A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to play a course that is fairly dear to me: Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club in Orland Park, Illinois, which is located approximately 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. This course is close to me, not only because I spend a lot of time in the Crystal Tree neighborhood, but also because I got married next to the tee box of the first hole. I originally got the opportunity to play the course in 2010 thanks to a gift from Denise and John (Beth’s mother and step-father), and planned to play the round in 2011, but timing and schedules never worked out until this year.
Crystal Tree opened in 1989 and was designed by world-renowned Robert Trent Jones, Jr, who also designed Prairie Landing Golf Club in West Chicago, Illinois, and ThunderHawk Golf Club in Beach Park, Illinois. In the mid 2000’s, a new 55,000 square foot clubhouse was built, and the holes were renumbered.
As close as this course is to me, it’s even closer to the two other golfers that was in my group: Mike and Chuck. Both Mike and Chuck caddied at the course in the late 1990’s, but never got a chance to play the course. Prior to the round, John introduced us to the Head Golf Professional for Crystal Tree, Gabe Exiner. It turned out that Mike and Chuck both knew Gabe, because Gabe was the Assistant Golf Professional back when they caddied. Gabe gave us a run-down of the course, and updated Mike and Chuck about the changes that were made since they caddied. John rounded out the foursome, but only acted as the photographer. Even though he didn’t play, he did say he enjoyed the round. I really appreciate the opportunity to play this course, and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity.
The course features four par-3 and four par-5 holes for a total par of 72 at a length of 6,810 yards from the back tees. There are five sets of tees, ranging from a length of 6,810 yards to 5,248 yards. The course weaves its way around the Crystal Tree neighborhood, and many of the fairways do not sit next to another fairway. Overall, this is a fairly hilly course, which is something you don’t see too often in the Chicagoland area. The rolling fairways are generally wide and open, and are surrounded by large trees or the houses that are part of the neighborhood. The design and layout of the fairways is what makes this course so beautiful. Water touches nine of the holes, three of which you’ll need to carry your tee shot or your approach shot over if played safely. Large bunkers are found on every hole, either near the greens, near the fairways, or both. The challenging, undulating greens are generally pretty deep and narrow.
I think I was the most nervous that I’ve ever been leading up to this round. The Thursday before the round, I went to the driving range and had a pretty bad session. None of my drives felt smooth, and I was slicing a lot of balls. Before the round started, I got a chance to hit a couple balls at the club’s driving range, and things improved a bit, but I was still slicing, including one drive that sliced so far right that it found its way to a nearby parking lot (which was luckily empty). With how I was hitting, my goal was to finish the round with a 110 or better.
Not surprising, I started the round by slicing my drive into thick trees, then proceeded to do the same with my provisional shot. It was kind of disheartening to start the round with poor drives like that, but I had to move on. My next eight tee shots also went right, but didn’t majorly slice. It wasn’t until the back nine that my tee shots improved, including three really nice tee shots back-to-back-to-back on the 13th, 14th, and 15th. My iron shots were pretty random, mostly with accuracy. I didn’t feel as comfortable with my iron shots as I did in my last couple of rounds. My short game was also a bit random. I had some nice wedge shots and putts, which were probably the key factor in keeping my score low.
I ended up shooting a 105 (33 over par, 57 on the front nine, 48 on the back nine). This consisted of one par, six bogeys, five double bogeys, and the rest triple bogeys. I 1-putted four times and 3-putted four times, and had four penalties and five sand shots. Much like the last couple of rounds, there was a couple times I was putting for par, but ended up 3-putting for double bogey. I really need to work on my putting a bit more.
Crystal Tree Golf and Country Club – Scores & Stats
Course length: 6,405 yards (silver tee boxes)
Course par: 72
Course rating/slope: 72.0 / 136 (silver tee boxes)
My score: 105 (33 over par)