The Itinerant Golfer

The Itinerant Golfer's Take on Winnetka Golf Club


Winnetka Golf Club

Architect: William B. Langford
Year: 1917

1300 Oak Street, Winnetka, Illinois 60093
(847) 501-2050

driving range available
motorized golf carts and pull carts available


In keeping with the spirit of my Journal post last Monday I’m going to write about a special round of golf with a good friend that occurred in the least likely of places. A few weeks ago I made yet another trip to Chicago and was fortunate enough to be hosted by my buddy Steve, his wife Wendy and their three children during my stay. Steve lives in a suburban town on the north shore of Chicago called Winnetka which is located just 30 minutes by car from O’Hare Airport. I took the first flight out of Richmond on a Friday morning and reached their house by 10am where I promptly set up my mobile office on the patio and proceeded to grind out a few hours of work with the Chicago sun warming my shoulders.

As I tapped away at my laptop Steve texted me with updates on his estimated arrival time and the details for our round of golf that afternoon. The plan was for him to arrive home around 3pm and for us to zip over to Winnetka Golf Club, the local muni about a quarter mile from his house, and jam in as many holes as we could before dinner. Steve arrived home at the appointed hour in the midst of conducting a conference call from his bluetooth earpiece. Without ever missing a beat on the call he greeted his family, changed clothes, loaded the clubs into the car and made the short drive to the golf course. Once we arrived in the parking lot he excused himself from the call, checked in with the pro shop and was on the 1st tee before me. Talk about multi-tasking!!

Winnetka Golf Club opened in 1917 and was designed by William B. Langford. As I understand it the course is a municipal golf course owned and operated by the town of Winnetka’s Parks Department. In July of last year the course was dealt a mighty blow from a rainstorm that dropped 7 inches of water in a single day and an additional 2 inches over the following six days. The course sits on a flood plain and the end result is that the entire course, except the greens, was completely submerged for 3 to 4 days while the crew worked tirelessly save the turf and pump away the 50 million gallons of water that had accumulated. Standing on the first tee I would have never known this had Steve not told me. The staff did a great job of restoring the course to its original condition. Below are a couple of photos from our round.

The course only plays 6,517 yards from the tips so we decided to “tip it out”. It’s not very often that I get to say that! The 1st hole is a shortish par 4 that we played from 346 yards. The photo below was taken from the fairway near where our drives landed. I loved the wooly, rough around the edges look of these bunkers!
 
Winnetka Golf Club
 
Here is a closer look at the green. I missed to the right of the flag and had a delicate touch shot to try and get my ball close to the hole. I found out pretty quickly that the greens here are not like the greens on my local muni at home. They were significantly faster than I expected.
 
Winnetka Golf Club
 
After our tee shots on the 2nd hole, a 525 yard par 5, I found my ball with a favorable lie the fairway and thought I might have a chance to hit the green in 2. I went to check the yardage marker on the sprinkler head to see how far out I was and found some sage advice from the course’s superintendent. You have to love the sense of humor here!
 
Winnetka Golf Club
 
Below is a look at the 2nd green. Again, note the rough edges around the bunkers. I think this is great from an aesthetic perspective as well as a making for interesting recovery shots and keeping maintenance costs down.
 
Winnetka Golf Club
 
The 5th hole is a medium length par 4 that we played from 363 yards. Below is a photo of the green.
 
Winnetka Golf Club
 
The 9th hole is another long par 4 that we played from 410 yards. The photo below of the green shows some serious undulation. What cannot be seen is the way the green falls off behind the hole location. I was not only surprised by the speed of the greens at this municipal course but also by the interesting undulations on many of the greens. The course is built on very flat land, but many of the greens have quite a bit of character.
 
Winnetka Golf Club
 
What made this round so enjoyable for me was that it was a leisurely stroll around a basic but well conditioned and enjoyable golf course with a good friend. We got to catch up on each others lives, jobs and most importantly . . . strategize on our partnership in the annual Ridely Cup that will be played at Westchester Country Club’s West and South courses in August. After two straight years of losing to the bad guys we need all the team bonding time we can get!

Unfortunately, as we were finishing up the 9th hole we received a call from home informing us that the neighbors had arrived and it was time to head back to have some dinner. I hated to leave and miss the rest of the course, but what pained me even more is that we were having such a good time playing the course. It just goes to show that sometimes it not where you are but who you’re with.

  • Jeff Shelman

    I think that as long as the golf course isn’t better than total garbage, I totally believe that who you are with is more important than where you are.

  • Rick

    I’m an avid reader of the site and enjoy checking up on your recent travels and course writes ups, however this was a total surprise as I never expected to see WGC on here. Having been raised in Winnetka and introduced to golf at young age, I know this course and the adjoining 9 hole par 3 very well. I saw the damage from the storm first hand and pleased that the course recovered as well as it did, the superintendent did a great job to restore the grass. As mentioned, the course is fairly basic and the design has some interesting aspects, but in relation to Jeff’s comment above, the memories playing there with friends and family make it pretty special to me. I’m glad you enjoyed your round there, great write-up.