Hughes Creek definitely worth a peek
Most golf courses that cost around $35 during the week don't normally wow us with their opening and closing holes.
But that's certainly not the case with Hughes Creek Golf Club in Elburn, a track that opens with a breathtaking par 4 and finishes with a stunning, uphill par 5.
In between are 16 attractive, well-laid out holes that vary quite a bit in difficulty.
"Six easy holes, six middle, six a little harder," said Sam Bradberry, who has been Hughes Creek's PGA Professional since 2000. "People enjoy the property. It's quiet. A little bit of rolling hills is a little different.
"The houses are far enough way that it just gives you that spacious feel. And the conditions are always good."
The 351-yard, downhill first hole has to be one of the most impressive openers in the Chicagoland area. Take a moment to enjoy the view while standing at the top of the property, then choose carefully before teeing off because you can hit anything from a mid-iron to a driver.
Use your course management skills on the 470-yard par-5 second hole (no need to pound the second shot), then go get a par on the third hole, a benign 124-yard par 3.
After a (hopefully) hot start, it's now time to figure out how to attack No. 4, a tricky 302-yard par 4. Trouble is everywhere, and unless your name is Tiger Woods, you can't go more than 190-200 yards off the tee or your ball will be wet. Good players can probably go 7 iron on the tee and 8 iron upon approach, leaving a legit chance at birdie.
Of course, I made double here by putting myself in jail down the right side and hitting my second shot into the water.
No. 6 is a scary 395-yard par 4 that forces you to hit a narrow fairway. Then you're hit with a 201-yard par 3 that -- fortunately -- has a massive green complex.
At this point, feel free to catch your breath and start rattling off some pars on holes 7-11.
"Stay away from the big number early," Bradberry said when asked what advice he had for first-timers. "First 4 holes are pretty tight. Five is the toughest on the front.
"You can get in some trouble out there. If you get through the first five without any big numbers, you can score."
The back nine features back-to-back monster par 4s in the 432-yard 12th hole and the 410-yard 13th. (And they're 456/439 from the blue tees).
Down the stretch, there are ample opportunities for pars and birdies, beginning with the slight dogleg right 14th hole that plays just 326 from the whites.
"The big hitters can bite off (yardage by going) around or over the lake," Bradberry said. "You can make a birdie and kind of get your round going again coming out of the long holes."
No. 18 is a real treat, and honestly one of the best I've played in Illinois. It's a 501-yard straightaway par 5 that's all uphill for the final 180 yards. Club choice is critical upon approach.
One neat aspect of Hughes Creek is the fact that the par 5s are all reasonable in length, playing 470, 486, 477 and 501 from the whites.
"You can be a zero or a 20 (handicap) and have a pretty good shot," Bradberry said of the par 5s. "You get out there, make a couple pars, and you're a 14 handicap and you could have the round of your life."
• The cart paths could use some work, but other than that I wouldn't make one change to the course.
This was my first time out here and I have to admit: I was impressed. And not just by the course. You can tell the staff is extremely friendly and really has a first-class attitude toward their guests. Hughes Creek gets 5 stars (out of 5) for value; 4 for course conditions; 3 for accessibility; 2 for walkability (some long walks between holes).
Course spotlightCourse spotlight
Hughes Creek Golf ClubStats: 1749 Spring Valley Drive, Elburn. Founded in 1993 with 9 holes; became 18 in 1994. hughescreek.com. (630) 365-9200.
Yards: 6,506 from blue tees; 6,204 from whites; 5,561 from golds; 5,479 from reds
Monday-Thursday riding rate: $34 ($32 for seniors); Carts are $10 extra.
Friday riding rate: $36 ($34 for seniors)
Weekends and holiday riding rate: $50 ($40 after noon)
Approximate distance from Arlington Heights: 50 miles
From Wheaton and Elgin: 20 miles
From Naperville: 25-30 miles
From Hoffman Estates: 35 miles
From Barrington: 40 miles
Note: No range on site