OK, don't even waste your time arguing. What follows is the indisputable list of the nine coolest golf holes in the suburbs.
Don't believe me? Of course not; there couldn't be a more subjective task than trying to quantify the quality of individual holes, much less courses. Hence, my use of the word "coolest" rather than "best" or "toughest" or "most beautiful" -- the latter three possibly connoting some level of expertise was applied.
No, these are just the musings of three guys who have played a lot of golf together the past 30-odd years on quite a few courses. I'm not sure we necessarily agree on what make a hole "cool." One of my buddies describes a selection as an "ugly" hole. Degree of difficulty seemed to come up frequently, as did holes with options and those we considered attractive.
A few things you should know about us: We're in our early- to mid-60s. None of us has a handicap these days, but I'd guesstimate we're somewhere between 13 and 16. We do not purport to have played every course in the 'burbs; many good ones, particularly those far south and far north, have escaped our scrutiny.
Members of this threesome are Rob Lucas of Hoffman Estates and Jeff Nordlund of LaGrange. Jeff also happens to be the Daily Herald's national editor, and when I'm not writing pieces for the golf special section, I oversee the DuPage and Fox Valley editions. Resident of Elgin.
We created our lists independently. I compared them and selected the holes with the most matches. Yardages are from the back two sets of tees.
So, let's start this nine-holer with our signature hole -- the only one that came up on all three lists:
Settler's Hill, No. 11
Batavia; 562/523 yards, Par 5.
Description: Nothing can possibly go wrong on this hole that includes two water carries, trouble left and right, and a blind, uphill shot to a severely undulating green. Every shot can be gut-wrenching, starting with a long carry over water to a tight fairway that slopes toward woods on the left. But if you bomb one, you can think about getting home in two. More likely you'll have a real short, knee-knocker layup short of a diagonal creek.
Comments: "Best combo of toughness and beauty." -- Jeff. "Just plain hard." -- Rob. "Hit a 100-yard putter once to escape trouble." -- Jim.
Glendale Lakes, No. 4
295/282 yds, Par 4.
Description: A narrow fairway narrows even more as you get closer to the green. With water right and marshy wetlands left, anything off the fairway is a lost ball and a penalty drop. If you hit a long, arrow-straight drive, you could be on and putting for eagle. Good luck with that.
Comments: "Ugly hole, ridiculously tight and short. It seems to defy any strategy. Even when I use an 8-iron off the tee, I'm not assured I can avoid a penalty." -- Jeff. "I ended up hitting 7-iron, 7-iron most of the time. Can't remember employing that strategy on any other hole. Ever." -- Jim.
Naperbrook, No. 3:
Naperville; 550/506 yds. Par 5
Description: Picturesque hole with water forcing all but the longest tee shots to play to the left. But you can't exactly bail out; there's more water left. The same body of right water calling for errant tee shots remains in play on the second shot. Again, not an excess of bailout area; out-of-bounds lurks left. Two good shots are rewarded with a receptive green.
Comments: "One of the toughest tee shots around, but a good-looking hole and an excellent opportunity to employ some strategy by picking a suitable club for the tee ball." -- Jeff. "Maybe the toughest tee shot I know of, and the second is no cakewalk, either." -- Jim.
Highland Woods, No. 18:
395/384 yard par 4
Description: A sharp dogleg left. Ample driving room in the fairway. Usually a short iron, slightly downhill to a reasonably flat green. Very nice closing hole.
Comments: "Who says we can't drive a par-4? If you're willing to gamble by cutting this dogleg, then get the right combo of downhill bounces and sand trap avoidance, a drive gets within a few feet of the putting surface. It's cool to have a chip to a green for an approach shot." -- Jeff. "Previous comment from the longest hitter in the group." -- Jim
Prairie Landing, No. 12:
West Chicago; 218/195 par 3
Description: This hole is gorgeous -- and intimidating: A wooded setting frames the tee box and the left side, but a lake occupies all but a sliver of fairway along the left-hand side. It's all carry if you go straight at it. Hard to resist shaping it over land and coming in from the left.
Comments: "For big boys only." -- Rob. "One of my proudest accomplishments was birdieing this hole." -- Jim.
Oak Club of Genoa, No. 13:
366/342 par 4
Description: What's more fun than an elevated tee shot over a slice of a river? Just ask Rob:
Comments: "Tee shot elevated, over Kishwaukee River." -- Rob. "Also two significant bunkers in the driving area waiting to grab those heroic tee shots over the Kishwaukee. Tight shot to green, too." -- Jim.
Highlands of Elgin, No. 4
159/145 par 3
Description: What's more fun than a downhill, short par 3? This one's a fooler: Green looks small because it's nestled into a hill. It's big enough to easily three putt. And it's nothing but flora and fauna surrounding the green. Get on or go home.
Comment: "See No. 12 at Prairie Landing." -- Rob.
Heritage Bluffs, No. 18:
402/378 yards, par 4
Description: Maybe it's a stretch to call this course in Channahon (45 miles southwest of the Loop) "suburban," but it's worth the drive. A very different feel for a Chicago-area course, with significant elevation changes, lots of pine trees, water, bunkers ... the usual. The 18th is a tough finish: elevated tee shot over water to a tight fairway. Second shot long and uphill all the way.
Comments: "Down, then up; walk single-file." -- Rob. "Rob almost did serious bodily harm trying to navigate the massive slope around this green. Not sure I've ever had a regulation par here." -- Jim.
Streamwood Oaks, No. 9:
402/381 par 4
Description: The only nine-hole course to make our list. People think of nine-holers as fairly benign. Not this one. The par 5 No. 4 is an absolute killer. Streamwood Oaks' No. 9 is a close second, with trouble (OB) all the way left, water fronting most of the green.
Comments: "Elevated green, water -- short and right, long and left." -- Rob.
There you have it. Our coolest nine is a par 36, 3,349 yards from the tips, 3,126 from the shorter tees. The length isn't too daunting, but I'd say there are more double-bogeys and "others" than birdies on this track.
Comments? Feedback? Feel free to argue with our choices, devise your own list. Send me -- firstname.lastname@example.org -- enough of your own coolest holes, and we'll do a reader's choice follow-up story.