My relationship with most golf courses is like a high school romance: after my first round, I’m head over heels, but after a little while I start to pick at all the flaws and it becomes just another track.
With The Glen Club, however, my relationship is like a strong marriage – I just appreciate it more and more over time. In this review, I’ll explain to you why The Glen Club is my favorite course in my home state and the one course I’d choose to play every day if I could.
Just like the course itself, the condition of the practice facilities at The Glen Club is outstanding. The large putting green, located within feet of the first tee, is a perfect mirror of the greens on the course. A short drive from the bag drop, you’ll find the driving range. By late June, many ranges are more sand than grass, but The Glen Club has rows of perfect lies, as you can see above. They don’t skimp on the range balls either – fresh Titleist NXT Tours allow you to get a realistic sense of your distances and shot shape before you head to the course.
Amenities & Customer Service
The carts at The Glen Club are a major reason why the pace of play is so brisk – they have GPS displays that give you every piece of information you could want. The distances are measured to the flag, not just the center of the green, and it displays other carts so you don’t have to wonder where the group in front of you is. They also display overviews of the entire hole so that, even on your first round, you’ll have the information you need to score well.
The Glen Club doesn’t skimp on the niceties either. There’s a snack shack between the tee boxes of #7 and #15, and the drink cart stopped by five times during our round. Add to that a pro shop that’s stocked with soft goods to commemorate your round and enough clubs to provide a last minute replacement and you truly have a world-class experience.
I’ve been lucky enough to play The Glen Club numerous times, and the condition of the course never disappoints. The greens are always smooth, quick, and consistent from hole to hole. The starter made mention of the high number of ball marks, but his concerns were laughable – these greens would be a point of pride at any other course.
Every other area of the course is similarly excellent. The tee boxes are flat and well-maintained and the fairways show few signs of divots. While I was able to avoid most of the bunkers on my most recent trip, each one that I played out of had a uniform amount of medium-grain sand.
Beauty & Scenery
Let me start by saying that the pictures here do little justice to The Glen Club. Whenever I show up without a camera, the weather is beautiful, but when I’m there for photos, it’s grey. If you want to see the course in a better light, literally, check out their website.
That said, The Glen Club is a gorgeous midwestern parkland course. The generous fairways and well-spaced trees give the course a broad, wide-open look. Unlike many midwestern courses, The Glen Club features plenty of elevation changes and mounded, sloping fairways.
One of my favorite little things about the look of The Glen Club is that the cart paths are largely hidden. The ground is always mounded in front of the path just enough to keep it from view when you’re standing in the fairway. This creates longer views that are unobstructed by concrete, and it enhances the feeling of being surrounded by nature.
Course Design & Difficulty
There’s a reason that The Glen Club is a fixture on all the lists of the best courses in Illinois and the United States: the layout is outstanding. It will challenge every facet of your game, including your decision making and course management. It’s this emphasis on thinking that reveals it as a Tom Fazio design, and it’s one of his best.
One of the standout elements of The Glen Club is the variety of holes. You’ll play very long holes and very short ones, holes that play longer than their yardage and holes that play much shorter. Elevation and wind will have a say in nearly every shot, and you’ll be called on to move your ball right and left in equal measure.
If you choose the correct set of tees, the par 5’s present a great balance of scoring opportunities, challenge, and risk/reward decision making. The first hole is a fairly long par 5, reachable primarily by long hitters. The green is big enough to attack in two, but missing the green will leave you with a very awkward shot to the elevated greens. #5 plays shorter, but it presents an even more dramatic risk – half of the green is surrounded by water. #14 is the easiest par 5 on paper – it’s the shortest and it has no water – but it has plenty of elevation, trees, and curves to thwart careless golfers. The course finishes with another long par 5 where eagle can come into play if your drive takes advantage of the steep fairway. Just like #5, however, you will need to avoid water short and right.
One of the subtle elements of difficulty that is built into The Glen Club is the visual intimidation of many of the tee shots. These aren’t over-the-top difficult tee shots – you won’t be asked to fit the ball down a narrow chute of trees or carry 200 yards of water – but they are shots that are set at uncomfortable angles with enough visual boundaries to give the golfer pause. The picture above, hole #3, is one example. A forced carry is implied by the tall grass in front of the tee and water on the left, though neither element is truly in play. Similarly, the short trees and shrubs to the right make you think twice about taking an aggressive line. Finally, the angle of the fairway creates concern about hitting it “too straight” and ending up in the bunkers on the left. As I said, this is a course that demands a lot from you mentally.
All in all, for it’s variety, balanced difficulty, and mental demands, The Glen Club is one of the finest course designs you’ll ever play.
If you’re ever traveling through Chicago and have time for just one round of golf, I’d strongly suggest making the trip north to The Glen Club. While Chicago is spoiled with wonderful golf courses, The Glen Club is the best at combining a beautiful world-class course with all of the extras that make a round truly memorable.