7554 YARDS (PAR 72)
COURSE RATING/SLOPE: 77.8/151
COURSE ARCHITECT: Dick Wilson & Joe Lee (1964); Rees Jones (2009)
COURSE WEBSITE: http://coghillgolf.com/golf/
ROUNDS PLAYED: 1
LAST PLAYED: August 7, 2000.
LOW SCORE: 87 (+15)
– Golf Magazine Top 100 Courses You Can Play 2016-17: #31
– Golf Digest America’s 100 Greatest Public Courses 2019: #51
– Golfweek Best Modern Courses USA 2019: #161
At the time, I wasn’t golfing much and didn’t even have a membership anywhere so I saw it as a great opportunity to get some golf in with a good buddy. Interestingly enough, I knew practically nothing about the courses in the US at that point and really didn’t take part in the planning aspect at all.
I was just along for the ride.
We were going to be playing golf in one province and four states during the week long trip, with stops in Windsor (Ontario), Jackson (Michigan), South Bend (Indiana), a couple of places in Ohio and the big one was going to be our stop in Lemont, Illinois, just outside Chicago to play the much revered Cog Hill Country Club and its #4 Dubsdread Course, home of the PGA Tour’s Western Open.
We drove into Illinois from Indiana after a remarkable day at The Warren Course at Notre Dame, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw design that had just opened. It was a surprise stop for us, as we were planning on playing another course in the area but found this gorgeous new course right by the football stadium and decided to tee it up there.
Our expectations were obviously high for Cog Hill with its PGA Tour pedigree but we made the drive into Illinois in one of the worst rainstorms I’ve ever seen, so bad you literally couldn’t see anything but the taillights in front of you. Unfortunately, we needed two cars for the trip due to all the camping gear and without cell phones (it was 2000), I was forced to press on and follow the car in front which held our two other partners in crime.
The Dubsdread Course, home of the Western Open since 1991, was ranked inside the top-50 best public courses in the world by almost every notable golf publication so we were jacked to be playing out there, to say the least.
However, we really worried about whether the course would be ready to play the next day due to all the rain. So when we arrived in Lemont, we drove right to the golf course to check things out.
Needless to say, it was very wet but the pro indicated that everything should be fine for the next day. We ended up staying in a hotel that night since setting up camp in a foot of water didn’t sound enticing. Plus, we wanted to be fresh for our big day!
Well, I wish it was all roses but I must say that overall, I was pretty disappointed with my experience at Cog Hill. Things started off poorly when the guy behind the counter wouldn’t even throw in a yardage book with the $150.00 US green fee and was rude to boot. Cheap buggers…wait…maybe I’M the cheap bugger! Ha!
I stood on the first tee, shaking like a palm tree in a stiff Florida breeze. I wish I understood why I was nervous but I barely got the ball off the tee, hitting a really weak toe hook short of the bunkers on the left. I had to pitch out to the fairway, hit a nine iron to 40 feet and SUNK THE PUTT for a routine par.
Easy game…umm, not so fast Pro!
I’d three putt the short par three second for bogey and then bogey the nice par four third hole (shown below).
I would come back with a good up and down on the par four 4th hole but followed with a bogey on the relatively straight forward par five 5th and an ugly double on the par three 6th hole.
I’d bogey the 7th and make a two putt par on the interesting par four 8th hole but another bogey on the par five 9th gave me a 43 on the front side.
I made another par on the short par four tenth, getting up and down from the front bunker but three putted again on the par five eleventh for bogey.
It just wasn’t going to be my day.
I finished my round of 87 with a double bogey six on the very difficult 18th hole (shown below), a 448 yard brute with bunkers right off the tee and a large pond fronting the left side of the green.
The golf course wasn’t in great shape due to the weather but you’d think for $150.00 you would get a course with RAKED BUNKERS. Not here…at least on this day. The greens were much slower than I expected and the overall conditioning was shockingly poor for such a highly thought of course.
I will admit that the course layout and design is solid. There is a lot of variety in the design and it certainly is a good test of golf. Even though I was a golf architecture newbie at that point, I still noticed the excessive tree growth out there – you can leave yourself some blind shots out there FROM THE FAIRWAY due to the overhanging limbs. I doubt Wilson had that in mind when he laid the course out 40 years ago.
There were some highlights: I was a big fan of the greensite at the par four 8th hole and I also enjoyed the lovely par three 12th. The 16th hole is absolutely gorgeous. It’s an uphill dogleg left par four with a fairway that slopes from right to left towards a ravine. The pear-shaped green complex is protected by bunkers short left and long right. A beauty and a beast.
The aforementioned 18 is also a fantastic golf hole, with a very difficult tee shot and an intimidating second.
I can’t help but feel disappointed with the day. I was really excited about the opportunity to play such a well-respected course but left wondering why it merits so much attention.
The course does a good job testing your game and you definitely needed to be accurate off the tee to avoid the towering oaks that line the fairways. This is an old-school type design so there aren’t too many forced carries, enabling higher handicappers to get around without too much difficulty.
The Dubsdread course is certainly not a pushover but if you’re on your game, you can likely do some damage. That said, I’m positive that the Rees Jones renovation has really toughened up the golf course in order to qualify it for future US Open consideration. Wilson and Lee did a pretty good job mixing things up, with some short fours thrown in the mix along with the extremely difficult ones like #18. There are some great looking and memorable holes out there, with the 16th being a standout but overall there is a bit of ‘sameness’ that keeps it a notch below the top courses in the world.
The towering trees were beautiful to look at but a nuisance both to golfers and to the greenskeeping staff. It must have been tough getting enough light on some of the areas of the course.
Conditioning was strictly average when I played, with is not acceptable for a course of this magnitude. Unraked bunkers, poor drainage and shaggy greens – I didn’t pay $150.00 for this and I expected much, much more..
There is something about the complex here at Cog Hill that definitely says this is an important place. The clubhouse was understated from what I saw of it but I must say it was cool at the time walking around on the same fairways as PGA professionals. I’m pretty sure we carted it that day but you could definitely walk the course if you wanted.
I thought Dubsdread was a very nice course but in my opinion, it wasn’t good enough to be considered a top 100 course in America as it was rated at the time. I’ll stand by my score here – the course design is quite strong but inferior conditioning and overgrown trees really marred my experience. I imagine my rating will go up a bit if I were to return at some point down the road.
ADDENDUM FOR 2009 –
The Dubsdread course at Cog Hill, which I played in 2000, has undergone an extensive renovation by Rees Jones, the so-called ‘Open Doctor’, who was called in to work his magic in the hopes of landing a US Open at the facility.
The course is reopening next week on May 15, 2009, making this review pretty timely!
Dubsdread measured a little less than 7000 yards from the tips when I played it but has been lengthened to a beefy 7554 yards under the renovation, with a course rating of 77.8 and a slope rating of 151, making it one of the most difficult courses in the United States.
Here are some pictures of the new work, courtesy of the Cog Hill GCC official website.
I believe they redid the drainage out there as well with the reno work so I imagine conditioning won’t be as problematic going forward.
They also cut down a bunch of trees and limbs to improve playability and to help improve the turf conditions – I will say the course looks pretty, as most Rees Jones designs do. He doesn’t have the greatest reputation among the course architecture junkies but he gets a lot of work so course owners must like his work. I’ve only played one Rees Jones design, that being Grand Niagara GC right here in the Niagara Region and I think it’s pretty solid but uninspiring.
I won’t lose sleep if I don’t get out to Cog Hill again in my life but if I’m in the Chicago area again and I don’t get that elusive invite to Chicago GC (haha…right!), Butler National (again…right!), Olympia Fields or Medinah, I could certainly do worse than giving Cog Hill another shot.