country Club and everything about it. Its clubhouse, its friendly membership, its helpful staff and especially its golf. I think Course No. 3 is a true championship test of golf, a complete examination of one’s game with a lot more variety in shot values than most give it credit. I also think what Tom Doak did in rearranging Course No. 1 was exceptional.
I must admit that until 2017 I had never played Medinah No. 2. A friend, who was a Medinah member and sponsored me for several rounds there, always referred to No. 2 as the “ladies course,” implying it was short and without challenge, and in those days, I took him at his word. But then it was announced that Rees Jones and his associate Steve Weisser were restoring No. 2 to its original Tom Bendelow design, and I became intrigued. Partly because Jones doesn’t normally work on historic restoration, and partly because I’d foolishly thought there wasn’t much there to restore.
It turned out the restoration was being pushed by Curtis Tyrrell, who was at the time Medinah’s Director of Golf Course Operations (he's now Director of Agronomy at Desert Highlands in Arizona), and his influence was so strong that I include him in architecture credits. (Rees Jones is one of only a handful of architects I know who willingly accept design suggestions and quite often use them.)
I toured the course with Tyrrell in 2016 while the course was torn apart and being reassembled, and then played the finished product with him in early 2017. What I discovered was a delightful 18 holes, the sort of short, manageable course that my fading skills could still handle. But more importantly, I found it to be a classic representation of Golden Age architecture.
There’s the routing: clockwise around the perimeter on the opening nine, counter-clockwise through the interior on the back nine, with tee boxes nearly always close to previous greens. In some cases, the turf is mowed short into walkways flowing from green collar right down to the next tee.
The greens themselves are small but wonderfully contoured. The bunkering is authentic. Tyrrell poured through old photos, relocated short “duffer headache” ones that were reinstituted less than 200 yards off some tees. They reintroduced the massive “snake bunker” that stretches across five and six, plus another that hugs the 11th fairway and intersects the 16th fairway.
Tyrrell’s master touch was convincing Rees and Steve that they should link holes together with wide swaths of bentgrass. So the approach to the par-3 12th merges with that of the par-3 sixth to its right and still onward into the fairway of the par-4 15th. The 11th and 16th share a joint fairway as well as that joint bunker. Best of all is a massive slope of bentgrass behind the perched 18th green, a slope that flows down into a pond. It’s not often that you find hole locations protected by something beyond the green, and in the case of No. 2’s 18th hole, it also looks great from the clubhouse.
Medinah No. 2 does have some 21st century touches. There are seven sets of tee markers on each hole, the shortest being developmental tees, all of it an adaptation of the Longleaf Tee system to promote young golfers and develop more players. And the bunkers were kept deliberately shallow, so they don't pose problems with ingress or egress. As they say: Know your audience.
Of all the rounds of golf I played in 2017, my round on No. 2 with Curtis Tyrrell was the most fun. On foot, carrying our bags, we played in less than three and a half hours, gleeful as kids as Curtis pointed out features that we tried to use (or avoid) with a variety of manufactured shots. Sure, No. 2 isn’t a championship test. It’s just a fun place to play, which completes the hat trick for Medinah, as far as I’m concerned.