A great clubhouse and good golf await at Bowes Creek Country Club near Chicago
ELGIN, Ill. -- Before you head out to Bowes Creek Country Club in the city of Elgin, about 40 miles outside Chicago, consider Royal Troon in Scotland, the storied golf club and British Open venue.
If you've been lucky enough to visit Royal Troon or simply viewed photographs, you'll immediately realize the connection, a sort of twin son from a different mother. It's not the course at Bowes Creek that's similar. It's the clubhouse, a stately yet elegantly unassuming building that immediately says golf, good golf, pure golf.
Why focus on the clubhouse? It's simple, really. It perfectly puts you in the mood for the experience at Bowes Creek. Yes, this is a residential community just south of busy downtown Elgin, but the golf is not a distant cousin here, it's not the add-on to the single-family homes. Instead, Bowes Creek Country Club is the centerpiece. Housing is on the perimeter of the course, never getting in the way or obstructing some of the wonderful views and scenery.
"It used to be a hunting preserve," said Marty, the starter at the first tee for an early tee time on a weekday morning. "I've seen deer, fox, lots of wildlife. No eagles yet, but I've been told they're out here."
Bowes Creek C.C. gets its name from the stream that runs through the property, winding its way around open prairie and groups of mature hardwoods. And there's some roll to the land, giving the golf course elevated tees and some great views.
"There are plenty of good visuals out here, but 18 is a beauty," said Marty, suggesting a camera is a good idea to stuff into your bag. The finishing hole is a long par 4, running about 430 yards. The view from the elevated tee offers a look at the entire hole with that great clubhouse as a backdrop. But you can't forget about the look from the tee of the long, par-3 fifth, the short, par-4 11th and, especially, the 14th, a par 3 with the green tucked back into a nest of hardwood trees.
Architect Rick Jacobson wanted to design the course for playable golf, and he did, but he also created one of the more aesthetically pleasing layouts in the Chicagoland area.
Bowes Creek C.C.: The golf course
There are five sets of tees at Bowes Creek. Pick the right ones.
The back tees, the blacks, measure out at nearly 6,800 yards. For a single-handicap player that may seem somewhat reasonable. But consider the slope: 142. That's pretty tough no matter how you've been hitting it.
The blue tees measure out at a bit less than 6,500 yards and the whites at just less than 6,000. It would be nice to have a set somewhere around the 6,300 mark. So, a suggestion: If you're a middle handicapper, mix it up a bit. Play a few holes from the white and a few from the blues. This might be the best combination for most players. But remember, the slope from the white alone is 133, and that ain't peanuts.
It's not easy to single out the best holes at Bowes Creek. There are plenty of good and challenging ones. The opener is a comfortable par 4 measuring 360 from the blues. It's a nice beginning. But the second hole, a 418-yard par 4, requires a massive carry off the tee. Take the wrong angle, and you're in the creek. The fourth is a marvelous, short par 4, the perfect combination of risk/reward.
On the back nine, focus on the compact, par-4 11th and the challenging, par-3 16th, and try to avoid the trio of menacing bunkers just left of the green.
And about those bunkers: You're likely not to forget them. Jacobson has let the rough grow around the edges, creating what some at the course call the German Eyebrows. It offers a terrific visual, but you don't want to hit a ball in those scraggily, unkempt eyebrows. Not fun.
Bowes Creek C.C.: The facilities
You already know how great the clubhouse is from the outside. But it's just as wonderful inside. The pro shop is just right, not overly commercialized, keeping the place from looking like a sporting good store. This is a classy spot.
And across the hallway is Porter's, an English-style restaurant and pub, designed like the classic public houses of the U.K.
The practice facility has a 30-station driving range, target greens, and putting and chipping greens. There's also a separate practice area for private lessons. And even though Bowes is not the best walking course (too much distance between some greens and tees), you'll enjoy the state-of-the-art GPS on the carts, helpful and easy-to-use systems.
And although Bowes Creek is a daily-fee course, it also offers annual memberships.
Bowes Creek Country Club: The verdict
The greater Chicago area has a lot of splendid golf options. But when considering an experience that's above the typical municipal course and just below the ultra-expensive, Bowes Creek Country Club is a great pick.
The most you'll pay is $100 for primetime on the weekends, but you can get out on a weekday afternoon for as little as $59.
Play the course, bring a camera, hang out in the clubhouse, and pretend for a moment you're spending some time at Scotland's Royal Troon.