Many public courses boast a “private club experience,” but very few can actually deliver it. Cantigny Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois, is an exception. From the sprawling practice facility to the immaculate course conditions, this is truly a country club experience that is available to the golfing public.
The practice facilities at Cantigny are absolutely first class. Located near the starter’s area is a large putting green. Down the path you’ll find another putting green and a spacious short game area. The range is located in front of the Cantigny Golf Academy which is home to instruction for golfers of all ages and club fitting. Not only is the driving range expansive, it’s set up for all seasons with bent grass, artificial mats, and heated hitting bays. If you’re looking for a place to tune up your game, Cantigny is it.
Amenities & Customer Service
Inside of Cantigny’s sizable clubhouse, you’ll find everything you could want. The pro shop carries a wide variety of soft goods as well as clubs from multiple major manufacturers. On the course, you’ll find a beverage cart that makes its way around all 27 holes quickly, and if you need more substantial food, each nine ends at a fully stocked halfway house.
When it comes to customer service, I found it to be a bit of a mixed bag. The head pro, Patrick Lynch, was extremely helpful and friendly as were the many younger people who work as caddies and at the bag drop. Other members of the staff dropped the ball a bit, but perhaps some of this can be attributed to a course that was absolutely jammed on a summer Friday.
You will be hard pressed to find a public course in better condition than Cantigny. The tee boxes are flat and well-maintained, the fairways are lush and smooth, and the bunkers are consistent from hole to hole. Worthy of particular mention are the greens. Though they’re not lightning fast, they’re extremely smooth and the speed is consistent across all 27 holes.
Beauty & Scenery
Few courses can match Cantigny’s on-course conditions, and even fewer can rival the effort they put into making their course beautiful. From lining bridges with flowers to the floral “Cantigny” display that greets you on arrival, it seems that every square foot of the course is given daily attention.
The course itself is no slouch, either. Most of the holes weave through the forest, but some open holes are mixed in. Similarly, Cantigny has a nice blend of water, sand, and elevation to create visual interest. Most importantly, the course feels secluded. With Cantigny Park and Belleau Wood Forest Preserve to the north and east, you can easily lose your sense of being in a suburban area. Even within the course, you typically only see other golfers through windows in the trees.
*As you can see, my camera once again attracted a sky full of grey clouds. If you’d like to see pictures taken under better weather conditions that better represent the course’s beauty, check out Cantigny’s website.
Course Design & Difficulty
27 holes at one facility can be a blessing or a curse. On one hand, it provides more opportunity to create different holes, and it allows golfers to play different combinations to keep things fresh. On the other hand, if the architect lacks creativity, it can be an extended exercise in monotony. At Cantigny, it’s definitely the former: every hole provides a unique challenge.
While Cantigny has tremendous variety – up and down hill, open and wooded, doglegs of varying severity in both directions – there is a common theme throughout the course: position trumps distance. Length is an advantage at every course, but Cantigny is not a track that will run away from shorter hitters – the three 9-hole courses top out at 3394, 3437, and 3618 yards. What it does demand is accuracy on tee shots to set up good approaches. Drives hit too far are often as bad as drives hit too short, and missing left or right frequently results in having to punch out.
In addition to rewarding accuracy, Cantigny also rewards local knowledge. Nearly every hole at Cantigny is hiding something – a stretch of fairway hidden behind a bunker or a helpful slope. When you take your first trip around the course, be sure to bring one of the caddies or at least pick up a yardage book. Knowing the “hidden” elements is not required to play the course, but it can help you shave off a few strokes.
It’s little wonder why Cantigny is the home course of so many of Chicago’s golfers. From a layout with tremendous variety to the world-class practice facilities, Cantigny has everything that you could want in a golf course, and it’s a must-play for local or traveling golfers.