The player who lifts the first U.S. Senior Women's Open trophy will conquer the links-style course at Chicago Golf Club with her putter and short game.
That prediction comes from John Moran, and though he's no fortuneteller, he does know the storied Wheaton course intimately.
Moran is a club historian and, before that, he was a junior member and caddie. He also was on the bag when member Ben Crenshaw shot a 62 at Chicago Golf on July 4, 1980.
"If the greens are firm, it's going to be difficult to hold them, which means that it's going to put a premium on your short game," Moran says. "Because they're so big and because there's so much undulation, by definition, it puts a great premium on putting."
Before the inaugural Senior Women's Open starts Thursday, we asked Moran and others preparing for the championship about their insights into the toughest holes for players and the most thrilling viewing areas for galleries. Here's a look into that course architecture:
Taste of the Isles
No. 13 at Chicago Golf takes its inspiration from the 11th Eden hole at the famed St. Andrews in Scotland. It's one of the template holes at Chicago Golf paying homage to great courses around the world. For the Senior Women's Open, the USGA has set up No. 13 as a 148-yard par 3.
Chicago Golf's 10th hole recreates the hallmarks of No. 5 at Royal West Norfolk Golf Club in England. The Redan hole at No. 7 is a longer par 3 that replicates elements of the 15th at North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland.
"Our particular version of it has a huge bank on the top right that feeds down at a sharp angle left," Moran said.
Charles Blair MacDonald, the founder of the club and a solid golfer in his own right who won the first U.S. Amateur Championship in 1895, created the original design to his own advantage. When MacDonald hit an errant shot, he hooked the ball.
"If he missed it, he hit to the right, so our golf course is routed so that all the trouble is at the left, so he would hit it away from there," Moran says.
MacDonald's protégé, Seth Raynor, led a 1923 redesign that remains largely untouched today.
"You hate to use the word 'perfect,' but in so many ways, it's just such a wonderful, neat piece of property and was laid out so well," says Matt Sawicki, USGA's championships director. "You can see how it's withstood the test of time and is challenging to players with every type of game and every type of skill level.
"I think that's what's really unique about Chicago Golf Club. It's difficult, yet at the same time any type of player could play this golf course."
Indeed, the 120-player field features 15 U.S. Women's Open Champions and 29 amateurs. The course will play to a 6,088-yard par 73.
Galleries can walk the fairways with players competing for the Senior Women's Open title. The USGA will only rope off the tees and the greens.
But if you do want to camp out at a hole, Moran recommends the 12th, also known as the Punchbowl green.
"It's surrounded by mounding, so if you stood at the top of that mound, you get to see the players playing that hole, teeing off on 13, probably putting out on the 8th hole and teeing off at the 9th hole."
Testing the players
The course is most difficult when the greens play firm and fast. A soggy summer has taken away a touch of the speed, Moran says, but the greens still will challenge the golfer with a shaky putter. USGA officials say they're aiming for green speeds to read 12 feet on the stimpmeter.
"He has the golf course in really great condition despite all the rain," Moran says of Chicago Golf's superintendent, Scott Bordner.
The course also is known for its menacing rough. But John Guyton, the PGA professional at Chicago Golf, doesn't expect players to spend too much time in the thick stuff because the fairways are so wide.
"Short of the green is usually always a good spot, but when you start missing them to the side and missing them long, that's when the fun is," he said.