Thunderhawk Golf Course: Service with a Smile and More

By Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

Beach Park Ill. -There are not words to describe the experience I had at Thunderhawk Golf Course. Thunderhawk is located an hour from both Chicago and Milwaukee making a perfect place to meet clients from both cities.

Built by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and maintained by the Lake County forest preserve, the golfing facility sits on 243 acres of beautiful terrain.

Running late for a 7 a.m. tee time on Friday, I decide to call the clubhouse. Instead of the usual shaky, nervous voice on the other end, the clubhouse attendant was great, assuring me that they were never overbooked and that being 10 minutes late was not a big deal.

We drove up to the clubhouse on a flower-lined lane with two cheerful teenagers waiting to assist us with our bags and car. Without worrying about my bag I entered the newly built gorgeous clubhouse to friendly faces and cheerful smiles. After checking in, our bags were waiting for us outside the clubhouse while having a great cup of hot coffee in my hands.

The electric carts were in perfect condition and still had the new-car smell. A scorecard was placed face up with the first hole showing with a new pencil available to keep score. Before getting to the first hole I joked with my playing partner that if the golf course lives up to any of these little touches, I had died and gone to heaven.

Well, the course was even better than the amenities. After checking in with the starter who instructed us on the course rules and management we began our round. The course starts big with a straight 394-yard par-4.

The drive is up hill and wide open letting any golfer to swing away. The second shot is into a large green protected with a bunch of bunkers. After three putting from three feet away and walking to the second tee with a double bogey, I realized the greens are as slick as ice.

The next hole is a par-5. Measuring 554 yards, the second hole gives golfers two option off the tee. The safer option is to the left with much more fairway to work with.

The second shot down the left side encounters two huge bunkers in the rough. The best place to enter the flat green is to the right with the putting surface featuring a neat bunker which appears to cut into the putting surface.

The toughest hole on the course is the fourth hole. A par-4 measuring 424 yards has wasteland along the right side. Even on a good drive, your stance with be minimal at best as the fairway slopes to the left into bunkers on the left side.

A tough approach shot to a raised putting surface awaits with large bunker protecting the right. The green is shaded in the morning by big trees on the left, making it even harder to judge the distance to this small green.

The next holes are short and the easiest on the front side. A straight par-4 is the fifth hole with the sixth hole being the first to encounter water. A neat 168-yard par-3 that allows the golfer to bail out to a two tiered green. If the pin is cut on the right side, the hole is extremely easy.

The seventh hole is one of my favorite of the course. A short par-5 that changes direction in the middle of the hole. A bunker on the left is where to aim if planning to get home in two on this 501-yard hole. A large bunker that cuts into the front left of the green makes any pin placement in the back left tough. The green slopes toward the front making pin placements on the front less accessible.

The eighth hole is one of the only holes where water comes into play. A pond on the left can be carried with 260-yard drive which makes the next shot a wedge to the green. A bail-out drive down the right side is not any easier with water down the edge of the fairway.

Since the hole is less than 350 yards an iron is in store off the tee if golfers do not have confidence in the big stick. The green is protected in front by to large bunkers. This is an easy hole if players can outplay the water.

The back nine opens with a long par-4 and a par-5. But the course architect balanced the length with a 363-yard par-4 on the 12th. This hole begins with wasteland which starts to the right and slopes back to the left. The tee shot is very narrow with a big oak covering most of the green. The key to scoring well is placement with two irons on this hole.

The 16th is maybe the toughest hole I have ever played. A long par-5 in which the fairway is cut in two. The tee shot should be played to the left with a huge pond running down the right side of the second fairway which comes into play 225 yards for the tee box.

Players should be wary of any second shot near the water since the entire second fairway slopes sharply to the water. The third shot is to a wide, short green behind the pond. A bunker in the front right of the green also makes the third shot challenging. The key to the hole is to be long and to the left taking the water out of play. The green is flat and slick, making any birdie opportunity well deserved.

Thunderhawk ends with its signature hole, a three-shot par-5 which cuts back to the left twice. The tee shot should be aimed to the right of the bunker close to 230 yards out. The second shot should be left, short of the hazard which crosses the fairway about 100 yards from the raised green.

The small green awaits with bunkers to the right. Like the rest of the course, birdies here are tough to come by but are well rewarded.

With tough second shots and ice-like greens scoring well the first time around Thunderhawk is unlikey. But the amenities and beauty of this perfect golf course will leave you coming back for some more.

39700 N. Lewis Ave
Beach Park Ill.

Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

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