As temperatures in the Chicagoland area reached into the 90’s, I decided to brave the heat and venture down to Woodruff Golf Course in Joliet, Illinois. Woodruff Golf Course is located approximately 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago, just a couple miles from the edge of this project’s circle. Woodruff is owned by the Joliet Park District, which also owns Inwood Golf Course and Wedgewood Golf Course, both of which are outside the circle. Of the three courses, Woodruff is the oldest course, opening in 1926 (according to their website; other sources say 1922). Inwood opened in 1931 and Wedgewood opened in 1970.

Woodruff is also the shortest of the three JPD courses. The course features four par-3 and no par-5 holes for a total par of 68 at a length of 5,670 yards from the back tees (Inwood is a par 71 at 6,196 yards, Wedgewood is a par 72 at 6,836 yards). I didn’t really see much of a difference between the back tees and the middle tees, usually only a difference of 5 – 20 yards. The par-3 holes average around 190 yards in length, and the par-4 holes average around 350 yards in length. The fairways are different between the front nine and the back nine. On the front nine, the fairways are very straight, flat, and open, and surrounded by small- to medium-sized trees. On the back nine, the fairways are more hilly and narrow in some areas, and surrounded by large trees. You’ll also find a lot more water hazards on the back nine, which provides most of the challenge. In many cases, the water hazard, usually a small stream cutting across the fairway, will be around 200 – 250 yards from the tee, right about where most beginners will place their tee shots. Water hazards touch three holes on the front nine, and seven holes on the back nine. Sand bunkers are not very common (only near the greens when you find one). You are more likely to find a grass bunker, which is something I haven’t seen before. Greens are average in size, and didn’t seem to challenging. The speed of the greens were a little inconsistent, but that could have been because of the heat.

Two notable holes are the 11th hole (a 379 yard par-4) and the 12th hole (a 194 yard par-3). The 11th hole is a dogleg right, and if your tee shot is more than 220 yards, it’ll end up in thick brush (which you won’t find). Also, if you slice your tee shot right, expect to find it in the yard of a nearby house (who will gladly sell it back to you). The 12th hole’s tee box sits on top of a hill, and your tee shot is through a narrow opening in the trees. Your tee shot must be straight, otherwise your ball could be lost in the woods.

This course reminded me of two other courses I’ve played in the past: Glenwoodie Golf Club and Frank Govern Memorial Golf Course. It reminded me of Glenwoodie because of the differences between the front nine and the back nine. Glenwoodie also has a very flat and straight front nine, and a hilly back nine with a lot of water hazards cutting through the fairways. It reminded me of Frank Govern Memorial because of the tee shot on the 12th hole, where you have to hit your shot over a narrow opening in the trees and over a water hazard. You see that tee shot a couple places at Frank Govern Memorial.

For this round, I was paired up with another player, Rick, on the first hole. Since the temperatures were high, and it was somewhat later in the day, the course wasn’t too busy, so we were able to complete the round in about 4 hours (we got slowed down on the back nine by a threesome of beginners in front of us).

A couple days prior to this round, I spent an hour or so at the driving range, and I started to feel something different about my drives. Ever since I started playing this game, I’ve always been worried about hitting the ball (so I don’t top, shank, or duff the ball), and not so much about where the ball went after I hit it. I think I’m past that point now, and I’m starting to feel like I can keep my driver on the correct swing plane and hit the ball a very high percentage of the time. I personally think this is a great feeling, and it allows me to focus on other things now, like any small changes to my swing to correct my [usually consistent] slice.

In fact, in the same session at the driving range, I think I might have figured out the first change to fix the slice. During my practice swing, I take a couple 1/4 swings (halfway up my back swing, then down to the ball, and repeat). Doing this a couple times, allows me to remember when to turn my wrists so the club-face is square at the impact of the ball. I do that 1/4 swing a couple times, then take a full swing. When ready, I step into the ball, take a couple 1/4 swings, then take a full swing to hit the ball. Most times, my wrists will be in the correct position from the practice swings, and the ball will travel on a straight path.

Lastly, I’m working on driving through the ball, which means I’m working on properly shifting my weight from my back foot (right foot for right-handed players) to my front foot. This is something that I’ve been told and heard that I need to do for a while, and I’m just now really able to understand and put it to use.

I took this new weight-shift and practice routine into my round, and I feel I had more success with my drives. My drives were a lot straighter, or if anything, just pushing to the right. In some cases, I’m actually starting to pull my drives to the left, which is something I rarely do. I felt that my drives got longer too (around the 220 yard range), and I looked forward to those 320 yard par-4 holes, where my 2nd shot would be an easy pitch. I also worked on the weight-shift for my iron shots, and those seemed to straighten up a lot. Another big change for me in this round was I started to hit with my fairway wood more. I’ve always had issues with my fairway wood and my hybrid, usually topping the ball. I’m slowly getting comfortable with it, and I’ve been trying to practice more with it at the driving range. My approach and chip shots were decent, but nothing spectacular, and the same goes for my putting. I didn’t have any 1-putts, and I 3-putted just three times.

I ended up shooting a 93 for the round (21 over par), which breaks 100 again, but the course is a par 68 and just 5,412 yards from the blue tees, so I’m not really making a big deal of it. I made two pars, nine bogeys, five double bogeys, and two triple bogeys. Making nine bogeys was nice, and having a long, straight drive on 350 yard par-4 holes helped me out tremendously. All-in-all, I’m happy with this round. I think I’m starting to make good advancements in my drive, and getting that fairway wood to work properly for me is a nice feeling.

Woodruff Golf Course – Scores & Stats
Course length: 5,412 yards (blue tee boxes)
Course par: 68
Course rating/slope: 66.3/116 (blue tee boxes)
My score: 93 (21 over par)

Woodruff Golf Course
621 Gougar Road
Joliet, IL 60432