Courses & TravelJuly 29, 2011

Golf in Chicago: The Rainy City?

Lately, I've been a part of a lot of Twitter exchanges about golf in Chicago. Is Cog Hill a buddies-trip destination? (Yes.) What's the best former private course, now available to the public? (Ravisloe.) Colleague Pete Finch was just in the Windy Rainy City, and filed this trip report:*

*I played five Chicago-area golf courses last Friday, Saturday and Sunday. When you write about golf for a living, that isn't so unusual. But what made these rounds extraordinary was . . . well, did you get a look at the Chicago weather last weekend? A couple of major rainstorms pounded the city, flooding golf courses and closing highways. The City of Broad Shoulders was on its knees Saturday. (Check out this video.)

               [#image: /photos/55ad73c0add713143b425254]|||GIR.jpg|||A friend and I were there for part of a larger Golf Digest feature we're doing later in the year. Incredibly, we were able to get in rounds at five courses as planned. It was our good luck to have picked courses just to the west of Chicago, because most of the courses in the city had to close down due to the flooding. Every time it seemed like it was hopeless and we'd have to scratch a round from our itinerary, the sky would clear, we'd get a burst of broiling hot sun, and off we'd go again.  

We played a mix of courses: a friendly municipal (Schaumburg Golf Club),  a family owned course (St. Andrews Golf & Country Club), a pair of high-end daily fee courses (Cantigny and Bolingbrook) and a resort course (Willow Crest Golf Club at the Oak Brook Hills Marriott).

I had three main takeaways from this, my first Chicagoland golf experience:

1. Wow, there are a LOT of good, moderately priced public golf courses in Chicago. People always say that about this city, but you have no idea of the volume of courses till you get there and start driving around. Everywhere you turn there's another public course and if you pay $50 to play it on a weekend, you're at the high end of the scale. I want to go back.

2. People take pretty good care of their public courses in Chicago -- at least the ones we visited. They were clean and divots and ball marks were getting repaired (unlike what I saw on a recent trip to Las Vegas).

3. Of the courses we played, the place I'd most like to revisit is St. Andrews, out in West Chicago (40 minutes from O'Hare and a good hour from downtown).  No, it's probably not going to win much praise from golf snobs. It's just a good, solid 36-hole public facility with a cool old clubhouse and a massive practice area. St. Andrews is owned by the Jemsek family, which also owns Cog Hill, site of the PGA Tour's BMW Championship.

We played the No. 2 course, aka Joe Jemsek or "Lakewood," and afterward I looked around the No. 1 course a little before taking off. Both are nice, old-school layouts -- not overly taxing but tree-lined, moderately hilly, charming and a lot of fun for an 11-handicapper like myself.

I can see online that some people take issue with the pace of play at St. Andrews. True, No. 2 was a course you should get around in 3 hours and 45 minutes and our round was more like 4 and half hours. Not ideal. But also not terrible for a soggy Saturday morning in July, when we were paying $48 for 18 holes.

I'm hoping to go back to Chicago (for another story) in the fall. If you have any course recommendations, especially north and south of the city, please share them here.

--Peter Finch*

*(Follow Finch on Twitter @Pete_Finch. You can follow me @Matt_Ginella.)

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