Big Run Golf Club
LOCKPORT, IL - Big Run Golf Club has been around since 1930, but according to its Web site, "if you haven't played Big Run over the last few years, you probably won't recognize the course." Indeed, Big Run, named for Long Run Creek which runs throughout the course, has changed dramatically in the last decade.
Big Run features hundreds of oak trees (many of which date back centuries), and the course has many hazards, as eight holes have water and sand traps are plentiful. The course is one of a kind, according to Big Run's golf professional Stan Vickers. "There are large oak trees lining nearly every fairway," he says, in addition to "large changes in elevation and unique water hazards and sand traps." Big Run is located south of downtown Chicago, off of I-55 on 135th Street.
After all of the recent improvements, including the GPS system that was installed in Big Run's carts in 2000, the course is still as difficult as ever, particularly because it's different than most other local courses. "Many people are used to playing flat, short courses" in Chicago, according to Vickers, and the putting can be particularly adventuresome because of the many two-tiered greens. "On the greens, you have to make sure that you stay below the hole while still being on the correct tier," says Vickers.
Big Run golfers have the choice of four tee boxes throughout the course, ranging from the 5,420-yard Ladies tees to the Championship tees that play to 7,025 yards. The Front/Seniors tees and Regular tees play to 6,250 yards and 6,670 yards, respectively. The Championship tees have a course rating of 74.4 and a slope rating of 142, which further demonstrates the course's difficulty. (The slope rating of the Ladies tees is 130, which is still well above average.)
In general, "you must be long and straight on Big Run," according to Vickers. "If you aren't at least a moderate golfer, you may be in for a long day."
Since 1993, five holes on the front nine have been revamped, all by the architect firm of Dick Nugent Associates. After the first hole, which is a 360-yard par four of average difficulty, players will encounter the first signs of Nugent's work on the second fairway. Number two is a long par four (400 yards from the regular tees) and the fifth most difficult hole on the course. Water comes into play twice on this hole: first, off the tee box on the left side of the fairway, via a lake added by Nugent in 2000, and later in front of the green on your approach shot. Big hitters can reach the green in two with a middle or short iron; others may have to play it safe and lay up on their second shot. Assuming you're still dry and can reach the green safely, you'll still have to deal with a trio of bunkers and a two-tiered green.
The 515-yard fifth, the first par five on the course, is a dogleg left that received a new green in 1998. Enjoy this one as much as possible because the next two par fives at Big Run are absolute killers. Fortunately, the wind is usually at your back from the tee, but the green is surrounded by four bunkers.
After holes six through eight, the ninth - the course's toughest hole - will test even the best golfers. According to Big Run, the 605-yard hole has never been reached in two shots. The fairway - all 500-plus yards of it - is heavily lined by oak trees and rolls into a steep decline towards the green. If you're not careful, your approach shot from the right side of the fairway will be a blind shot. Once you do reach the green, four bunkers and a two-leveled putting surface await. For most golfers, a bogey on nine is quite an accomplishment.
The back nine's version of #9 is the 15th hole, a 585-yard par five that ranks second in terms of difficulty on Big Run. Reaching the green in two shots is a near impossibility here as well, particularly because most players will have to lay up in front of Long Run Creek on their second shot. After crossing the creek, uphill approach shots must navigate a sloped green that is sandwiched by two sand bunkers. Golfing aside, #15's green offers perhaps the course's best view, as you look back towards the fourth hole.
"On 9 and 15, make sure you stay in the fairway at all times," says Vickers, "and be happy with a par for your score."
Other holes, of course, aren't as difficult as these two, but still offer plenty of opportunities for a fun round. Number 13, a 185-yard par three from the Regular tees, features a carry over the creek and a green that isn't quite an island but essentially acts as one, with the creek in front and a lake that wraps around its back and left side. After straightforward, low-handicap holes at 16 and 17, #18 is a final challenge for golfers who have survived the first 17 holes. Number 18 is a 530-yard par five that has a lake just off the fairway and Long Run Creek in front of the green.
"Overall, the course is doing well," says Vickers. Even with all of the recent improvements, "there are more changes in store for the future, but nothing to report specifically just yet." Until then, Big Run is still a great stop for Chicagoland golfers. "Most people walk away enjoying the challenge and the entire experience from this course."