St. Andrews Golf Club: Practice makes perfect in West Chicago
WEST CHICAGO, Ill. -- St. Andrews Golf Club in West Chicago might take the same name of the famed course on the other side of the pond, but it is vastly different in style. This is a traditional well established American facility with a large clubhouse and a fine practice facility.
Joe Jemsek owns and runs the course along with Cog Hill in Lemont, home of the Western Open, and Pine Meadow, in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Much like his other golf courses, the two championship courses at St. Andrews are lined with large trees and dotted with bunkers and ponds on spacious surroundings. The blush greens are in perfect condition with defined slopes and ridges to navigate through.
Much like at his other courses, the belief of "practice makes perfect" runs true at St. Andrews. The 32-acre practice center offers 80-plus tees. It also offers a large chipping area and a huge well-maintained putting surface. "No Embarrassment" clinics are offered for the beginner along with private lessons. St. Andrews keeps its practice facility open all year round, making it one of the best in the area.
The clubhouse is designed to appeal to clients coming in for a sandwich or a small convention. The pro shop is small but well stocked with anything needed to make a round of golf more comfortable. Another great feature offered at St. Andrews is the professional custom club fitting.
With all of these terrific amenities anyone would think the green fees would be outrageous. On the contrary, St. Andrews is one of the best deals in the Midwest. While the gas carts are clean and house a hole-diagram book, because the course is so magnificent, walking is suggested.
The St. Andrews Course is the longer of the two courses measuring 6,400 yards from the middle tees while the Jemsek Course is 6,300 yards. The front tees save golfers close to 500 yards on St. Andrews and almost 1,000 yards on Lakewood. Besides the distances, angles were also taken into account when building the tee boxes. Most of the short tee boxes point the golfer in the right direction while the back tees are cut to face blind spots.
Both courses are marked as well as any course in the area. Instead of playing hard-to-find plates in the middle of the fairways, posts along the rough designate distances 100, 150, 200 and 250.
Pins are also color coordinated by where they sit on the green. These features are what Jemsek is known for, going out of his way to make the course enjoyable for all, not just low handicappers.
The Jemsek Course opens with a bunch of short, testy par-4s and a par-3 in the first four holes. This par-3 is marked the 16th easiest hole on the scorecard but plays more like one of the five toughest holes on the course. A 194-yarder, this hole asks for a solid iron to a green protected in the front by a massive bunker on the left and large overhanging trees on both sides.
The pin placement is one of the keys on this hole since most golfers will not have a solid putting stroke down this early in the round. A big landing area is in front of the green and gives a conservative player a place to bail out and walk away with a bogie.
The fifth hole on this course is the toughest hole on the front side. A 402-yard par-4 gives the golfer the first taste of the difficulty. This hole features a landing area for tee shots that slopes steeply uphill and gives the golfer either an uneven stance of a blind shot to the green. This type of mounding of the terrain is found throughout the course and might give experienced players at St. Andrews a bit of an advantage.
A bunker is set at about 250 out on the right side. The water on the left side is reachable for big hitters on the left side. The green slopes sharply upward making it important to hit a short high iron below the hole. Anything over this gigantic hole faces a drop-off behind the green.
One of the neatest holes on either course is the 17th on the Jemsek Course. This is a 524-yard monster of a par 5. Out-of-bounds down the left side with a forest on the right gives golfers only one option on the tee -- hit a straight solid drive. Just left of the right-side bunker at 220 yards is a perfect landing area for a short iron set-up shot.
Water comes into play 130 yards from the green, taking the advantage of any long hitter trying to get home in two. If played correctly, the third shot will be a short iron off an even plain into a narrow undulating green. If the pin is in front, any shot above the hole will face double or triple breaking putts.
Another great hole is the last hole on the St. Andrews Course. This hole is a short par 4 that curls around a lake. Measuring 366 yards, this hole is all carry to the fairway over water and gives golfers the bite-off-as-much-as-you-can-chew option. Any drive hit into the left rough will find it tough to get home in regulation, making the smart play a long iron off of the tee.
The second shot will usually have a large ridge on front of it making the last short iron of the day a blind shot into this flat green. With the water in play, plenty of options off of the tee and the blind shots to the green, the 18th is a perfect finishing hole.
St. Andrews is located about an hour southwest of O'Hare and close to an hour from the city. Do not make the long trip a reason not to come out to this wonderful course and facility.