I was fortunate enough to play a round of golf at Medinah Country Club, and bring two friends along. I immediately thought of my uncle Torrin, who is a very good golfer (4 handicap), plus a really good person. (He’s an uncle, but there’s only about 8 years between us; long, boring family tree story). I also brought a friend (John) who is as ridiculously addicted as I am. He recently took his Dad to TPC Sawgrass, so I knew he’d be in.
I arrived plenty early. Our tee time was at 7:24 a.m. (appreciated that tee times were 12 minutes apart; only 6 groups/hour makes for a relaxing round, with no one pushing, and very few waits on the tee.) I arrived over an hour early, so I had plenty of time on the range, and time to (attempt to) get ready for the greens. Hey, this is MEDINAH; I wanted to soak it in.
As I pulled in to the valet in front of the pro shop, I dropped off my car, and they took my clubs and sent me to the locker room to change. I was only there for a few minutes when John appeared (see; told you he was as hooked as I am). We hopped in a cart, and were off to the range.
Felt really good on the range, and the whole time I was there Torrin was texting me his location. He arrived about 15 minutes later. We met the member we were playing with (who had a very low handicap, so Torrin was riding with him). He also warmed up, and we were off to the putting green in front of the clubhouse for some short game practice.
It’s hard to explain just how fast the greens were. I don’t know the specific Stimp number, but I can say that I’ve never experienced greens this fast. Clearly, being below the hole for an uphill putt was going to be paramount here.
Just before we teed off, Mark took a picture of Torrin, me and John, with the clubhouse in the background. I don’t want to get all sappy and sentimental, but it is a moment I’ll never forget. The place truly reeks of history.
There were only two sets of tee markers set up when we were ready to tee off. We chose the back set (Silver). They played to just over 7,000 yards (the scorecard reads 7,009.) When the pros were there for the 2006 PGA Championship (and the 2012 Ryder Cup), they play to around 7,560. All I got is “Wow”.
It’s hard to choose which holes to describe here, because honestly, they all have value in their own way, so I think I’m going to pick out the ones that I thought were just above and beyond (and probably the ones I shot a decent score on.) Also, in most of my Flickr sets, you’ll notice that I took a picture of the tee sign to designate (and remember) which hole I was on. The #3 course didn’t have any tee signs; you just know.
The first hole is one of the shortest par 4’s on the course (382 from the Silver.) The smart play is to hit to an area about even with the bunker on the left, to avoid having a downhill second into the green. I hit it into the bunker on the left, had a tough lie getting out, and left myself about 100 to the flag. The green was back right, but I hit my approach to the fat side of the green and two-putted for a 5. Very happy with that.
The second is an all-carry par three (3 of the 4 par three’s are all carry, over water). It’s only 167 yards, so not a total monster, but long enough. When my wife and I came here to watch the PGA Championship in 2006, we sat under a group of trees to the right of the green, and watched about 20 groups hit into this green. (It was interesting seeing Tiger’s throng come down #1 fairway, then to #2 tee, and #2 green; an absolute mob.) In the following picture, the building on the left is the gun club.
The fifth is the shortest par 5 on the course at 510 yards (from the Silver tees.) 510 doesn’t seem too long, except when you realize that your second shot (and probably third) are straight uphill. Easily a three shot par 5 for me.
The 7th hole, a 577 yard par 5, was a true monster. Impossible to go for in two to most players, the tee shot is up the right, with a second that positions you correctly for your third. Although the entire hole is beautiful in its own way, the green, and the bunkering around it, really make for an interesting hole. Looking back, I would’ve given the approach more respect on this hole. The green is raised, and surrounded. Believe it or not, I parred this hole. It was my first par of the day.
The 8th is a 178 yard par 3 (and the only par 3 that isn’t all-carry over water), and I hit my tee shot to within 15 feet. Of course, I missed the birdie, but I did tap-in for two pars in a row. My confidence was at an all-time high, but that was quickly about to change.
The 12th is a 456 yard par 4, and everything (and I mean everything) slopes to the right. The shot is up the left side, because it’s going to trickle down; no doubt. The approach is also a toughie; there’s water on the right, and everything slopes towards it. Here’s a shot of the fairway, and one of the green. It’s not me tilting the camera; it all goes right.
Thirteen is a 181 yard par 3 (the pro tees are at 244; ouch). Again, all-carry over the river, but what a view. To the left you could see the 17th green and 14th fairway. This was probably one of the most picture-perfect spots on the course, and everyone who had a camera broke it out.
The fourteenth was playing 547 yards, with your tee shot uphill. What a great design to this par 5. The green was heavily guarded (surprise, surprise), and if I remember correctly, it was one of the few greens that didn’t slope back to front. That of course, put more pressure on a well-executed approach. I plopped it into a bunker in the right, and was lucky to walk away with a snowman.
And the approach to the green:
The sixteenth is the “Sergio Hole”. For those that remember, this is the hole where Sergio was stuck behind a tree, and he closed his eyes and swung as hard as he could, and after hitting the ball, ran up the hill to see where it landed. Mark (the member) said this was rated as one of the toughest par 4’s in the country. I believe it. This shot is from the top of the hill. When Sergio hit his shot, it was completely blind.
If you view this picture in a larger format, you’ll see a tee in the ground, denoting the spot Sergio’s ball was when he hit it. It really was the shot of a lifetime.
The seventeenth is a par 3 that plays to 160 yards, and is rated as the easiest hole on the course. The funny thing is that I took my biggest score on this hole. I’d prefer not to share the actual number, but for handicap’s sake, let’s just say I easily took the maximum.
This is one of my favorite pictures from the entire course. It shows the seventeenth tee shot, seventeenth green, and 18th tee. If you look at in a large version (available by clicking through to Flickr), you can also see a bit of the clubhouse at the end of 18.
From the 18th tee, you know the clubhouse is coming, and it’s so awesome (word is over used, but it fits perfectly here) that you get an anticipation for it. What I wasn’t prepared for was the flagpole behind the 18th green. For whatever reason, I didn’t really notice it all round. After seeing it now, I have no idea how I didn’t see it before.
Lunch was included, so we all went to the locker room and got cleaned up a little, then met in the bar, which overlooks the #1 and #2 courses, as well as the members pool, which was packed. I ordered a beer on tap (Fat Tire for you aficionados), and it came in what was easily the coldest glass I’ve ever had a beer in. It was so great, I had to switch to the macro lens on my camera to snap a shot.
As we were getting ready for lunch (I ordered a BBQ pork with Provolone), a member from another foursome offered to give us a tour of the clubhouse. Done and done! (There are multiple pictures of the clubhouse on Flickr, and only a few here, so feel free to look around there when you’re done with the review.)
There was memorabilia everywhere. This display case was near the men’s locker room.
There was a sitting area for members above the bar/lounge where we had lunch, with great views of the courses.
As we were nearing the front of the clubhouse, the member mentioned that when they redid the clubhouse a few years ago, they pulled the carpet up from the main area, and found this underneath. How cool is that?
Here’s a picture of the inside of the rotunda (this is looking straight up).
And these two are directly underneath it, taken at different angles.
There was a room off to the side that may be used for plays or skits of some sort. I was too busy taking pictures to be able to listen, but I do know the room was exceptional.
We went up and looked at the private dining rooms, then worked out way back down to our waiting lunches. After we finished, we went to the pro shop, where I, how do I put this… bent some plastic. The good thing is that my Christmas shopping is already done for my Dad and Father-in-law!
As I pulled out of the club, and onto Medinah Rd., I slammed my car in park, hopped out and took one more shot of the entrance. I don’t think I need to “review” this course. It is a classic, and I was lucky and honored to play it. Having the luxury of enjoying it with family and friends only made it better. My life is pretty damn good.
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