White Deer Run Golf Club: Water brings a challenge in Vernon Hills

By Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

VERNON HILLS, Ill. -- Good luck to all of the players that don't like water, heading out to White Deer Run Golf Club in Vernon Hills. Located an hour northwest of the city, White Deer Run bills itself as premier public golf on the North Shore. As for the water, bring enough golf balls as 15 holes own lateral or typical hazards.

White Deer Run Golf Club
White Deer Run Golf Club has been called the premier public course on the North Shore.
White Deer Run Golf ClubWhite Deer Run golf course
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White Deer Run Golf Club

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Situated on the Cuneo Estate in Vernon Hills, White Deer Run Golf Club has a beautiful landscape dotted with sparkling lakes. The rolling terrain provides plenty of elevation changes, meaning there are some uneven lies and the occasional blind shot in store for you.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7101 yards | ... details »

The course sits on 200 acres of scenic, majestic land that looks as if it was meant for a golf course. The layout was construction by none other than Dick Nugent. His eye for detail, coupled with a great stretch of links-style land, makes White Deer Run a fine place for the novice, to the professional player.

Three features that are well scripted throughout the course are well placed tee boxes, unforeseen hazards and tough distance reads to flags and greens. These three features are not more prevalent than on the stretch of golf between the par-3 eighth and par-4 11th.

The eighth is a non-threatening, 170-yard, par-3 that tends to pack a wallop if the wind is blowing. The tee box is set straight in front of green with a large march separating the two. With high brush, this hazard tends to act as an optical allusion, making the hole seem shorter than it truly is.

From the back tees, players also will view another marsh that sneaks its way up the left side. This hazard does not come into play, except for players standing on the furthest tee box, which gives them something to think about. With a large, slick green, three bunkers on each side of the putting surface and a stream only viewable with the map, this hole gives players almost too much to absorb.

After testing every nerve in the golfer's soul, Nugent decided to push the envelope with the ninth hole. On paper, this hole is only 403 yards from the back tees and a fair 385 yards from the middle box. But the true test is how much a golfer is willing to risk. With a large pond down the left side, that has to be cleared off the tee, golfers will themselves to aim down the right side of the fairway.

This looks to be a sound strategy but with a hidden creek down the right side of the hole, any ball long through the rough will also get wet. The green is a steep sloping, putting surface that will give golfers fits above the hole and tends to appear a little shorter than the yardage. This is a traditional risk-reward hole that is much more risk than reward.

White Deer Run Golf Club's back nine

Nugent continues to tease players on the backside with more of the same challenging features. At the turn, players should count the extra golf balls in their bags since the backside kicks off with four treacherous holes dotted with water hazards and marshes. The most intriguing of these holes is the 415-yard par-4 11th.

Off the tee, players will be staring at a row of bunkers on the right side of the fairway since the hole plays slightly left to right. The second shot is where the fun begins. With dramatic rock formations and a marsh that creeks themselves from the right side of the fairway up to the front edge of the green, golfers will tend to take an extra club into the narrow target. With bunkers protecting the back left of the putting surface and the green sloping into the marsh, this hole is a monster.

The last two holes at White Deer Run will put the end to most good rounds. The 580-yard, par-5, 17th sneaks up on golfers since the difficult part is the last two shots. With the tee box angled toward the front of a row of bunkers 350 yards into the fairway down the left side, any straight drive will set up a second shot over the bunkers and away from the green. Any second shot on the left side will trickle into the sand traps. Water comes around the left, and works itself around the back, making the green appear to be an island. If a player needs a birdie, the only place to be on the approach is in the fairway with a wedge or nine iron in hand.

White Deer Run Golf Club's 18th again highlights well-place tee boxes. Instead of putting the driving area straight away in the fairway, Nugent stuck the tee boxes off to the right and behind a large waste area. This gives the hole a left to right feel and golfers less of an area to land a hard drive on this 447-yard par 4. Even with a great drive finding the fairway, the second shot almost never has an even lie. The green is surrounded by traps, making this hole a gut wrenching experience.

A great dining experience at the White Deer Run Restaurant will top off a fine round of golf. Instead of throwing a hot dog in a basket, the restaurant focuses on every taste and convenience level. From a large breakfast and lunch menu to beautiful banquet facilities, there is no reason to leave the facility to grab a bite to eat.

Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

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