Hard to pronounce, easy on the eyes: 27 holes of golf in nature at Cantigny near Chicago
WHEATON, Ill. -- It's one of the premier golf courses in the Chicago area, but golfers have an awful time pronouncing its name.
"Isn't it Can-TIG-nee?" asked one golfer changing his shoes in the parking lot of this expansive facility about 30 miles west of downtown Chicago.
"I thought it was KANT-ig-nee?" his buddy questioned, snatching a sleeve of golf balls from his trunk.
Even the golfers who play it regularly struggle with the name. But playing the course is nothing like trying to pronounce it. Sure, the course is challenging, but the beauty of this 27-hole layout can easily erase any unease one might have with correctly articulating its name.
The trio of nine-hole courses is nestled into a 500-acre park, teaming with gardens, old-growth trees and several lakes. Cantigny Golf is not just a golf course; it's a nature retreat.
To set the record straight, it's pronounced "Can-TEE-nee." The name is that of a French village, the site of a World War I battle. The Chicago-area property was the former estate of Col. Robert R. McCormick, the long-time editor and publisher of the Chicago Tribune. McCormick served in the First Infantry Division in the Battle of Cantigny, the first American victory during the war, and he named the property in honor of the battle and the men who fought there.
As soon you drive up the winding road to the Cantigny clubhouse, you'll slowly slip into a world of pure golf. There's a sense of elegance to the grounds, without any pretentiousness. You're greeted warmly at the bag drop, offered directions to the pro shop and the Fareways Grill, which opens as early as 6:30 a.m., reminded of your tee time and where to find the practice range and putting green.
The three nines -- Woodside, Lakeside and Hillside -- snake through the property. Two of the nines are combined each day to allow for an 18-hole grouping, permitting exclusive nine-hole play on the third course.
Woodside plays through the most densely wooded area of the property. Lakeside has four different lakes, coming into play on six of the holes. And Hillside sits on rolling land, not necessarily hilly, and is considered the shortest but toughest of the three.
Cantigny Golf: The course
The Woodside Course includes two of the more memorable holes at Cantigny. The par-5 second, named Double Jeopardy, measures out at just more than 500 yards from the white tees.
It was recently renovated to permit better drainage and playability and is considered by many as Cantigny's signature hole. Trees line the fairway of this straightaway layout, and a creek runs in front of the green. It's a classic risk-reward hole, tempting the courageous to hit it in two. The eighth hole is a stunning par 3 with an oblong green almost completely surrounded by water. A bunker looms menacingly just past the water between you and putting surface.
The Lakeside nine requires the most accurate shots. The par-5 second, named Winding Road, has two lakes hugging the fairway, and the green sits in a grove of trees. One laser shot after another is required all along its 564 yards.
The ninth hole on Lakeside is a short-ish par 4, about 353 from the whites, but water is nearly everywhere, on both sides of the fairway and behind the green. Be sure to check out the Dick Tracy bunker on this hole. The fairway trap is fashioned in the silhouette of the famous comic-strip detective, who first appeared in Chicago Tribune syndicate papers in 1931.
The first hole on Cantigny's Hillside nine is only 349 from the white tees but insists you hit your tee shot far enough past the trees on the right to have an approach to the green.
The sixth, another short par 4 of 348 yards, is a real tester. The green complex is shared with the eighth on the Woodside nine and is nearly surrounded by water. It's also double-tiered. If you leave your ball on the wrong level, your putting experience will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Cantigny Golf: The facilities
The clubhouse at Cantigny is built in the prairie style, a modification on the Frank Lloyd Wright design, fitting for this part of the country.
Inside is a smallish but more than adequate pro shop and a wonderful grill, Fareways, that looks out over the course. The more sophisticated Red Oak Room can be reserved for meetings and offers special Sunday brunches.
Cantigny also has a solid practice area for full shots, chips and putting.
But what makes the facility particularly unique is the caddie program, one of the few at a public golf course anywhere in the country. The golfer can hire an individual caddy or a forecaddie for a foursome. All the caddies are between 14-21 years old and have gone through an extensive training program.
Cantigny also has a one-of-a-kind Youth Links Course. It's a nine-hole layout dedicated to junior players only (8-15 years old) with its own tee times, tournaments, teaching programs, clubhouse and pro shop.
Cantigny Golf: The verdict
Cantigny is continuously ranked by golf publications and organizations as one of the best in the Midwest. That's not hype.
The beautiful, natural layout is unforgettable. The conditioning is impeccable. The service is welcoming.
It's not an inexpensive day of golf. Green fees can stretch just above $100. But there are options for weekday and late-day play that can be a bit easier on the wallet.
How you pronounce the course's name won't matter one bit as soon as you step out on the first tee at Cantigny.