In our recent "Tour Staff Contest", we asked you to tell us why we suck. Ask and you shall receive! You guys definitely let us know what we need to do to improve, and we appreciate it honestly. Many of you told us we suck because we don't cover much in the way of golf course reviews. Well, today we're giving you what you asked for...a killer golf course review. And you know it wouldn't be MyGolfSpy if we didn't come up with a scoring system that breaks it down in such fine detail that when your done reading this review you know exactly what your getting or won't be getting from a particular golf course. So let us know what you think, think we should do more? do less? do something different? add something you think would be helpful for other golfers? or maybe scrap the whole damn idea. At the end of the day it is up to you.
(Written By: GolfSpy Matt) Quick, what's the first name that comes to mind if I say, "Chicago golf course"? I suspect that the majority of people, Chicagoans or not, would say either Medinah or Cog Hill because of their frequent appearances as PGA Tour venues. But does that mean that these are the best courses in Chicago? Not by a long shot. I submit to you, my friends, that whether you're a local or just in town for one round, The Glen Club in Glenview, Illinois is the must-play course in Chicago, and if you read on, I’ll let you in on why that’s so.
As always, I suggest that you take a quick peek at my Course Review Rubric before reading on. I think it's important to understand what I'm grading in each category and what the different scores mean to me.
The two days that I played at The Glen Club, the course was in superb condition. This is particularly noteworthy given the extreme heat and drought that we’ve had in Chicago this year.
For me, rating course conditions starts at the green. The greens at The Glen Club rolled smooth, fast, and true. I will admit to being a bit concerned when I walked up to the first green because there were lots of ball marks. My concerns disappeared as soon as I hit my first putt; in spite of the appearance, the greens were great.
Tee boxes, bunkers, and fairways were all similarly outstanding. To find fault with the conditions at The Glen Club, you’d really have to look hard.
The reality of building a golf course in or around Chicago is that you have to contend with, and try to block out, one of the largest metropolitan areas in the country. Not a small order, but Tom Fazio uses elevation brilliantly to keep the focus on the beauty of the course. Can you see houses from the course? Yes, a couple of holes run alongside a neighborhood, and, if you’re looking for it, you can see development from many holes. However, if you’re looking at the shot in front of you, the surrounding area rarely interrupts your view.
While it can’t completely isolate you from the surrounding area, The Glen Club is without a doubt one of the prettiest courses in Chicago.
Customer Service/Guest Experience
From the time I got to The Glen Club until I left, everyone associated with the course greeted me with a smile, a "Sir," and the intention of making my time there comfortable.
When I pulled up to The Glen Club, there were multiple employees waiting at the bag drop to take my bag from my car and load it onto a golf cart. They even got us checked in so that we could go straight to the range. Those same gentlemen were there when we finished our round to clean our clubs and make sure that everything had been satisfactory.
The one individual who really put the customer service element over the top was the starter. He had great control of the putting green/first tee area: he knew who was there, when they should be starting, and he kept everything running very smoothly. He was also happy to offer advice about the course, though was not pushy about it. When one of the players in our group realized that he didn't have a wet towel, the starter literally ran the towel into the clubhouse to wet it for him.
Overall, The Glen Club provides excellent amenities for its guests, the most impactful of which is a top quality GPS system on the carts. The GPS provides a large, full color display that shows either the entire hole or the green, depending on where you are on the hole. What makes it stand out is that you get the distance to the pin, not just to the center of the green. This is really helpful for those playing the course the first time. The GPS is so good that I actually put away my laser after the second hole, which is saying a lot for me.
With regard to refreshments, The Glen Club has a bit of a unique set up because #9 does not bring you back to the club house. Instead, there’s a halfway house that you pass between #6 and #7 and then again between #14 and #15. And, of course, there’s a beer cart that circulates quite quickly (I believe we saw the cart 4 times in our round).
For out-of-towners, The Glen Club’s “clubhouse” is actually a hotel with a restaurant, so you really never need to leave the property.
My only negative is that the pro shop is a bit small and has primarily soft line items (shirts, hats, gloves, etc). Not that I’m necessarily one to buy a new putter or driver in a pro shop, but some people might be hoping to buy some extra yardage before they hit the course.
The Glen Club has everything you would want in a practice facility: full-length driving range, a large putting green, and a quality short game area. One of the things that stands out about The Glen Club is the quality of the golf balls: Titleist NXT's. What's great about having quality range balls is that you can actually judge how far (and what direction) you're hitting your clubs instead of just using the range as a place to warm your muscles. Another big plus: the putting green is large enough to easily accommodate two foursomes, it rolls exactly like the greens on the course, and it's located spitting distance from the first tee.
My only complaint about the practice facilities at The Glen Club is that the short game area requires a bit of a drive to get to. In fact, I didn't know it existed until I saw it from the course. In spite of that, I can confidently say that The Glen Club offers everything you need to sharpen your game before a round.
Accessibility to All Skill Levels
The Glen Club offers 4 sets of tees that play to the following distances (approximately): 5300, 6000, 6600/6700, and 7200. My gut level response to this was that they need a set of tees at 6300 or 6400 yards, but my experience there showed me that while an extra set of tees might be a good thing, they aren't truly necessary.
My first round at The Glen Club was with two golfers who are bogey golfers at best and not very long. I tried to politely suggest that they play from 6000 yards, but they insisted on playing from 6700 with me and my other friend. I thought that this would be a very long day for both of them, but both of them came off the course extremely happy.
Much of the course's length is concentrated on a few holes, so there were instances where the shorter hitters felt that a par 4 played like a par 5. However, most of the time, they had a fair, if long, shot at making a green in regulation. There are no ridiculous forced carries, and there are ample "bail out" areas for any player who wants a safe route.
One of the short hitters did admit that he would have "had a ball" at 6000 yards, but he still had a great time at 6700. This is a great credit to Tom Fazio's design and a testament to the fact that The Glen Club is accessible to all levels of golfer.
For my second trip, I played the same set of tees, but in very different weather conditions. The first round was sunny and dry, the second was wet and windy. While I played from the same tee boxes, the course was effectively well over 7,000 yards giving me a nice sense of what it would be like to play from the tips. The two primary differences are that you will have fewer options off the tee box (hitting driver is needed/wanted more often) and you will be hitting longer clubs into the greens. Even with the added length, the course is perfectly fair and everything is still put right in front of you.
Overall, as with any course, The Glen Club is best enjoyed from the correct set of tees, but it is very forgiving to those who let their ego get in the way and play too far back.
A perfect score in this category means, "Tough but fair." I can't think of a better way to describe The Glen Club. On virtually every shot, Tom Fazio shows you exactly what shot you need to hit to make birdie, and he also gives you a safe way to try to make par. Hole #11 is a perfect example. It is a long par 3 over water, and, if you want to go for the pin, it's an all-or-nothing proposition: water short and a very tough chip if you’re long. However, instead of forcing the short hitters to look for the drop zone, Mr. Fazio provides a bail out area to the right of the green that gives the golfer a great angle to pitch it close for a scrambling par. To my mind, this is exactly what great course design is all about: lots of options, lots of decision making, and no one left feeling like they can’t play the course.
During our round, my dad said to me, "Unless you got 8 hours of sleep and ate a good breakfast, I'm not sure how you can expect to play this course successfully. There's too much thinking involved." I think this is a great indication of the variety of holes at The Glen Club and the decision making that it demands. The course offers everything from really short par 4’s to really long ones, a short, “easy” par 3 as well as a pair of beasts, and some great risk-reward par 5’s.
There are a number of short par 4's where you could hit anything from driver to 7I off the tee...and not be comfortable with any of them. My favorite hole, #8, is a perfect example: at only 339 from the blue tees, it’s short enough to give you options, but there’s no easy shot. You can see in the picture that left is wet, so any club that you’re afraid of hooking is out. If you’re going to hit driver, you need to thread the needle between water left and bunkers right. A soft little iron could easily get pulled left into the trap that’s short left, and any shot that’s too safe and too far right makes the second shot much longer. Just describing it makes my head hurt.
Much as I love the layout (and I really do...in case that wasn't obvious), I have to stay true to my rubric and deduct half a point for the big brother/little brother similarities of the two par 3's on the back, #11 and #17. They’re good holes and they vary significantly in length, but it still feels like déjà vu.
The cost of playing The Glen Club varies significantly throughout the year and even over the course of a day. The full rate schedule can be seen here. The short version is that it will cost you anywhere from $90 (March) to $185 for the green fee. There is an additional cost for a cart or caddy, but your green fee does include use of the driving range.
While your average Joe is not going to be able to afford The Glen Club on a weekly basis, there’s no reason why it couldn’t be a once-a-year treat, or somewhere you play on occasion. The varied green fees make this a reasonable proposition. So, for the locals, The Glen Club may not replace your weekly go-to course, but it should definitely be on the list of courses you play once in a while.
For the tourist, The Glen Club is a no-brainer, must-play. Compared to resort courses near Chicago and elsewhere, The Glen Club is downright affordable and there’s nothing about this course that doesn’t measure up with the courses the charge much much more.
Anyone who appreciates good golf course design will walk away from The Glen Club with fond memories of many holes. Is every single hole a postcard? No, this isn’t Kapalua or Cypress Point. It’s a beautiful Midwestern golf course that will leave you thinking about every decision you made, and how you might play the course differently next time…and you will want there to be a next time.
So, I’ll say it again: are there courses that have “bigger” names out there? Yup, and if you’re into that, more power to you. But if you’re looking for the best golf course in Chicago, this is it. The layout is simply second to none: it’s tough, it’s fun, and it’s accessible to all levels of golfers. Add in great course conditions, excellent customer service, and well-rounded amenities, and you can see why The Glen Club is an absolute winner.
VISIT WEBSITE: http://www.theglenclub.com
VISIT WEBSITE: http://www.kempersports.com/
Golf Magazine - No. 1 - Best Public Course in Illinois - 2008
Golf Magazine - No. 72 - Top 100 Courses You Can Play - 2008
GolfWeek - No. 24 Best Tour Courses You Can Play - 2008
GolfWeek - The Best Courses You Can Play 2006-7
Golf Magazine - Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2002, 2004, 2006
Zaget Survey - America's Top 50 Golf Courses 2003-2005
Golf Digest - Best New Upscale Public Course 2002
Golf Magazine - Top 10 New You Can Play 2002
Great Lakes Golf Magazine - Best Course in Illinois 2002
Sports Illustrated - Top 10 New Courses 2001