The weather for the second weekend of April turned out to be really nice, up near the 80’s and teasing us for the summer to come. Taking advantage of this, I headed over to Downers Grove Golf Club with a couple folks from the meetup group: Blake and [of course] Susie. Downers Grove Golf Club is located in (wait for it…) Downers Grove, Illinois, approximately 20 miles west of Chicago.
Downers Grove Golf Club has a rich history. The course was established in 1892, formerly known at the Chicago Golf Club, as a 9-hole course. It was America’s first golf course west of the Allegheny mountain range. One year later, in 1893, another 9-holes were added, making the course the first 18-hole golf course in the United States. In 1895, the club members decided to build a new 18-hole golf course near Wheaton, Illinois, where the Chicago Golf Club is still in existence today. (And don’t expect me to play the Chicago Golf Club anytime soon. According to the Wikipedia entry, the “Chicago Golf Club is ranked the 5th most exclusive in the world. There are only 120 members and it will never exceed this amount, the only way to get in is for a member to quit or pass away”.) The course changed several owners from 1895 until 1968, when the course was purchased by the Downers Grove Park District, and was turned back into a 9-hole course.
The course features two par-3 and two par-5 holes for a total par of 36 at a length of 3,280 yards from the back tees. The fairways are very hilly, although fairly open and straight, and are surrounded by large trees. You’ll definitely want to plan out your next shot before you tee off. It’s not uncommon to have to hit your next shot going uphill or downhill. Water touches seven holes, and nearly all of the water hazards are part of protected wetlands. You’ll only need to carry your shot over water on the 2nd hole, a 416 yard par-4, the 3rd hole, a 467 yard par-5, and the 9th hole, a 482 yard par-5. Sand traps are found both near the fairways and the greens on almost all holes. The greens are a decent size with consistent slopes and breaks, providing a challenge to all levels of players.
When Blake, Susie and I arrived at the first tee box, we were greeted by the fourth player in our round, Tracy. Tracy was a regular at the course, so it was nice to have someone in our round that knew the ins and outs of the course. He was very helpful in pointing out where we should place our shots, all while providing a bit more historical knowledge on the upkeep and layout of the course. He was telling us that throughout the season, the club will change up many aspects of the course, most notably the location of the blue tees (the back tees) and the pins. He said that normally playing from the back tees felt like playing on a different hole than the rest of the people in your group because they are so far away from the next tee box. In many cases, the back tees would get moved, adding up to an extra 50 yards onto the hole. He also mentioned that the pin locations sometime get placed right in the middle of a slope, which adds an extra level of challenge to putting. Luckily, I didn’t play from the back tees and the pin locations were not too difficult this round. That was actually the last thing I needed to happen on this round.
I’ve noticed over the last couple of years while working on this project that there tends to be one course that I play throughout the season that really challenges me; one course that really confirms how much of a beginner I am. In 2009, I think that course was the Meadows Golf Club of Blue Island, where I shot a 127. In 2010, I could have been Broken Arrow Golf Club or the South Course of Silver Lake Country Club, where I shot a 136 and 137 (respectively). For 2011, I think it’s safe to say that my trouble course is Downers Grove Golf Club.
I had a lot of trouble this round. My drives were pretty inconsistent, slicing right or pushing left, but did occasionally have a good drive. It’s my iron shots where I had the most issues. I wasn’t consistently hitting the ball correctly, either topping the ball or chunking into the ground, and when I did hit the ball, it wasn’t accurate at all, both in direction and distance. I couldn’t hit the tee shots on the par-3 holes either. From what Susie and Blake was telling me, I was either overpowering my shot or standing up when hitting my shot, or both, which makes complete sense because it was the same thing I used to do last year before I took my first lesson. As much as I tried, I couldn’t get back to what I was taught. The rest of my game also lacked, but that could have been because I was so frustrated with my shots that got me to the green. My chipping and putting was OK, but still needed some practice. I 2-putted four times and 3-putted five times. Honestly, by the time I got to putting, I was just wanting to get the hole over with.
I ended up shooting a 72, which is 36-over par. I wasn’t too happy with my round. The course was difficult, and I think even good players would agree with me on that. On top my poor playing, walking the course, with all of its hills, made for a very unsatisfactory round for this beginner. I wouldn’t necessarily not recommend this course to a beginner, but I would just make sure they know what they are getting themselves into. Much like in previous years, I’ll play another round at a course that I had trouble with, so don’t find it surprising if you see me playing this course again. The greens fees for the course are very fair for the challenge you’ll get, so it’ll be hard to pass it up if I get invited to play the course again.
Downers Grove Golf Club – Scores & Stats
Course length: 3,041 yards (white tee boxes)
Course par: 36
Course rating/slope: 70.4 / 126 (white tee boxes)
My score: 72 (36 over par)