Sweet home Chicago, what a wonderful new friendship we have. Five years ago when I started this quest I didn’t know a soul that lived in Chicago and wondered if I really had any chance of playing the six Top 100 courses located in the windy city. Here we are just 60 months later and I’m about to tee it up at the sixth and final Top 100 course in the Chi-town. My how time flies.
As I reported in my post about Medinah Country Club I received an email from my friend Al a few months ago who asked if I was interested in making a trip to Chicago to visit both Medinah and Rich Harvest Farms with him. Luckily for me Al had contacts at both clubs and was able to arrange a game for us. Once we found some dates that would work for all parties involved I made my travel arrangements and was set.
Rich Harvest Farms is a private 1,800 acre farm in Sugar Grove, IL that is owned by Jerry Rich. Mr. Rich is a self made millionaire who, to put it in terms that even I can understand, created some sort of software to help computerize the stock markets. I’m sure there is a more sophisticated description but since this is a golf website we’re going to just keep it simple. Whatever it was that Mr. Rich did with the stock market and computers he made himself a very, very wealthy man.
As wealthy men often do, Mr. Rich had hobbies – and one of those hobbies was golf. He loved he game so much that he decided to build three golf holes on his farm. Let me rephrase that . . . he built three putting greens and a whole lot of tee boxes. With numerous tee boxes around the property at different distances and angles the three greens could effectively be played as a nine hole course. Pretty cool.
After a couple of years of play on the three holes it seemed logical to build a few more . . . and then some more. Next thing you know 10 years had passed and there was a full 18 hole golf course that he had designed by himself. Stock markets, computers, golf courses . . . this guy does it all! Lets get him working on world peace!
Now that Mr. Rich had this golf course in what was essentially his back yard he decided to create a little club and invited a few friends to join. When I say little club I’m not kidding . . . there are roughly 55 members. I had no idea the club was so small and how lucky I was that Al had a friend who is a member. Wow!
So on the day that I was set to play Rich Harvest Farms I set out for Sugar Grove and allowed for a full hour and a half to get there. Sugar Grove is roughly an hour west of downtown Chicago which makes it even a little further from my starting point in Winnetka. As I drove west on I-88 out into the countryside I was beginning to wonder if I had done something wrong. Where I was going there didn’t appear to be much development at all. I reminded myself that I was going to Rich Harvest FARMS and didn’t worry too much as I saw more and more farmland. Once I was off I-88 I made a few turns and found myself at the gate to the club. The security guard waved me through and I pull my tiny Toyota Yaris rental into a small parking lot loaded with Rolls Royces, Bentleys, Ferraris and exotic cars I didn’t even recognize. I worried that just being near my junky car would hurt the value of the the beauties.
Once I was parked I met up with Al who introduced me to our host J and the fourth member of our group Yomi. We went into the clubhouse were we chatted over a tasty lunch and then headed out to the course. Before we teed off J gave us a full tour of the facilities including a grand plantation style building, cabins and an indoor short game facility of epic proportions. The whole production that is Rich Harvest Farms is quite amazing.
Once the tour finished we headed for the 1st tee. The two nines at Rich Harvest Farms are called the Silver and the Gold. There are a number of teeing options with the longest being a a whopping 7,735 yards. We elected for the 6,732 yard option that plays to a par of 72. When the Solheim Cup was played here in 2009 the women played the course from a similar yardage of 6,670, but with an extra par 5 making the course play to a par of 73. We started our game on the Silver Nine.
Silver – Golden Vane – Hole 1 – 393 yards – Par 4
The Silver Nine starts off with a dogleg left that requires a carry over a scrub area to reach the fairway. Players who choose a bold line and aim further right with their tee ball will have a longer carry to the fairway, but a shorter approach to the green.
Silver – Chance – Hole 2 – 483 yards – Par 5
This short par 5 doglegs right with a green that is protected by a water hazard. Players who attempt to reach the green in two will have a significant water carry on their second shot. The photo below was taken from the tee box.
And here is a a look at the green. With a layup second shot to the right part of the fairway the water can nearly be taken out of play for the third shot.
Silver – Clyde – Hole 3 – 175 yards – Par 4
Here we have a mid length one shot hole. With the exception of the bunker on the right there is not a tremendous amount of trouble here.
Silver – Devil’s Elbow – Hole 4 – 430 yards – Par 4
After the three friendly opening holes we come to the first brute of a hole. From the back tees this hole plays 462 yards which is where the below photo was taken from. That is a seriously narrow chute and a long carry from these tees.
Below is a photo taken from the the member tees we were playing. This is a much less frightening shot, but still not easy.
Here we have a look at the green.
Silver – Amen, Holy Stone – Hole 5 – 162 yards – Par 3
With a carry over water, a middle bunker and a green that is much wider than it is deep, this par 3 is Mr. Rich’s interpretation of the 12th hole at Augusta National Golf Club. The putting surface has a bit of undulation so a players work is not finished by simply hitting the green.
Silver – Bunker Hill – Hole 6 – 394 yards – Par 4
Here we have a dogleg left par 4 that is a great place to break out a draw off the tee. The longer club played from the tee the further left a play should aim in order to not run through the fairway. The green is just barely visible in the photo below through the trees. Players who hit the ball high and long can attempt to carry the grove of trees and really shorten their approach shot.
Below is a look at the green and the numerous bunkers protecting it.
Silver – Beauty & the Beast – Hole 7 – 523 yards – Par 5
This hole is a par 5 that plays a little downhill and has a carry over water to reach the green. The photo below was taken from the tee. The best line is just to the right of the bunker on the left.
Below is a photo taken from the green looking back up the hole.
Silver – Burn – Hole 8 – 380 yards – Par 4
Here we have a nice par 4 where the tee shot plays a touch downhill. The hole doglegs to the right, so middle to left side of the fairway is the ideal spot to place the tee shot.
Below is a look at the approach shot into the green. Shots that come up short are likely going to end up in one of the bunkers fronting the green.
Silver – The Road Hole – Hole 9 – 396 yards – Par 4
The Silver Nine is finished off with a healthy par 4 that requires a carry over water to reach the fairway. The hole moves to the right so drives that take the shortest route across the water will leave much longer approach shots than those that take the bolder line with more water to carry.
Below are a couple looks at the green on this hole. Note how long and narrow the green is . . . 68 yards deep to be exact!!!
Gold – Heaven’s Beginning – Hole 1 – 407 yards – Par 4
The Gold Nine starts off with a healthy par 4. A drive right down the middle will serve well here.
Here is a view of the green and the numerous bunkers protecting it.
Gold – Eagle’s Eye – Hole 2 – 511 yards – Par 5
This hole is a tricky par 5 that has long native grass all around the fairway waiting to swallow up balls that are hit off line. The photo below was taken from the tee.
Here is a view of the green.
Gold – Snead’s Crotch – Hole 3 – 352 yards – Par 4
This short par 4 is best played with something less than driver off the tee for many players. The hole doglegs sharply to the left so drives must carry far enough to have a look the green, but not so far that they run through the fairway. The tree dead straight out from the tee is a good aiming point.
Below is a photo of the plaque on the aiming tree that tells the story of how this hole got its name.
And here is a look at the greenside bunkering.
Gold – Hickory – Hole 4 – 188 yards – Par 3
Here we have a mid length par 3 with bunkers all around. Nearly any hole location on this green will bring a bunker into play either long or short.
Gold – Old Oaks – Hole 5 – 373 yards – Par 4
This sharp dogleg right hole requires a drive long enough to reach the bend and have a view into the green for the approach shot. The further right the tee ball is hit, the more length necessary to clear the bend and have a good look at the green.
Lots of bunkers protecting this green. A miss in nearly any direction will find some sand.
Gold – Lake Katherine – Hole 6 – 468 yards – Par 4
Here we have a brute of a par 4 that plays 468 yards. We also had the distinct pleasure of playing this one into the wind. The best advice here is hit it as far as possible.
Below is the look into the green. With the water and bunkers to negotiate on the approach this makes for a difficult shot into the green.
Gold – Valley of Sin – Hole 7 – 180 yards – Par 3
I liked this fun mid-length par 3 – particularly with the hole location tucked on the edge like it was. It’s best not to miss short or right here as the scrub area does not give many balls back.
Gold – The Cottage – Hole 8 – 432 yards – Par 4
We’ve got another long par 4 here that requires two good shots to reach the green in regulation. The photo below was taken from the tee box and taking a line up the right side or middle will provide the most favorable angle for the second shot.
With water fronting the wide but shallow green the long approach shot is a bit of a knee knocker.
Gold – Covered Bridge – Hole 9 – 485 yards – Par 5
This interesting little short par 5 is a fun little hole. At 485 yards and with a downhill landing zone for the tee shots it is quite reachable with two good shots. Although the fairway looks wide open the best line is to the right of the tree tops in what appears to be the middle of the fairway. Those trees are actually in line with the left side of the fairway.
Below is a view of the approach shot into the green.
After holing out on the 18th green there is one more part of the Rich Harvest Farms experience. One of Mr. Rich’s other hobbies is collecting cars and he keeps his considerable collection on site at the club. Much to my disappointment I was running short on time and had to leave immediately to make my 8PM flight back to Richmond. I’m not a car person, but anytime you have the opportunity to see over 100 antique and exotic cars you really don’t want to miss it. I was disappointed to have to go so quickly. Word is that the collection includes ten Lamborghinis. Wow.
Rich Harvest Farms stands as a monument to one man’s love of golf. Mr. Rich is clearly a person who indulges and nurtures his passions in a positive way. Whether he is building a golf course, a business or a car collection Mr. Rich throws himself into his projects and gives 200%. It’s no wonder he has been so successful in all his endeavors. While on the subject of building things, it is worth mentioning that Mr. Rich has also created the Kids Golf Foundation of Illinois. Since its beginning in 1998 the foundation has introduced well over 100,000 children in Illinois to the game of golf. It’s great to see that he is sharing is passion and love of the game with the next generation. It was a real pleasure to visit Rich Harvest Farms and see the manifestation of one person’s passion and love for the game of golf.