I first played Big Run Golf Club about 5 years ago. A vendor of mine said it was one of his favorite local courses, and kind of a secret. I always enjoy being in on a secret, so I was definitely in. Little did I know that I would get my first (and currently only) hole-in-one at Big Run! How can I not love this place?
And a close-up of the specifics:
When you first arrive, you notice the clubhouse looks unlike most other clubhouses. In fact, the more you look, the more it seems like it may have been a church at one time. Keep this in mind; you’ll be surprised.
I will say that, compared to the level of course that I’ve been playing recently, Big Run Golf Club is not at the top of the list. If you’re looking for a course that will inundate you with pampering, bathrooms on every hole, the newest carts with GPS, etc., you’re probably in the wrong place. If, on the other hand, you want to be in on the secret, and play some of the best golf in the Chicago area (especially if you appreciate elevation changes), this track cannot be missed.
The course plays 7,025 from the tips, but even from the Blues it’s a respectable 6,670. Unfortunately, the course doesn’t have a range, and there aren’t any “warm-up” holes here, so be sure you come ready to play.
The first hole is a short par 4 at 360 yards, but don’t let the distance fool you; the tee shot here has to be struck very well, and between a group of oak trees on either side of the fairway. This leaves you with an uphill approach to a green that’s so far uphill, it’s a blind shot. Like I said, no warm-up here.
Here’s a picture of the approach of a perfectly struck tee shot:
The second hole plays like the first, only longer. It’s a downhill tee shot, with an uphill, blind approach. There’s water on the left of the landing area, so be careful, and bail to the right if you can. Note the blind approach that faces you. This track is tough.
The fourth is the first par 3, and at 145 yards, it’s definitely not long. The obstacle here is the bunkering. The only real bail area is short; there are bunkers surrounding the whole green; take a look.
The fifth is the shortest par 5 on the course, at 515 from the Blues. An interesting dynamic of this course is that the four par 5’s are very difficult holes, according to their handicap rank (9, 1, 2 and 6 respectively). When the par 5’s are ranked as some of the most difficult holes on a course, you know it’s going to be demanding.
The seventh is my personal favorite, only because this is my hole-in-one hole! The tee shot is uphill, and blind, so clearly, the ace was pure luck. When I hit it, I wasn’t able to see it go in the hole, so when my group approached the green, we looked all around the rough past the green for the ball. One of my playing partners took a look in the hole for the heck of it, and lo and behold, there’s my ball. Honestly, I was on a personal high for a few days from that one!
Here’s a picture of the tee shot, followed by a close-up of the Indian that was carved out of a dead tree. (For the record, the Indian is relatively new. He wasn’t here when I hit the ace.)
The ninth is a par 5, measuring 605 yards from the Blues, and it feels like it. There are more swales in this fairway (and in the green) than I’ve ever seen on one hole. It’s also the #1 handicap hole. Here’s a picture of the view from a perfectly struck tee shot.
Adjacent to the 9th green is a snack bar that you can drive right up to. Very convenient, and there’s always someone there to attend. Makes for a quick turn.
The tenth is probably the first “easy” hole on the course (and it may be the last). It’s a downhill par 4, measuring only 305 from the Blues. Because of the downhill tee shot, it’s easily reachable, but there’s a risk with this reward. If it’s mishit, there’s trouble everywhere. Even if you lay up to the flat landing area, you should only have 100 yards or less to the flag. This is a possible birdie hole for sure. Here’s the view from the green up the hill to the tee.
The thirteenth is a great par 3 with, you guessed it, trouble all over the place. The green borders water on the front, with a bunker behind it. Luckily, the green is huge, so if you’re distance is on, you shouldn’t have too much to worry about. Try to be on the correct side of the hump in the middle of the green, or a three-putt may be unavoidable.
Fifteen is another long (600 from the tips) par 5, and plays like most of the par 5’s; Elevated tee shot, relatively flat second with a blind, uphill third. The more I write this review, the more penal this course sounds. Why do I like it so much? From the tee, you can let it fly, and on your second shot your goal is to clear the water. If you don’t clear it, here’s what your third shot will look like:
Sixteen is 175 yard par three, with very little bail area. It’s a carry over water, dead left, and bunkers on the right, in front and behind the green. The distance can vary a lot, depending on the position, so be wary, and pick the right club. It matters a lot here.
Standing on the 18th tee should be a sigh of relief, but not here. It’s a long par 5, with the most severe incline for an approach that I’ve ever seen (reminds me of the approach on the 10th hole at the Irish course at Whistling Straits, for you frequent readers.) It’s “only” 530 yards, but forget about going for it in two; the approach to the green must add at least 40-50 yards to this hole. Luckily, the tee shot is elevated, so let that baby fly!
It’s difficult to show the severity of elevation changes (especially uphill changes) with a picture, but I want to make it clear; this is a monster.
Like I’ve said, if you’re looking to be pampered, and are accustomed to the country club lifestyle, this may not be for you. But, if you really love the challenge of the game, the secret is out; play Big Run Golf Club in Lockport, IL. You’ll thank me for it, I guarantee it.*
P.S. The first time you play this course, there are so many blind shots, it’s very difficult to shoot a good round. Expect to shoot a higher than normal score. After playing it 2, 3 or more times, you start to remember where to hit it and where not to, and your score will be reflected by it.
*Guarantee not valid for anything; it just sounded good. Now go play Big Run!
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