Resolving to be a serious Illinois golfer

By Dave Berner, Senior Contributor

CHICAGO -- I do it every year. The annual medical check-up. The tests and the probing come every season after the holidays. It's been a habit ever since I turned 40. Turning 40, as many of you know, makes a guy consider his health, along with his hairline. And since I lost the hair years ago, I figure I ought to keep an eye on the health. But every year it's the same thing, and I don't know why I expect it to be anything different.

"Be a good idea to get more exercise; lose a few pounds," says the doctor.

Come on! I'm dishing out a perfectly good 10-spot for a co-pay to get this kind of advice from a medical expert who spent an uncountable number of years studying the intricacies of the human medical condition? Didn't all that education give a hint at a secret cure for the mid-life health adjustments a man needs to make? You mean I actually DO have to get more exercise and lose a few pounds?

What's this got to do with golf in the Chicago area? In Illinois? Stick with me here. There is a connection.

The Resolution

You say you're a big golfer. Love the game, play it a lot, and quite familiar with the golf courses in your neighborhood, your city, your state. However, the truth is, just like the yearly health check-up, you really don't know the status of your golf life until it's been evaluated by an expert.

So, what to do?

Make a resolution. Resolve for the new year to be a true, 100-percent Illinois golfer. Here‘s how you do it.

The check list

With any resolution you must set some of goals. Make it clear what you want to accomplish. To help with that process you will find below a handy-dandy list to use as a motivator for sticking to the your plans. Print it, stick it on the refrigerator, make it visible, and refer to it daily. Fellow golfer, this is serious business.

1. Walk more. You've heard it before -- walking is the heart of the game. It's part of the beauty of the game. Best places to walk? Any of the four courses at the Cog Hill Country Club, Cantigny Golf and Tennis, The Glen Club, and any of the DuPage County or Cook County Forest Preserve courses. These places encourage walking and rarely, if ever, will force you into a cart.

2. Play Nine Holes. Somewhere the beauty of playing a quick nine has been lost. Time to bring it back. Take a long lunch and do it during the week, play the back nine in the early morning, or check out some of the truly outstanding nine-hole layouts in the area -- Sydney R. Marovtiz (the former Waveland) on the lakefront in the city of Chicago or River Bend in Lisle, Illinois, one of the city's west suburbs.

3. Play with Your Kids. You can combine this with that quick nine. I do it all the time. Take your son or daughter out at off hours during the week or even the weekend. It's a great get away. Most park district courses are quite amenable to junior play, but two places in particular are marvelous -- Naperbrook Golf Course in Naperville, Illinois and Zigfield Troy's Par-3 in Chicago suburb of Woodridge. Both encourage parent-child play and sometimes even give you a price break on that kind of twosome.

4. Get More for Less. Resolve to play more of the less expensive golf courses. Sure, everyone wants to play the premier spots -- Dubsdread, Weaver Ridge, The Glen Club, The TPC at Deere Run, Bolingbrook Golf Club, Ruffled Feathers, Seven Bridges, Harborside. But golf is not all about GPS systems on the carts and bag boys waiting for the obligatory tips. Try Nettle Creek in Morris, Illinois or Phillips Park Golf Course in Aurora.

5. Head for Eagle Ridge. I know I've just insisted you play more of the best-buy courses, but doing that will allow you to save up your cash to get out to Galena, Illinois to play any of the three 18-hole courses at the Eagle Ridge Resort at least once during the season.

6. Head for the Border. Just over the Illinois line are some wonderful places to play. In Wisconsin head for Lake Lawn Resort or if go all out at the American Club in Kohler where they'll play this year's PGA Championship. Drive to South Bend, Indiana and get a round in at the wonderful Blackthorn Golf Course or head for Southwest Michigan, just an hour from Chicago, and knock it around at Whitaker Woods.

7. No Miracle Purchases. Do NOT buy the latest revolutionary club, putter or ball expecting any of them to make revolutionary changes in your game. You know better. Save the money and buy a new pair of comfortable golf shoes. (Refer to resolution number-1)

8. Buy a Book. There are plenty of decent books about the history of golf in Chicago and Illinois. You will be surprised at the incredible stories including the likes of Ben Hogan, Gene Sarazen and even Al Capone.

9. Get to the Western Open. If you have never attended the PGA Tour event at Cog Hill Country Club every July, be sure to do it this year. Watching the world's best play each year in Lemont, Illinois really puts your game into perspective. Plus, Tiger will be there.

10. Spread the Word. Chicago and Illinois have marvelous golf courses to share. Invite an out of town friend or relative to spend a weekend in Illinois and show off the place. The golf here can compete with the best any other state has to offer.

There you are. Ten golf goals for 2004. Now, about those 10 extra pounds?

Dave BernerDave Berner, Senior Contributor

Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed." Follow Berner on Twitter @DavidWBerner

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