Well-kept Links at Carillon offers plenty of opportunities for pars and birdies
About 10 years ago, a former Daily Herald colleague of mine suggested we go check out The Links at Carillon in Plainfield.
After one round we were instantly hooked.
The no-frills, 27-hole facility is in great shape, offers a solid layout, an opportunity to score and allows us to get around in 3½ hours or less when we tee off before 8 a.m. weekdays.
Only a 30-45 minute drive from most of our readership area, it's definitely worth checking out.
"Tee to green, it's probably one of the best-kept golf courses around," said Jeff Yackley, Carillon's Director of Golf since 2009. "Generally speaking when you get this kind of maintenance put into a golf course, you're talking about a $65, $75, $85 green fee that does it. We're able to do that with rates sometimes as low as $30 and $37 for seniors. So that's what makes us unique."
Low-handicappers can give themselves a true test from 6,899 yards, but it's also not at all overwhelming from the blues (6,409) or whites (6,010). Two of my best scores (76s) have come here, thanks to the wide fairways and manageable greens.
"The course is extremely playable and fair," Yackley said. "People can come out and shoot well. Big greens, big bunkers, big fairways. So it makes for an enjoyable round of golf. Nobody wants to come out and shoot 120 and lose 20 golf balls."
Jon Hill of Romeoville tees off on the third hole of the Blue Course at The Links of Carillon in Romeoville. The long par 4 features a large lake that golfers must avoid on the tee shot and upon approach.
- John Dietz | Staff Photographer
I'm a big fan of courses that open with a par 5, which is what Carillon offers when you play the Red-to-White rotation. Beware of the nasty bunkers and rough that lurk to the right, however. End up there and a double bogey or worse is likely.
A 200-yard drive is all you need to get started. After that, a well-struck hybrid and mid-iron should put you on the green in three.
Fear not if you post a big number to start, as I have plenty of times. The short par-4 second hole and the fairly easy par-3 fourth give us a chance to right the ship.
The real key to scoring on the front nine is successfully navigating the next two holes.
The 391-yard fifth has one of the nastiest greens in the area. It's imperative to stay below the hole on your approach shot. I failed to do so in mid-June, leaving a nearly impossible short-sided chip. It took me 4 to get down.
The 513-yard par-5 fifth is a real treat. Get as close as possible with your second shot because the knee-knocking approach shot to a green protected by water is next to impossible from over 150 yards. There's nothing wrong with leaving the third shot just left of the green and trying to get up and down.
The back nine begins with a 330-yard risk/reward par 4 that plays shorter for long hitters who go for the green. My son drove it, thanks in part to a nice wind out of the north. The smart play is to hit hybrid off the tee, making sure to avoid the wetlands on the right.
It takes a while to learn how to play the 504-yard, par-5 11th because of a pond that sits 140-180 yards from the green. Oftentimes the conundrum is deciding whether to fly the pond or to hit an iron into a landing area that still leaves you 150 yards away. If your drive was good, my advice on the second shot is to take plenty of club, put a confident swing on it and keep the ball out to the right. If there's any doubt about clearing the water, just lay up.
No. 16 crushed my soul for years because there's out of bounds on both sides. You're likely tired at this point, so it's easy to spoil a good round with a wayward drive. I finally learned to hit driver with a three-quarters swing and get the ball in play. Once that happens, par is definitely possible.
After the 415-yard 17th comes a finishing hole you will never forget.
The triple-ponded, 510-yard par 5 puts eagle in play for long hitters, but mid-handicappers can walk off with an 8, 9 or even a 10 if they're not careful. From the blues you need 170 yards to clear the first pond, but also have to be careful not to end up in the second, which is 220-240 away depending on your angle of attack. There's an option to "wimp out" by going far right, but that presents serious challenges on the second shot. You'll see what I mean when you get there.
"The gauntlet, we call it," Yackley said. "Obviously everybody wants to play that. It's a do-or-die hole. … The big thing is getting off the tee. Whatever it takes to get in play.
"From there you can manage the hole. It's the people who look at it and think they can get on in two. If you do that you start getting in trouble with the water. My advice is something easy off the tee -- even an iron because your second shot puts you in a good spot to get there in three."
The par-5 fifth hole at The Links at Carillon in Plainfield sports a massive pond that guards a long, narrow green.
- Courtesy of Connor Dietz
The "other nine"
One neat thing about Carillon is that it offers 27 holes. I generally go Red-to-White, but like to mix it up by playing White-to-Blue on occasion. The par-35 Blue course offers two memorable holes in the 384-par third and 513-yard fifth. The latter can be frustrating, however, because you must lay up to a massive pond that is about 150 yards from the green. Thus, many golfers find themselves going driver, 8-iron, hybrid (or even 3 wood).
It's the lone flaw in the design, one you simply must learn how to navigate.
Just like all courses, Carillon should do a $10-$15 junior rate. Maybe after 2 p.m. weekdays.
I've played here 75 times over the last 10 years, and it never disappoints. Hopefully the $30 early bird rate returns soon because it's the best deal in the area. Carillon gets 3.5 stars (out of 5) for value (5 at twilight); 4.25 for course conditions; 3.5 for accessibility for our readership area; 3.5 for walkability (two long walks between holes).
The Links at CarillonHistory: Founded in 1989 in Plainfield
• (Red-White rotation) 6,899 from gold tees; 6,409 from blue; 6,010 from white; 5,344 from silver
• (White-Blue rotation) 6,631 from gold; 6,169 from blue; 5,829 from white; 5,167 from silver
Weekday (with cart): $45 and $37 for seniors; $35 after 2 p.m.
Weekend (with cart): $59 before 8:30 a.m.; $49 from 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m.; $35 after 2 p.m.
Notes: Walking rate is generally $5 less; watch for early-bird specials later in the season for as low as $30
Approximate distance from:
Naperville: 6-15 miles
Aurora: 15 miles
Wheaton: 25 miles
Arlington Heights, Hoffman Estates: 35-40 miles
Buffalo Grove, Elgin, Barrington: 45-50 miles