On a recent golf trip to Chicago, Beverly was somewhere I arranged to play at very short notice, after my scheduled round at Medinah came a cropper. Naturally I was disappointed that I would not get to play the #3 course, which continues to hold a very strong reputation in golfing circles, notwithstanding many peoples criticism of it as being the most overrated top course in the world, my verdict will have to wait a few more weeks.
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
Date: July 07, 2011