While I haven’t golfed all of the cities in America, I am reaching the point where I have golfed the majority of them. One could even say that I am qualified to deliver an expert opinion on this topic. You have cities like Philadelphia, San Francisco, and New York that make a serious case for the top 3. I would put Atlanta in that discussion as well. Can Chicago crack the podium? Let’s jump into a tour of the Windy City to explore.
Back in 2004, I called Chicago home, but didn’t play much golf due to an intense love affair with alcohol. After giving up my passion for booze, I re established my efforts with golf. It has been 13 years since I touched the devil juice and I have spent the majority of those years golfing like a madman. The golf addiction is much more enjoyable and I haven’t been to jail yet because of it.
On previous visits back to Chicago, I had played big names like Shoreacres, Butler National, and Cog Hill. On this visit with the RGV Tour, I was going to test the depth of the city and get after a wide range of public and ‘tier 2’ courses.
After swooping up my good friend, John Kennelly, at O’Hare, we had just enough time to squeeze in Harbor Shores. John was going to be my copilot for the next several days. Copilot duties include eating pizza, telling jokes, and advising on road snacks. John is an expert in these 3 categories and was a natural fit for life on the road.
Next up was a great public course called Mistwood in the suburbs of Chicago. The club vibes are friendly and the course was fun to play. Highlights included a moment where I thought my Instagram account had been deleted and a visit from Kyle Pecka of Smart Golf and Fitness. These guys bring the fitness into the game and are worth checking out in downtown Chicago.
The Chicago area has two courses that end in ‘moor.’ I wish they had more of these ‘moor’ courses because the are freaking good. The two courses that I am referring too are Flossmoor and Exmoor Country Clubs.
At Flossmoor, we had the pleasure of teeing it up with RGV tour standout, Matt Considine. As far as I could tell, Matt is in the neighborhood of a +13 handicap and I am not sure why he isn’t on the PGA Tour. What he is doing, is creating something special in the Chicago area.
Matt has established something called NewClub. It is an organization of like minded golfers in the Chicago area that are looking to play golf, talk golf, and cut it up. The club has connections all around the area and is growing fast. If you are reading this, live in the Chicago area, and don’t know Matt, send him a message right away. He would be thrilled to chat with you. You can check out his story here.
Every month or so a milestone achievement happens on The RGV Tour and this was the situation during the visit to Exmoor Country Club. It was course #300! In the last 8 months or so, the RGV Tour has played golf on 300 different courses. While most golfers will not get a chance to see 100 courses in their lifetime, I have had the privilege to visit many of the greatest courses in the country. I do not take this for granted.
Coming from a modest beginning as a low end public golfer, I cherish every opportunity that I get to visit these amazing places. The history, the clubhouses, and the courses fascinate me every single day. I am often asked if I get tired of golfing… does the grind get to me? The answer is an easy no. Each course is an adventure waiting to be discovered and every morning I wake up excited to put my exploring shoes on. Exploring shoes provided by TRUE Linkswear.
One of the courses that I was looking forward to the most in Chicago was Beverly Country Club. Several members had reached out to me and I was fired up to pay them a visit. Although, we did not catch the course in it’s middle of summer form, you can feel the energy of the club ands it’s relatively youthful membership. The weather was overcast during the tour’s visit, but the Donald Ross design provides views of the skyline on clear days.
The highlight of the day came when I pumped my drive into the lip of the bunker on the par 4 6th hole. After punching out into the fairway, I was in full grump mode as I complained about how much I hate penal fairway bunkers. This is not a strategy that I recommend at all. Being grumpy is bad and nobody likes it.
However, I pulled out my wedge and fired one right at the flag. Because the approach is uphill we couldn't see what happened. The tweet should explain the rest. Grump mode reversed.
After an all world day at Beverly, we decided to leave the RGV in the parking lot and head on into town for the Cubs game. This was serious business as the Cubs were in a one game Wild Card playoff game. It was do or die time. 14 innings later, the Cub’s season was over and we had witnessed the longest game in Wrigley post season history.
On a positive note, I did get my usual soft serve ice cream in a souvenir helmet. I highly recommend.
The Chicago Cubs couldn’t hit a baseball to save their season, but the Chicago golf hits kept coming fast. Skokie Country Club is on the short list of best clubs in the city and it is well deserved. Similar to Beverly, the course was originally laid out by Tom Bendelow, before Donald Ross redesigned in in 1914. In 1922, Skokie Country Club hosted the US Open and in 2018 it hosted The RGV Tour.
After a morning round at Skokie, it was time to head on out to the lesser known Canal Shores. Canal shores is a short course that offers a full 18 holes winding through the neighborhoods of Evanston, IL. I met up with local golf stud, Brad Repplinger, and we decided to play a one club match. The idea is pretty simple, you get one club and that is all you can use for your round.
The match is going along pretty well and I am delivering a solid beating on Brad. While I was working on some high kicks, we had a couple of neighborhood kids approach us. They were fans of the RGV Tour and had pinpointed our location from Instagram stories... They wanted to be a part of the tour. “Well saddle on up partners and join this golf party!” I kept the match going with Brad and we implemented a skins game to pump up the action for our new tour players, Thomas and Tejas. Like a natural born hustler, Tejas birdied the very first hole to take a skin. What a legend.
Afterwards, we gave the kids a ride home in the RGV and they signed the guest book. Thomas would proceed to write one of my favorite entries. “Thanks so much for letting us join up and see Patrick kick Brad’s ass.”
One of Chicago’s oldest golf organizations is Ravisloe Country Club. The course’s history begins in 1901 and is actually a founding member club of the USGA. The course is public now, which means it was an easy course to add to the agenda. Plenty of Donald Ross goodies to be found here.
A man by the name of Jerry Rich invented a technology that combines a number of different finance programs into one convenient piece of software. He made a bunch of money selling this software to financial institutions and today, this technology is used by stock exchanges around the world.
Great, so what does this have to do with golf? Well, Jerry decided to take some of that money he made in finance and build a golf course with it. At first it was 3 holes, then 6, and today it is 18 golf holes of top 100 golf. The course is home to the Northern Illinois University golf teams and most recently hosted the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship in 2017.
Our group was the only one on the course that entire day. We did see Jerry playing as a single as we made our way around the back nine. He lives on the property and was just out for a stroll in his backyard.
When I was a kid, I made up a golf course in my back yard. The first hole was a par 3 that involved a shot over the roof or a hard slice around the house. The shot over the house shot was a real risk reward option because there was a chance that the plastic ball would get stuck in the gutter. That was a one stroke penalty, plus you had to climb up on the roof and get the ball.
While the golf holes are much more grown up at Rich Harvest Farms, It is this same sort of golf spirit that exists at Rich Harvest Farms.
Rain had threatened to derail some of the Chicago rounds but it would never succeed. The only thing that the rain usually does is scare off a majority of the golfers. I would play golf in just about any weather and a little drizzle certainly didn’t stop me from having the course to myself at the Merit Club.
After battling some Chicago traffic, I met up with Brad again... the Brad from the ass beating at Canal Shores. This time we were looking to watch the Chicago Blackhawks beat some ass against the Maple Leafs. It was the home opener for the Blackhawks and it turned out to be one of the best hockey games that I have ever witnessed.
The action got intense when Kane evened the score at 5-5 with less than 2 minutes left in the 3rd period, 22 seconds later, the Maple Leafs went ahead 6-5. 33 seconds after that, Kane scored again to send the game to overtime at 6-6. 19 seconds into overtime, Toronto would score would win it. Sports are good in Chicago.
And just like that, my time in Chicago was almost over. I headed on over to Black Sheep for a send-off round. It is a little bit of a drive compared to some of the other courses in the area, but it is worth it.
You have 27 holes of golf at Black Sheep and If it’s possible, I would say that the course is even better than it’s logo. That logo is so good that I even bought a tee shirt.
So where does Chicago rank in term’s of America’s greatest golfing cities? I would say that it is very similar to Philadelphia and may even surpass it in terms of it’s public options. Chicago golfers are wildly passionate about their sport as well. Since I have Philly at #2 and there is very little science involved in this, Chicago get’s my #3 spot. That bronze medal will have to keep Cubs fans happy in October.
BONUS STATE: IOWA
If you are a golfer living in Chicago and haven’t made it out to Davenport Country Club in Iowa, you are committing a crime. Davenport CC gets a nod from me on one of my biggest surprises on the entire tour. Just go see it.