Inside look at Maple Meadows Golf Club, one of Chicagoland's hidden gems

Impressive, affordable course that's one of Chicagoland's hidden gems

Nestled in the middle of Chicago's western suburbs is a golf course that flies under the radar despite offering challenging holes, impressive rates and excellent conditions.

Maple Meadows Golf Club, often overlooked because of proximity to White Pines and the Preserves at Oak Meadows, is a track that deserves your attention - and one that you'll almost certainly put on your must-play list every year after giving it a try.

Originally known as Brookwood Country Club, the course has been run by the DuPage County Forest Preserve since 1998. One of the best values in the area, you can normally walk 18 holes during the week for $24-$28 by finding specials at and/or by downloading the DuPage Golf app.

It's a course you can score at, but also one that can leave you shaking your head in dismay. Over the years, I've gone as low as 77 and as high as 95.

Course tour

First things first - be careful which tees you play from, especially on windy or wet days. The blue tees are "only" 6,438 yards, but Maple is a par-70 and you'll find yourself playing par 4s of 468, 454, 420, 407, 405, 401 and 400 yards.

A fast start is cricital because the first five holes definitely ease you into the course. Consider a hybrid or long iron off the third tee box because trouble sneaks up on you in a hurry at 190-200 yards.

Rather than identifying a signature hole or two, Ed Stevenson, the Director of Golf, likes to say there are two "signature stretches" at Maple. Holes 7-9 can make or break you on the front nine.

Seven is a 405-yard par-4 with ponds on both sides of the fairway that can be reached by long hitters. It then requires a precise second shot to a fairly large green.

But No. 8 is definitely the biggest knee-knocker on the course. As you step up to the 529-yard par-5, all you see is trouble. Two ponds to the right. Another hazard area to the left. And long grass directly in front of the tee box. A hybrid off the tee here isn't a bad play.

"A great question," Stevenson said when asked how he would attack No. 8. "It's certainly tempting to be on a par-5 and want to hit driver. It's part of the fun.

"Years ago, I was playing in an Illinois PGA event and I played that hole 10 times prior to the event. I teed off with 5-iron five times and driver five times. There is an hourglass part of the fairway where you can hit a 180-190 yard shot to that puts you in great position to put your third shot on with a wedge. I made more birdies when I teed off with the 5-iron."

On the back nine, Stevenson likes 13 through 15 as those holes feature a medium length par-3 that often plays into the prevailing wind; a relatively benign 340-yard par-4; and a 468-yard par-4 that can absolutely wreck a round.

No. 15 used to be a par-5, but Stevenson said left-handed golfers had a tendency to hit wayward shots over the heads of players putting on No. 11.

Despite what the card says, I've learned to play the 15th as a par 5 and normally tee off with a 3-hybrid. A '6' isn't a bad score here for a 12-handicapper, because it's easy to make 7, 8 or even 9.

Even after that stretch, you have to be careful on No. 16th as well. Playing at 211 or 175 yards, you are hitting to a long but narrow green with undulations that can befuddle even the best golfers.

Suggestions to improve

• Most courses could add a hybrid set of tees and that's definitely the case at Maple. Giving golfers the option to tee off on the blues for nine holes and the whites for nine would create a 6,250-yard course.

"It's a good suggestion," Stevenson said. "There's a gap to be filled there."

• The 12th hole is guarded by trees that sit on both sides of the dogleg. Removing one of the sets would help immensely and make the hole much fairer. Stevenson said that doing so is tougher than it sounds, though, because Maple is a forest preserve course and wants to protect its plant life.

• Maple's greens are always in fantastic shape. A good number of them can be awfully difficult, too, so my advice to the course is just to make sure only 2-3 pin placements are in tough spots on any given day.

Bottom line

Fantastic course for the money. 5 stars for value; 4.5 for course condition; 4.5 for accessibility; 4 for walkability

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Next: Tips to improve your putting

  The 343-yard third hole at Maple Meadows Golf Club in Wood Dale requires a precise tee shot. The green is quite large, but is guarded by two massive bunkers to the right and a lake to the left. This used to be the 18th hole, but the course was rerouted about 15 years ago so that the first and 10th tee boxes would be adjacent to one another. John Dietz/
  Golfers have myriad options as they step to the tee box at the picturesque 529-yard par-5 eighth hole at Maple Meadows Golf Club in Wood Dale. Director of golf Ed Stevenson played the hole 10 times while preparing for an Illinois PGA event years ago, and he tried using driver five times and 5-iron five times. "I made more birdies when I teed off with the 5-iron," Stevenson said. John Dietz/

Course spotlight

Course spotlight

<b>Maple Meadows Golf Club in Wood Dale</b>Founded in 1998 (was originally Brookwood Country Club)

Par: 70

Yardage: 6,438 from blue tees; 6,057 from the whites; 5,528 from the silvers; 5,259 from the reds

Weekday walking rates: $34 and $28 for seniors, but deals can be found at Download the app at the Apple Store and you will also get preferred rates.

Approximate distance from Arlington Heights: 10 miles

From Wheaton and Hoffman Estates: 13 miles

From Naperville and Barrington: 21 miles

Note: There is a spacious practice green near the first and 10th tee boxes, but there is no range on site. Golfers wishing to warm up could go to the Preserve at Oak Meadows or White Pines.

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