Medinah Country Club in Illinois is a name recognized by golf fans around the globe. A past host of multiple major championships and the 2012 Ryder Cup, Medinah is easily one of the best golf properties in the country. Their recently restored Course Two features architectural upgrades that not only bring the course into this century, but its six (!) sets of tees makes it one of the most versatile courses in America.
My friend Matt Saternus from PluggedInGolf.com invited me to play the course with him recently, and I was blown away.
Course Two Restoration
As Matt writes in his preview piece on Plugged In Golf, Medinah’s Course Two was designed by Tom Bendelow in 1927 and remained untouched since that year. A combination of time and infamous Midwestern weather would take its toll over the years, however, leaving Course Two in dire need of cosmetic and architectural upgrades. Sunken greens, poor drainage capability and other factors prompted action to be taken.
Medinah’s membership voted overwhelmingly in favor of a true restoration, and in 2015 approved a $3 million project to be headed by world-renowned architect Rees Jones. Using aerial photos from the late 1930’s, drainage and routing maps and additional archival documents Jones was able to restore the greens to their original specifications.
Reshaping the land was only part of the restoration. Over 600 overgrown trees were also removed from the course, allowing more accessibility for golfers of all skill levels without compromising the shape of each hole’s layout.
Family-Friendly Tee System
Course Two also features a unique family-friendly tee system in addition to its overall restoration. Similar to the Longleaf Tee System we’ve discussed in the past, the Golf For Life concept provides multiple tee marker options on every hole. Headed by Medinah’s Director of Golf, Marty DeAngelo, the program allows Course Two to be played anywhere from 4600 yards to just over 6400 from the back tees.
This level of hole-to-hole versatility almost makes Course Two seem like the “Swiss Army knife” of courses, allowing players to experience completely different layouts from one day to the next depending on tee option. It is a concept that all courses would be smart to embrace, thus giving all golfers a fair shot at shooting their best score every round.
Condition and Playability
Our round took place during a cool, somewhat windy 65-degree weekday just before 9am. To say the course was in pristine condition would be underselling it. As a guy who doesn’t get the chance to play pro-caliber or private courses all too often anymore, the pureness and lush parkland layout that greeted me on the first tee was jaw-dropping.
Bendelow’s layout is simple, yet challenging, and doesn’t hide too much from the tee. Everything is in front of you, which allows the player to form a strategy without any guess work. This allowed us to not only play faster, but with a level of comfort that we’d at least seen golf holes like this before, more or less.
What neither of us have seen that often, of course, were the incredible greens and approach areas. Jones’s restoration brought the natural contours and undulations of the greens back to life, both of which adding a level of difficulty to every hole that was both fair and fun.
Course Two’s bunkering was also fair, although deceivingly punitive in some instances. I’m a huge fan of greenside bunkers that creep well onto the putting surface as opposed to stopping by the fringe. This look makes the green appear smaller from afar, yet provides comfort and confidence when chipping from the apron. Believe it or not, you actually have room to play multiple shots!
On that latter point, I was extremely impressed with the number of short game shot options Jones provides to the player. I could have putted or chipped from just off the green on any hole, which again speaks to the course’s overall playability for any skill level. I prefer courses that allow me to make that choice as opposed to the other way around.
As far as the putting surfaces themselves, no word other than “perfect” could adequately describe their condition. Never before have I played on greens of their caliber, and their speeds were quick without being too fast. I honestly cannot remember a single time my ball didn’t roll true on any putt, which contributed to a positive putting round overall.
The restoration of Medinah CC’s Course Two has to be declared nothing less than a massive success. While the allure of playing on a piece of property like Medinah certainly gives me bias — coupled with the fact that I simply don’t get to play these courses EVER — this was one of my favorite golf experiences ever.
If ever given the opportunity, I’d love to try more of the tee box options during a second round. The Golf For Life system — as well as the Longleaf Tee System — is 100 percent a way to grow this game, and Medinah should receive even more praise for embracing it for their membership.
(Many, many thanks to Matt from Plugged In Golf for the invite. I’ll repay it somehow!)