Harborside Port

18th At Harborside Port

This Harborside place is a bedeviling couple of golf courses. I played the Port course a few Sundays ago and got my butt kicked; the place just has a tendency to kick the living crap out of you if you’re not careful. The blue tees on Port are 6,589 yards and rated at 72.3/130, but it feels a lot tougher. Throw in some 50 degree temps and blustery Chicago winds and you have the ingredients for some handicap restoration.

That’s what happened to me, I couldn’t break 90. Every green is well-guarded and often on a different level from your approach, each fairway is crowded by fescue, and the bunkers are huge and well placed. I haven’t played them back-to-back in a while, but sitting here slightly removed from the carnage it feels much more difficult than Starboard, which sports a 126 slope rating (even more difficult than the rating differential indicates).

That being said, it is an absolutely stunning golf course. Nugent and his crew layered three feet of clay on top of a garbage dump owned by the Port Authority of Chicago and they did it right. It’s a massive carpet of perfectly manicured bent grass, lush bluegrass, and mangy fescue all integrated with a lake and the surrounding industrial countryside. The views of downtown on a clear day are incredible.

10th Harborside Port Long

The finishing holes on both courses will blow you away, but I think the Port course edges out Starboard for drama, distinctiveness, and beauty.

When I talk finishing holes in relation to Harboside Port, I’m starting with number fifteen, called Anchor. When you step on the elevated tee box you can see the last four holes splayed out for you by making a semicircular turn to your right. But don’t get distracted because Anchor is a long par three with a severely crescent-shaped green guarded by a huge bunker that outlines a grassy island in the shape of anchor. It’s quite an amazing site, but tough.

Harborside Port 15

Up next, number sixteen, called Land’s End. It’s a par four that extends out into what appears to be a collection pond of Lake Calumet. It’s short but not easy. You need to be strategic about where you put your drive because your approach has to be accurate to avoid the water left and bunker right. The green sits out on a point with the seventeenth tee and you feel like you’re on the edge of the world.

Number seventeen is called Beach because of a large bunker that rises out of the lake like a typical beach at the corner of this dogleg left par four. You can bite off as much as you can chew with this tee shot; factor in how your legs feel, your tolerance for risk, and whether or not you need some beach time. It’s beautiful and serene back here in the far reaches of the course, but there are a million ways things can go wrong.

This all culminates on number eighteen, Needle, pictured at the top of this post. It’s a razor thin par five with water left and a ridge right. It’s a short par five so the trouble is manageable, but you need to be measured. The double green is shared with the eighteenth on Starboard. The beautiful, prairie style clubhouse overlooks the scene. It’s awe inspiring.

It sounds all find and dandy, but there’s a good chance you’re beat up at this point. My wife flat out refused to play this course back when she played a lot because it wasn’t any fun for her. They don’t build courses like this any more (well, actually, they don’t really build courses any more), but if designers and course builders want to contribute to growing the game they’ll figure out a way to retain some playability along with the beauty and challenge of places like Harborside Port.

Part of the problem here is that the second and third tee boxes are too far apart. The second toughest tee box is a brutal 6,589 yards but the third tee box is only 5,977 yards (it even lacks a 400 yard par four). I’m not sure what Nugent and the crew were thinking here. In a few days I’ll post something on Village Links of Glen Ellyn, which has a near-perfect tee box setup.

Regardless, I love Harborside and I’ll probably be back for another helping by summer’s end. It’s not cheap, $95 (including cart and range balls), but it has every amenity. It’s a top flight experience no matter how you slice it.

Harborside Port 120513


Indian Boundary

Indian Boundary #6 Tee

Indian Boundary causes more mixed emotions for me than any other course I play regularly. Sometimes it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me happy. Often I think it’s the future of golf in our country, then I’ll run into some dude fishing the pond on the par three eighth hole and think otherwise.

I rank Indian Boundary third in the collection of Cook County Forest Preserve courses behind George Dunne and Highland Woods. I paid $49.99 on a Sunday morning in May with cart for a decent sub-$50 experience. It’s a solid layout, highly convenient to downtown, and you’re almost guaranteed to see a deer. However, like many of the Forest Preserve courses, you have some frequent conditioning issues and a small percentage of golfers may not be challenged by even the back tees (they barely stretch 6,000 yards). If I’m just a little dialed-in I can really score at these short courses, like I did this day.

I was in a foursome with some friends and on the 7th tee and one of them exclaimed, “Wow, this is a great course. I can’t believe it only took me 20 minutes to get here.” We had just seen a deer on the previous hole and the tee box we were standing on was tucked back in a stand of trees overlooking a small lake that you had to carry. It was a picturesque, peaceful moment. Here it is:

Indian Boundary #7 Tee

There are a few of these moments, then there’s also a pack of bland, trouble-free, sub-350 yard par fours and no challenging par fives. But this could be the future of American golf. You can walk for $35 (includes 9% city tax) at most and its playability does not cost too much in aesthetics and challenge. That’s relatively inexpensive and it has to be cheap to run. There is no driving range and no significant clubhouse or bag services. This is fine because the first few holes are simple and provide a decent warm-up. Plus, you never have to deal with figuring out how much to tip a bag room attendant.

Every time I blow holes in this place I can find an offsetting benefit. The fairways are bluegrass and sometimes in poor condition, but the greens are bent (or damn close) so the putting experience is comparable to courses a little more expensive. In general, they do a good job on the conditioning on what I’m guessing is a tight budget. Here is the approach to the par four 6th, a short, tricky hole and one of the nicer ones on the course. Note the nice manicure on the bluegrass (including a first cut) and the well-bunkered green:

Indian Boundary Par Four #6 Approach

The place just has a nice, minimalist feel. Heck, there have been times when my complete time investment has been less than five hours out and back, including drive time and wait time. I’ll make sacrifices for that.

I’ve played two short, sporty, inexpensive courses this year so I’m ready for some juice. I’m hitting Harborside tomorrow so I’ll get bent grass fairways, fast greens, and trouble around every corner. I’m pumped! Hopefully the weather holds out for a morning round.

Indian Boundary 120506


Hickory Hills

Hickory Hills #1 Tee Box

I played Hickory Hills Golf Club last Sunday and found it somewhat odd, but priced in the ballpark and with some unique features. It was the first time I’ve played here and the first round this year, so it’s appropriate that it will be my first review in the re-purposed Chicago Public Golf/@golfjstef quest for interweb golf glory.

I knew all last week that Sunday had the potential for being a good day to hit it, but my foursome didn’t get around to deciding to play for sure until Saturday. It’s always risky trying to get a weekend prime tee time the day before, but pretty doable in this day and age. Here’s roughly how my call to Hickory Hills went:

Me: Hi, do you have space for four tomorrow, say around 8am?

HH staff: Yes we do, how about 8:00am?

Me: Wow, cool, actually, what about a little later, say 8:30 or 9:00?

HH staff: Yes, we can do 8:32 or 9:00.

Me: Great, I’ll take the 8:32. Now it may be only three because we have one guy on the fence. Are you going to hit my credit card if I don’t show up with all four?

HH staff: We don’t need a credit card. I’ll put you down for four and if you show up with less that’s fine.

I couldn’t envision a tee-time conversation going any better than that. It’s actually one of the greatest tee-time discussions I’ve ever had. I’m going to pause a moment and savor it, then let’s get to some details.

The price was $42 with cart on April 15th on Sunday morning. It took us about 30 minutes to get there from downtown by taking I55 to Harlem south to 95th west. It’s barely over 6,000 yards from the back tees (the only measured tee box) and comprised of bluegrass mown to about two different levels. The putting surfaces may have been a finer type of grass but it wasn’t cut very short so they were pretty slow. It’s a par 71 but the rating runs 67.9. There isn’t much trouble and there isn’t much of a crowd. These could be related. I shot an 80 so I was pretty happy.

It sounds a little bland thus far but it’s really not. It’s actually a pretty decent value. Things are kept interesting with a serious of ridges and embankments often used to elevate greens and tee boxes. The picture at the top of this post is taken from the first tee, a straight, trouble-free par 5 which sits atop a ridge and greets players when they exit the clubhouse. You pay a reasonable price and walk out and see this, which portends that you may have gotten a pretty darn good deal.

This feeling ebbs and flows throughout the round though and by the time the disappointing 18th hole rolls around (277 yard par four) you aren’t quite sure how good the deal was. The low price and lack of crowds are great, but boredom sets in by the turn and some aesthetic fumbles begin to set you off, like cart paths down the center of fairways and large, unsightly signs behind each green with the hole number.

I’ll tell you what though, I feel like I’ve found a workout course – a hassle-free place to go and carry your clubs for a great workout. Here are the features of a great workout course for me:

  • Proximate (relatively, by Chicago standards that means < 30 min)
  • Cheap
  • Hilly
  • Uncrowded

This place does fit the bill in that respect and if I play it again it will be for the workout value. Check out my photo set on Flickr. It was a cloudy so there aren’t many good pics, but they give you a feel for the place.

Hickory Hills 120415


Chicago Public Golf List

I’m moving the Chicago Public Golf stuff over here, for now. It could be permanent. You know my history, I haven’t done very well at keeping up multiple websites. Even my business site is suffering from neglect, so I’m giving this a whirl. Please still consider this under construction until I get all the links and phone numbers set up.


  • Arboretum | map | site | CDGA | 847-913-1112
  • Bittersweet | map | site | CDGA | 847-855-9031
  • Bonnie Brook | map | site | CDGA | 847-360-4732
  • Buffalo Grove | map | site | CDGA | 847-459-5520
  • Chevy Chase | map | site | CDGA | 847-465-2300
  • Countryside | map | site | CDGA | 847-968-3100
  • Crane’s Landing | map | site | CDGA | 847-634-5935
  • Deerfield | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-945-8333
  • Deerpath | map | site | CDGA | 847-615-4290
  • Foss Park | map | site | CDGA | 847-689-7490
  • Glen Club | map | site | CDGA | 847-724-7272
  • Glencoe | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-835-0250
  • Glenview | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 847-724-0250
  • Highland Park | map | site | CDGA | 847-433-4000
  • Lake Bluff | map | site | CDGA | 847-234-6771
  • Midlane | map | site | CDGA | 847-360-0550
  • Pine Meadow| map | site | CDGA | 847-566-4653
  • Shepherds Crook | map | site | CDGA | 847-872-2080
  • Sportsmans | map | site | CDGA | 847-291-2351
  • Steeple Chase | map | site | CDGA | 847-949-8900
  • Stonewall Orchard | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-740-4890
  • Sunset Valley | map | site | CDGA | 847-432-7140
  • Thunderhawk | map | site | CDGA | 847-968-4295
  • Village Green | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-566-7373
  • White Deer Run | map | site | CDGA | 847-680-6100
  • Wilmette | map | site | CDGA | 847-256-9777
  • Winnetka | map | site | CDGA | 847-501-2050


  • Antioch | map | site | CDGA | 847-395-3004
  • Bonnie Dundee | map | site | CDGA | 847-423-5511
  • Boone Creek | map | site | CDGA | 815-455-6900
  • Cary Country Club | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-639-3161
  • Chalet Hills | map | site | CDGA | 847-639-0666
  • Chapel Hill | map | site | CDGA | 815-385-3337
  • Crystal Woods | map | site | CDGA | 815-338-3111
  • Fox Lake | map | site | CDGA | 847-587-6411
  • Fox Run | map | site | CDGA | 847-228-3544
  • Foxford Hills | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-639-0400
  • Golf Club of IL | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-658-4400
  • Highland Woods | map | site | CDGA | 847-359-5850
  • Highlands of Elgin | map | site | CDGA | 847-931-5950
  • Hilldale | map | site | CDGA | 847-310-1100
  • Indian Boundary | map | site | CDGA | 773-625-9630
  • Makray | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 847-381-6500
  • Marengo Ridge | map | site | CDGA | TW | 815-923-2332
  • Mount Prospect | map | site | CDGA | 847-259-4200
  • Oak Grove | map | site | CDGA | 815-648-2550
  • Old Orchard | map | site | CDGA | 847-255-2025
  • Palatine Hills | map | site | CDGA | FB | 847-359-4020
  • Pinecrest | map | site | CDGA | 847-669-3111
  • Plum Tree National | map | site | CDGA | 815-943-7474
  • Poplar Creek | map | site | CDGA | 847-884-0219
  • Prairie Isle | map | site | CDGA | 815-356-0202
  • Randall Oaks | map | site | CDGA | 847-428-5661
  • Redtail | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 815-477-0055
  • Renwood | map | site | CDGA | 847-231-4711
  • Schaumburg | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 847-885-9000
  • Villa Olivia | map | site | CDGA | 630-289-1000
  • Whisper Creek | map | site | CDGA | 847-515-7680


  • Arrowhead | map | site | CDGA | TW | 630-653-5800
  • Bartlett Hills | map | site | CDGA | 630-837-2741
  • Blackberry Oaks | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Bloomingdale | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Cantigny | map | site | CDGA | FB | 630-668-3323
  • Carriage Greens | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Eaglewood | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Fresh Meadow | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Glendale Lakes | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Hughes Creek | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Indian Lakes | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 630-529-6466
  • Klein Creek | map | site | CDGA | FB | 630-690-0101
  • Maple Meadows | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Mill Creek | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Naperbrook | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 630-378-4215
  • Oak Brook | map | site | CDGA | 630-368-6400
  • Oak Meadows | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Orchard Valley | map | site | CDGA | 630-907-0500
  • Pheasant Run | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Phillips Park | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Prairie Landing | map | site | CDGA | FB | 630-208-7600
  • Seven Bridges | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Springbrook | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Settlers Hill | map | site | CDGA | FB | 630-232-1636
  • St. Andrews | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Tamarack | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Tanna Farms | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Village Greens | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Village Links | map | site | CDGA | 630-469-8180
  • White Pines | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Willow Crest | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000


  • Big Run | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Bolingbrook | map | site | CDGA | 630-771-9400
  • Broken Arrow | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Carillon | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Cinder Ridge | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Cog Hill | map | site | CDGA | TW |630-257-5872
  • Fox Bend | map | site | CDGA | FB | 630-554-3939
  • Gleneagles | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Heritage Bluffs | map | site | CDGA | FB | 815-467-7888
  • Hickory Hills | map | site | 708-598-5900
  • Inwood | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Mistwood | map | site | CDGA | FB | 815-254-3333
  • Nettle Creek | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Old Oak | map | site | CDGA | FB | 708-301-3344
  • Prairie Bluff | map | site | CDGA | 815-836-4653
  • Ruffled Feathers | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Silver Lake | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Water’s Edge | map | site | CDGA | 708-671-1032
  • Wedgewood | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Whitetail Ridge | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000


  • Aspen Ridge | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Aberdeen | map | site | CDGA | 219-462-5050
  • Balmoral Woods | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 708-672-7448
  • Burnham Woods | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Cardinal Creek | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Coyote Run | map | site | CDGA | 708-957-8700
  • Deer Creek | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Evergreen | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • George Dunne | map | site | CDGA | 708-429-6886
  • Green Garden | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Glenwoodie | map | site | CDGA | 708-758-1212
  • Harborside | map | site | CDGA | 312-782-7837
  • Jackson Park | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Joe Louis | map | site | CDGA | 708-849-1731
  • Lincoln Oaks | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Longwood | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Lost Marsh | map | site | CDGA | FB | TW | 219-932-4653
  • Manteno | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Meadows | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Minnie Monesse | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Oak Springs | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Odyssey | map | site | CDGA | 708-429-7400
  • Palmira | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Ravisloe | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • River Oaks | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Sanctuary | map | site | CDGA | FB | 815-462-4653
  • South Shore | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Summertree | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • Tuckaway | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • University | map | site | CDGA | 000-000-0000
  • White Hawk | map | site | CDGA | FB | 219-661-2323

AirTran Flight Magazine Talks About Bloomington, Illinois Golf

I just came across this today after doing a search on Roger Packard. Seems that Bloomington/Normal could be worth a road trip.

How should I post links in general? Would you like to see them highlighted in a short post like this?


Relating Tom Bendelow To Our Current Golf Lives

You don’t hear the name Tom Bendelow often unless you really pay attention to the minutiae of Chicago golf. He was a prolific designer who lived from 1868 to 1936. And when I say prolific, I mean prolific.

I’m attached to the guy, although I’ve been too ignorant to notice until recently. He designed the course I grew up playing, Findlay Country Club (Ohio). He designed Medinah Country Club, maybe the most famous course in Chicago, which I played a few weeks ago. And he designed the course I’m playing tomorrow, Chevy Chase.

Of course, little about these courses probably bears any resemblance to what they looked like when Bendelow was roaming the country early last century. Nonetheless, the guy has had a huge influence on American golf (and me) yet you don’t hear his name batted around as much as Ross, MacKenzie, or Jones.

So we will dig into this. It’s going to be one of the things we do here.

As always, thanks for stopping by.


Golf and Pizza are Very Similar

So there, I said it. This is a relatively new phenomenon in my life. Hang with me on this. If you’ve ever seen me tear into a Lou Malnati’s pizza, you’re probably going to say to yourself, “That pizza must be good and that dude must love pizza.” Here’s the rub, you’ll probably get the same inkling if you see me tear into a Domino’s pizza. It’s true, I do prefer Malnati’s to any pizza on earth, but I get a lot of enjoyment out of Domino’s also.

I’m beginning to take this same attitude about golf, but it’s been a long time coming. I feel like I’m moving past any sort of golf snobbery and realizing that this game is very rewarding no matter what the field of play.

I say this shortly after playing 18 holes last week on a course that I would have referred to in my past life as a dog track. But this time, I had a ton of fun and assert that the four hours I spent that day on the dog track may be dollar-for-dollar the best entertainment bargain in the history of mankind. I spent $15 to walk 18 holes. That’s four hours of fun for only $15. Show me where you can get that type of fun for $3.75/hour.

This was the least I’ve paid for golf in probably a decade. And, as you would expect, it was the ugliest course I’ve played over that same period. But, it was not the worst time I’ve had on the golf course over that period. In fact, it was only marginally less enjoyable and fulfilling than rounds I’ve played this year that have cost five or six times more.

What I recognize is that conditioning, design, shot values, and prestige, the expensive things, don’t drop directly to the bottom line for me any longer. I can have a boatload of fun, with rough bunkers and greens with bare spots. Mostly, I need a scorecard with 18 holes on it, at least 6,000 yards of golf, and puttable greens. This course, Carlyle Lakes, had that.

This could be a sign of old age because I notice this happening in other parts of my life. The bar for gaining my appreciation is so low. Just give me a burger done somewhere between medium rare and medium well, don’t put stuff in my coffee, and let me have a game on in the background (any game, even on mute). That’s all I need.

This may make me appear boring, maybe so. But note this: when something turns out to be unexpectedly valuable, by that I mean it exceeds expectations based on the price paid, then my satisfaction jumps exponentially and sends me into this appreciation tizzy. I remember paying like $22 to walk The Rail in Springfield one Friday afternoon a few summers ago on the way to my in-laws, and the experience exceeded every expectation I had. I walked off the 18th with this high that I can’t explain (of course, I shot an 81, so that contributed). It was this immense feeling of satisfaction and I couldn’t wipe the smile from my face. It just felt good inside, like I cheated the devil. It made the whole weekend better.

Anybody can lay down $100+ for an over-designed, perfectly conditioned course with a brick and stone clubhouse and free range balls and guarantee themselves a high degree of satisfaction. But the chance of being surprised with something unexpectedly cool is pretty much eliminated. You don’t always get what you pay for. Sometimes you get a lot more.


Huge Bunker at Harborside Starboard Can Be Seen From Space

On the back nine at Harborside Starboard you’ll find a bunker that’s with you a lot. I’m talking about the massive waste bunker that slaps you in the face on the 11th and doesn’t leave you completely until you make the green on the 15th. Luckily we have a great satellite photo, thanks to Google Maps, to help us examine it.

View Larger Map

Huge. I’ve verified with the clubhouse that it’s a waste bunker, so you can ground your club in it. It’s a little more nicely groomed than your average waste bunker, but once you step in, there’s no doubt about it’s character because it has a lot of pebbles and the sand is pretty coarse.

Nugent and the crew of designers definitely had a sense of humor. See if you can find the characters they’ve embedded in the bunker. I see the villain from Scream and a pony-tailed laughing man. But you have to look closely.

It will befuddle you on the par four 11th hole, but just aim at the 150 yard marker. It will creep up on you on the par five 12th hole, so just stay to the right. You leave it for a hole when you go to the tough par three 13th. On the par four 14th, it will force you to make a decision on how much you can bite off, so make sure to test the wind. And finally, it will box you in on the short par four 15th, so don’t do anything crazy. It’s one of the great waste bunkers in Chicagoland, so enjoy.