George O’Neil, the club’s first professional, and architect Tom Bendelow laid out the original golf course at Beverly when it was formed in 1908. Ten years later, Donald Ross redesigned the layout and the rest, as they say, is golfing history.
Unusually, because the course is bounded on all sides by Windy City suburbs, it is set out in two rectangular parcels, with the front nine holes lying to the north of 87th Street and the back nine laid out on the other side – Beverly really is a fine example of a designer getting the very best out of the land available to construct a course.
The US Amateur championship was won at this course by Francis Ouimet back in 1931 and two modern day golfing greats – Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer – captured the Western Open here in 1963 and 1967.Following a substantial renovation program by Ron Prichard in 2002 – involving the removal of trees, refurbishment of bunkers and enlargement of putting surfaces – the club was chosen by the USGA to host the Amatuer Seniors Championship in 2009, which was fair reward for the effort put in to restore a Ross classic.
It had been close to 10 years since I had last plated Beverly. A recent renovation that removed a large amount of trees has completely transformed this golf course into one of the best in the area. Greens were maybe the fastest I have ever played. Great old Donald Ross course in impeccable condition. This is exhibit A on how to do a tree removal program/renovation on a historic course properly.
Beverly’s signature hole is # 14, a short, straight par 4. Unusual signature you say? The reasoning is that it’s the first hole Ron Prichard restored in his 2001 effort here. The membership was skeptical of the benefits of removing trees and restoring bunkers, so Prichard made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. He asked the membership what was their dullest hole, and when the 14th was the answer, he offered to take it on, promising that if the club didn’t like the result, he’d go away quietly. Prichard removed all but a couple trees, increased the size of the green that had shrunk due to mowing patterns and added a pair of fairway bunkers. The members liked the result so much that they hired Prichard to restore the rest of the course.
Although hundreds of trees have been removed, it seemed to me that more need to go. Terry Lavin, who serves as the club’s historian, agrees. His unique solution is the inverse of the memorial trees at many clubs: memorial stumps. I seconded his motion.
The routing is Ross’s work, though the first and ninth holes had to be shortened when a highway was built through the course. As he did at Seminole and at Palm Beach, Ross made fine use of a ridge that runs across the front nine. And though the site’s rectangular shape is four times longer than its width, Ross managed a fine routing, with five holes running east-west and only two running consecutively parallel The result is a fine layout, complete with lovely bunkering, both in the landing areas and around the greens. A number of greens boast diabolical Ross contours, but just as many are rather flat and thus less challenging. My favorite, the 60 yard long eighth, is not Ross’s, but Prichard liked it enough not to change it.
The course was very green when I played in October, 2016. My preference is firm and fast, and while the greens were fast enough (10.5 on my stimpmeter), the fairways were not firm at all: some were pockmarked with ball marks made where drives had landed.
Beverly is yet another club in the Chicago area to have its original Donald Ross architecture restored. It’s a classic golf course in great condition and very enjoyable to play. The par 3s are especially good and are visually delightful, and highlight the commendable design variety throughout the layout.
The approach shots into the raised greens (e.g. 5th hole) are just as thrilling as hitting downhill tee-shots that fall out of the sky (e.g. 6th hole). Pay attention to the subtleties in the greens that have stood the test of time, and the restoration expanded the green complexes to their original size. With the significant tree clearance that has taken place over the past 15 years, the skeleton of this old lady has risen to new heights resulting in a fantastic layout with a very happy membership!
After casting my eyes over the opening holes at Beverly my disappointment did not linger long at all! My journey to Beverly was right up there with some of the least inspiring routes to a golf course, funnily enough it reminded me of another Donald Ross course, Plainfield, in this sense. The course is located on the south side of Chicago, not one of the area’s most desirable locations and is surrounded on all sides by the city, which gives rise to an oasis amidst a sea of concrete, something I found rather nice and unique!
Beverly is a club steeped in history, it has played host to many of the American golf’s top events, US Open, Western Open, US Senior amateur(2009, won by Vinny Giles), The Western amateur and the western Junior amateur. The entrance foyer to the club’s wall’s are awash with great pictures of the famous faces who have walked the carpet like fairways of the club, Nicklaus, Palmer, Trevino, Player, Hagen, right up to Luke Donald, who won the Western amateur at Beverly in 2000. The clubhouse is an old school red brick structure, encompassing all the features olf the traditional well run American Country Club, a terrific men’s grill room adjoins the lockers and the club have also just completed an extensive re-modelling of their practice area, leaving a top class short game complex, with also a good driving range to compliment it.
My verdict on Donald Ross Courses is very much still in the balance, I am a huge fan of Aronimink and Plainfield, but some of his other creations have not impressed me so much, I will continue to hold off until I play his reputed masterpiece Pinehurst #2, which I am chomping at the bit to see, after Coore and Crenshaw’s efforts to bring It back to its original state. Beverly definitely gets the thumbs up though! As described above, the course is laid across two parcels of land, bisected by a road, with the opening nine on one side, the pro shop being situated by the first tee and the other 9 on the opposite side, along with the main practice area and clubhouse.
My host for the day, was an incredibly interesting and genuinely nice man. As a boy he had caddied at the club, during the time the Western Open took place, therefore he was able to tell me of how the greats mentioned above had played the course, he also provided me with a great insight of the progression of the club, course changes etc, for this I can’t thank him enough. The Course Opens with the type of start which I really enjoy, whereby the starting holes will not beat the player up too early on, allowing him to fins his rhythm. The second is a nice par 5 doglegging to the left, played from an elevated tee. But it was the stretch on the front nine from the fifth to the 8th which most impressed me. The 5th is where you first encounter Ross, equipped with all his armoury. Finding the fairway on this less than cosy tee shot is a must, for the second shot is played to a green perched on the hillside, heavily bunkered, sloping from back to front. The next a tantilising downhill par 3, again played to a signature Ross green.
The 7th is the second of the 4 par fives, all of which are no pushover. A blind tee shot played to a downward sloping fairway, leaves a second shot, which is almost a miniature version of the famed 13th hole on the Black Course at Bethpage, where the cross bunkers give the impression they are much closer to the green than they actually are. The 8th is a great hole, where the tee shot must be threaded through the fairway traps right and left, but it is the green which poses the most interesting challenge on this hole, all 66 yards long of it, which mean no two putt is a certainty!
To start the back 9, you again take the underpass to reach the tenth tee. The opening holes of this half almost mirror the ones on the other side of the road. A gentle mix of strategic holes, the pick of the bunch being the short 12th, a short but not so sweet par 3, played over a water filled ravine, to a narrow deeply sloping green. However it is the 4 finishing holes which akin to the front side, are the real meat. The 15th and 16th are two tremendous old school USGA course style par 4’s. Narrow fairways lined with trees and deep rough, really help sculpt the image of any New York Metropolitan Course and neither of these two holes would be out of place at somewhere like Plainfield, Ridgewood or Westchester. The 17th is a monster par 3, normally I bemoan the 200 yard+ short hole, but in some instances, such as here where the golfer is able to use the ground to work his ball toward the hole, they are infinitely fairer, even it is measures some 251 paces from the back stakes! The 18th at Beverly is without doubt my favourite type of finishing hole in all of golf. The type of hole where the architect affords the thinking players a definite chance to pick up a stroke while also guarding the carless player from an easy par. A dog-leg right par 5, sets up a great chance to reach a green set against the backdrop of the grandiose old clubhouse, a green where the decision of the green keep as to where to cut the hole is of direct correlation to its difficulty.
Beverly is a great club, somewhere where I could definitely see myself being very comfortable as a member. A strong, solid, exceptionally manicured course, an understated low key membership, excellent practice facilities and an all round great atmosphere. Beverly is testament to anyone that challenges the quality of second tier golf in Chicago, outside of the famous three and is evidence that indeed The Chicago Metropolitan area can stand proudly alongside, its east coast counterparts! Nick