Ruffled Feathers Golf Club: A Nice Escape from the City Life
LEMONT, Ill. - With one of the most famous golf courses in the Midwest just down the street less than two miles away, you might think Ruffled Feathers Golf Club struggles for attention - and business.
You couldn't be more wrong. The well-known Dubsdread course at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club might get more publicity because it hosts the PGA Tour's Western Open, but Ruffled Feathers can hold its own when it comes to great golf.
Ruffled Feathers, a 6,898-yard par-72 semiprivate course, teams with Dubsdread to form a 1-2 punch, providing Chicago-area golfers a nice escape from the city life. Lemont, a small suburb about 30 minutes south of Chicago, might not be known as a golf destination, but don't dare drive by without stopping for at least 18 holes at either of these two Illinois gems.
Of course, golf courses are always competing for your entertainment dollar, but Ruffled Feathers and Cog Hill are trying to make it work for both places.
"It's actually a good marriage," Ruffled Feathers general manager Greg Fornoff said of the two courses. "When we are booked, we send golfers to Cog and they do the same. It's a good relationship. A lot of people want to play 36 holes in a day. They can play one course in the morning and the other in the afternoon. This situation works for everybody's benefit. We don't see them as competition."
Designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Pete Dye, Ruffled Feathers opened in 1991 and was rated one of the best new courses in the country by Golf Digest in 1992. Ruffled Feathers also ranks No. 23 on the magazine's list of the best courses in the state in its 2000 ratings. Only six other public courses in Illinois rate higher.
"Ruffled Feathers is very well maintained," said current club member Bob Murrey. "The greens are fast, but not so fast, you can't play. The topography of the layout is wonderful. All the holes are different and none of them have parallel fairways. It's a real challenge."
Dye developed rolling farmland into a monster of water and wetlands. Only one hole is completely void of water (No. 9), although you'd really have to shank one to lose a ball on Nos. 7, 8, 12 and 13. The rest are sprinkled with water hazards. Hackers should bring plenty of balls.
"If you get to know the golf course, there are safety zones that you can bail out to," Fornoff said. "You need to play it two or three times to figure that out. If you miss a shot, you'll be dropping a ball, but realistically, only 12 of the 18 holes have water in play. Water adds an element of risk-reward. Some of the holes on the back nine are short, so you can make birdie or eagle, or hit one bad shot and you can make a double or triple real quick."
One hundred and fourteen bunkers contribute to the course' visual appeal - and its difficulty. The first hole opens up with a 100-yard carry over water to a blind fairway. The second hole, a 361-yard par 4, requires a straight drive between wetlands and three bunkers. Water runs down the entire right side of the par-3, 193-yard third.
The fun escalates at the 518-yard, par-5 fifth. Long hitters can play to the split fairway to the left, but beware, a large tree almost blocking the green and more water, await. Conservative golfers will play right, ending up with a short iron to the green below on their third shot.
The signature hole is No. 11, a 155-yard par-3. Depending on the tees, it can play anywhere from 100 yards on back. This peninsula green is surrounded by water. Your tee shot will probably either be on the dance floor or drowning, so pick the right club.
No. 12, a 380-yard par-4, and No. 13, a 510-yard par-5, both dog leg hard left, calling for exact placement off the tee. The testy 328-yard par-4 14th hole features a grand view from an elevated tee to a skinny fairway, guarded on the left by wetlands and another large tree. After another impressive par 5, the 336-yard 16th hole demands a 150-yard carry off the tee. Wetlands run up the entire right side, ending in a pond just short of the green.
Fornoff said there are two stories - and he's not sure if they are just stories - around the club's unique name. "One is simply - 'Ruffle Feathers can ruffle your feathers,' " he said with a laugh. "The other is before the golf course was built, there were a lot of wetlands and a lot of birds out here -- pheasants, ducks and geese. Therefore the name."
The course's magnificent clubhouse not only holds members' locker rooms, the Feather's Grill, and the 300-person Ambassador Ballroom, it is also the current home to the Illinois PGA.
Entering the pro shop, the Illinois PGA Hall of Fame, a wall covered with plaques, is dedicated to some of the state's finest golfers. Fornoff said the Illinois PGA office is planning to move in the fall of 2001.
Although playing such a good course is pricey during peak times, Fornoff said the club boasts some of the best deals in the Chicago area. It costs the full $125 on Monday through Thursday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., all day Friday until 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday all morning until noon.
The green fees drop to $85 on Monday through Thursday before 9 a.m. and between 3-4 p.m. and between noon and 3 p.m. weekends. The twilight rate of $55 is after 4 p.m. weekdays and after 3 p.m. weekends.
"After noon on weekends is a great time to play," Fornoff said.
In truth, any time is a good one to play Ruffled Feathers.
Ruffled Feathers Golf Club
1 Pete Dye Drive
Lemont, IL 60439
Phone Number: (630) 257-1000
Statistics from the tips:
Yardage: 6,898; Slope: 140; Rating: 74.1
Year opened: 1991
Course designer: Pete Dye
General Manager: Greg Fornoff