Cantigny Golf Course: A Simply Breathtaking Experience

By Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

WHEATON, IL - There has been a long-standing argument in the area as to what is the best golf course in Chicagoland. Well, put Cantigny Golf Course up there with a vote from me. Breathtaking is the first word that comes to mind for this amazing golf facility.

The first thing that is noticed when driving up to the clubhouse is how plush the grounds appear. There is nothing out of place and every inch is manicured to perfection. Friendly gentlemen dressed to the hilt with knickers and caps wait to take your bags from the car. The clubhouse staff is helpful and knowledge, but, like the rest of the experience, nothing is overdone and excessive.

The practice facility is to die for. Instead of having just five or six holes dug into a small practice green, the grounds keepers made a huge putting surface that is perfectly cut to match the greens on the course. The practice range is also of the utmost quality with plenty of grass tees to get into a grove before a challenging round of golf.

The course itself is split into three different nine-hole courses; the Lakeside, Hillside, and Woodside. On each first tee, gentlemen wait to guide you through the ground rules and regulations that might affect a round of golf. Their knowledge of the course and surrounding area is also well defined.

Every hole has three sets of tees and is marked for the level of golfer. Handicaps of 26 or higher should play off the red tees while single digit handicaps should take a walk backwards and hit from the gold tees. Each nine is measured over 3,000 yards from the middle tees and is quit a bit shorter from the front tees, which are also placed for beginners to have an easier route to the green.

The course itself is an array of beautiful and challenging holes. Every hole has a unique personality and distinction. But the underlining theory of playing well at Catigny is to play the course with your head instead of your heart.

"Two years ago we had a round for the U.S. Amateur qualifier and one of the players came in after his round and said you have to think too much on this course." Mike Jones, Catigny's head professional said. Jones continued to say it is a course where length is great but accuracy is the key to scoring well.

Four holes that typify Jones' idea of Catigny:

Sixth hole - Hillside

A short par-4 measuring 324 off of the middle tees, the sixth hole is marked as the easiest hole on the nine but can sneak up and bite even the best golfers.

Jones says, "My favorite hole on the course is six on the Lakeside course. It is a short hole and fairly easy. You don't have to hit a driver there but if you're not in the right place on the fairway you don't have a shot to the green."

Two large bunkers are waiting at the bend of this dogleg right. Any drive that is put into these traps makes getting it on in regulation to this small green almost impossible. If a long iron is struck well of the tee, aim for the middle of the green and walk proudly away from this hole with a par.

Second hole - Woodside

Sloping right into the creek, this 500-yard par-5 is one of the toughest holes in the area.

"The most challenging hole on the course for most players is probably two on the Woodside course." Jones said. "It has a creek that runs down the right side and cuts across the fairway and into the back of the green."

With the creek coming into play on every shot and a pond in the back of the Green, it is almost impossible to get home in two shots. Being maybe the second hole of the 18, golfers playing here for the first time will look at the hole on the scorecard as being easy. If not conservatively played, it could ruin a round right off the bat.

Ninth hole - Lakeside

The second hardest hole on this nine, the ninth hole is the prettiest on the course. Water runs down the right side hole that measures 341 yards from the middle tees. A large bunker comes into play on the right side of the fairway on a huge drive. If golfers are able to place their drive in the middle of the fairway, an island green waits.

Water in the back, left, and right coupled with traps in the back and front, makes the approach a daunting task. The slick, small green is the target as a par is not out of the question if players can stay dry and straight.

Fourth hole - Lakeside

The first par-3 on the Lakeside course, this hole is a daunting task for anyone with a dislike for water. This hole is 171 yards but plays a little shorter with a water carry over 120 yards on the left side. For players who decide to steer clear of the water, there is a large bunker on the right side of the green that will come into play. A par here is just fine but a birdie can kick start a great round of golf.

One way the staff is able to keep the grounds in immaculate shape is controlling the number of rounds played each year at the course. Golf is not played before 7:30am to give the grounds crew enough time to complete the morning's work. The course is also closed on Mondays and closes for the year with the time change.

"The last Sunday in October is usually our last." Jones explained. "We close early so that the grass has enough time to recover for the next spring."

Besides the 27 championship holes, Cantigny also runs the nine-hole Youth Links course. Holes range from 75 to 175 yards and were created for kids between the ages of 8 and 15. Young golfers may play without adult supervision after successful completion of the certification program. Adults may play only as guests of a junior golfer.

Cantigny Golf Course
Wheaton, IL 60187
Phone: (630) 668-3323

Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

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