Golf Club of Illinois: One of Chicago's Classiest Courses

By Jay Mankus, Contributor

Algonquin, IL - When passengers in a car view an upscale golf course in passing, often a flashy hole, finely manicured turfgrass, or a magnificent landscape will catch peoples' eyes. However, at the Golf Club of Illinois, known simply as GCI in the Chicagoland area, your eyes seem to focus on the flowers, gardens, and flawless landscaping which surrounds your entryway.

The parking lot and front clubhouse area appear to resemble an exclusive country club, not a place where any hacker can tee it up. For example, there are no weeds in sight or patches of dirt trying to be

Seeded, nor any burnt out areas of grass around the lot edges or along the clubhouse walkway. With just one look, it is clear that no expense has been overlooked to create a country club atmosphere at this public golf facility run by American Golf. As odd as it may seem, GCI's parking lot is cleaner and more attractive than most public parks.

Come out for yourselves and experience a classy upscale golf course in Chicago.

As you make your way across the parking lot toward the clubhouse, an elegant garden greets you with a touch of Wrigley Field, as ivy nearly covers the left side of the front entrance. Inside GCI's clubhouse, you will find the top brands and latest styles of golf merchandise. Class and comfort continue in GCI's dining room with chandeliers, a fireplace, and a view of the first tee.

Sound too good for words? Well, from the first tee one might say, "another great links course destroyed by the overdevelopment of houses." In fact, you can never replace the rolling countryside upon which these homes now stand. Yet, nearly 25 yards separate the out of bounds markers from the actual homes.

Unless you have a 30 yard hook or slice, it is unlikely that a golfer will hit a house. Stray shots may land out of bounds in someone's backyard, but hitting a house requires a dreadful looking shot.

As for the course, Golf Club of Illinois is situated on a plateau in Algonquin, Illinois, just above the Fox River Valley. Located 45 minutes from O'Hare International Airport and 90 minutes northwest of downtown Chicago, GCI has been rated as one of the top ten public golf courses in Chicago for 11 consecutive seasons.

Despite over 200 golf courses within the Chicagoland Golf area and the construction of at least one new premier championship course each year, GCI consistently ranks as the 5th or 6th best course by Chicagoland Golf Monthly.

Like great links' layouts, GCI goes out and back, not in typical fashion along a body of water, but as a course where if one hole is down wind, you will play back into the same wind. Designed by Dick Nugent, one of several courses he has built in Chicago, GCI has matured into a splendid challenge with spectacular sights.

Generous fairways, rolling hills and fescue covered moguls hide over 100 sand bunkers, which are bound to be introduced to you, like it or not! For first timers to this course or those players struggling with their game, I highly recommend a camel over taking carts.

Beside sand, GCI is in first class shape and has recently improved the playability of the course by reducing the number of fescue covered moguls. At 6,958 yards from the tips, any additional hazards to GCI's par 71 layout would make for a long day.

Due to the severity of this course when the wind blows, GCI offers 5 sets of tees based upon handicaps which allows high handicappers to enjoy their experience and the women to select their challenge at either 5578 or 4870 yards. While you can make a case for several holes to be the quote signature hole of GCI, Jay believes holes 7, 8, and 11 give you an overall picture of the GCI experience.

However, signature traits like the massive railroad tie sand bunker on the 451 yard, par 4, 3rd and 3 waste bunkers which blend into water hazards on the 4th, 12th, the 13th holes leave a memorable impression.

The 7th and 8th holes in my mind are classic par 4's for a links course. Running parallel to each other, both holes are relatively short but present delicate challenges depending upon the direction and strength of the wind. At 375 yards from the tips, the 7th hole is the shortest of these two par 4' s, but requires an accurate tee shot. Even by laying up with an iron off the tee, players have to avoid five fairway bunkers to one of the narrowest fairways at GCI.

With O.B. left and a barrier of rolling mounds that shape this uphill hole, players can bail out right into the 8th fairway with a driver. However, any shot into the narrow elevated 7th green is difficult. This slick green drops over four feet from back to front where players will find four to be a solid score!

From an elevated tee, the 390 yard, par 4, 8th hole plays much shorter than 7, unless of course the wind is in your face. Players face what appears to be a simple tee shot into a wide valley fairway. Although, 5 fairway bunkers, deep fescue rough, and O.B. guard the left side of this dogleg to the left. With these hazards in your sights, it is easy to overcompensate to the right, bringing two fairway bunkers from 7 into play. After your tee shot, players face a large undulating green surrounded by a triangle of three bunkers. Three is attainable, but so is 6, 7 or 8!

While my husband likes 7 and 8, I am particularly fond of number 2, two of the par 3's over water - number 4 and 13 and number 18. This links course sweeps one away to a time when prairie grasses and swells covered this plateau. Number 2 is a challenging par 5 but not one that leaves you ready to quit the game, that's number 11.

There are eleven bunkers on hole number 2, the first is just off of the tee. Two fairway bunkers are in one's drive landing area, one on each side of the fairway, making you hit accurately. The moguls with the fescue are there too and the prairie grass on the left side of 2's fairway which hides any errant hooks. The next cluster of five bunkers surround your second shot's landing area and three more huddle around the green as if to beckon you one more time to the beach.

Four and 13 are two par threes over a lake which intrigues me. The water goes right up into the traps that surround and guard these greens. Greens that tilt back at the water toward the teeing area force a good golfer to hit at the flag but not have too much back spin on the ball or the trouble will start rolling!

Number 11...whew! What a hike. Even three good shots can still leave you short on this mammoth hole. I felt blessed to walk away with a five after reaching in four and sinking a 20 foot putt.

After watching my wife make five at 11, I knew I was destined to make another double bogey. From the tips, 11 reigns as the hardest hole in America! Though a 797 yard, par 5 down a mountainside in Carefree, Arizona has replaced the 678 yard, par 5 11th as America's longest hole, GCI's 11th is uphill.

Your tee shot is up a steep incline to a narrow landing area with tall fescue rough on either side. A wack out of the rough, a lay-up shot into a hidden fairway bunker, an approach into one of four greenside bunkers, and two putts sums up my trip up 11, as well as many others who have gone before me!

Eighteen is a great finishing hole except you need to be leery of what club to use off of the tee. A driver is too much and can place you on a awkward downhill stance trying to go over water and hold a narrow green that has bunkers and steep rises of a hill behind.

The slope back to the pond is severe and the grass is thick. Short or long are not good options. The approach here on number eighteen is a good tough shot, take it nice and easy to place your ball on the green.

Come out for yourselves and experience a classy upscale golf course when you visit Chicago. If your golf game is sour, a little class will go a long way to boost your spirits.

At GCI, the price is right: $45 Monday-Thursday and $65 Friday-Sunday. A competitive price for a city filled with golf courses!

Golf Club of Illinois
1575 Edgewood Rd.
Algonquin, IL 60102

Jay Mankus, Contributor

A former golf standout at Concord High School in Wilmington, Del., Jay Mankus graduated from the University of Delaware with a degree in Recreation & Parks Administration. Before graduating, Jay spent time as an intern at a golf club in the east suburbs of Cleveland specializing in golf course maintenance and design.

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