Butler National Golf Club was founded by multi-millionaire Paul Butler, a local businessman, and it lies to the west of the Windy City in the Oak Brook suburb of Chicago. George Fazio and his nephew Tom Fazio designed the course and it opened for play in the early 1970s.
Butler asked the Fazios to construct a layout that would test the best and the architects certainly followed that brief, creating one of the toughest tracks in all of the USA.
Most holes are tree-lined and long off the tee with several man-made water hazards adding a further degree of difficulty. The real threat to par here, however, are the undersized, deceptively contoured greens, many of which are offset to the fairway, placing a premium on approach and recovery shots.
The par three 5th starts a tricky stretch of holes on the front nine. Played to an island green, it demands an all-or-nothing tee shot across water to a green that’s also protected by sand on either flank.
If anything, the back nine is tougher than the outward half, epitomised by the par four 12th (a former par five) where its long, tight fairway leads gradually uphill to a small green sitting behind a pinched entrance.
Tom Fazio has returned in more recent times to beef up many of the bunker complexes – as if the course wasn’t hard enough.
It was a shame when Butler National abdicated its host role for the Western Open (1974-1990) because the club was adamant in not opening its doors to women for membership. Given that outcome the PGA TOUR, in concert with the WGA, opted for other host sites. I always enjoyed seeing the world's best players tested when they came to Butler. The decision was clearly an internal club matter, but one, I still view as blatantly shortsighted.
The Chicago metro area is home to many quality layouts and Butler National was created to seriously challenge top level players. It's success in this regard is without question. However, the measure of any consummate great golf course is its wherewithal to appropriately challenge the broadest range of golfers.
In my mind, Butler walks a fine line -- between being extremely rigorous and an outright maddening slog.
The joint design effort by George and Tom Fazio provides no easy roadmap without the highest level of execution. The bar set by the Fazios was meant to be a layout that could be ready on day one for the best of players. Double digit handicaps had best play from the most forward of tees because Butler provides no quarter.
I often wonder whether the creation of Butler caused Tom Fazio to realize when setting up his own practice to create layouts less centered on overall difficulty but more in alignment with picturesque elements that will carry far longer positive memories for those playing such courses.
Others have already weighed in on a number of stellar holes but I have to reiterate what has been said about the 18th hole. The climax at Butler National is rightly cited for the ultra-high requirements it presents.
The architecture created by the Fazios still holds the line in doing what was originally intended.
M. James Ward
Strong course with abundant challenges for any level of player. Difficulty of the course lies in how aggressive you think you can play the hole. Make the shots and a low number is achievable, miss the shot and you better leave it in the right spot or big numbers await. Very nice greens and offer a challenge to two putt if on the wrong part of the green in relation to the whole. Great staff. Got to use a caddy on this one and he was awesome in setting the right target lines.
It's unfortunate that Butler can't host events, since it's a great tournament course. There's so much variety, testing every club in the bag. The par 3's are unique- 6 is a cool long par 3 to an undulating peninsula green. 8 is another peninsula green nestled into Salt Creek. 11 is a demanding short hole to a skinny green with water long and bunkers short. The most interesting thing about Butler is the number of different shots it demands. Three is a tough par 4 which requires a high cut over the strategically placed trees. Nine is a claustrophobic par 4 to a perched up green. 18 is quite possibly the most difficult hole in golf.
Technically they can host events if they wanted to; they simply refuse to do what it takes to obtain that privilege.
Butler National is one of the best courses I've played in Chicago. The facilities and clubhouse are out of this world, and the guys in the shop treat everyone like family. Of the 222 courses I've played, this one certainly scores in the Top 5 for conditioning. Chicago is a great climate for bentgrass, as the evenings are cool enough to keep them dry and firm all summer. While the par-3 5th gets all the recognition, my favorite hole is the par-4 14th. This hole wraps around a lake all down the left side, and the same hazard even fronts the green. You must make a big decision off the tee, as a long-iron finds the fairway usually, but driver offers the player a chance to have only a wedge to the putting surface.
Everything you would expect from a modern tournament course. Extraordinarily difficult and long from all tees. I drove the ball really well and it seemed like I still had to 215-225 into every par four. And no, I was not playing anywhere near the back tees. Probably the best course in the Chicago area that should be holding a U.S. Open.
Butler has a reputation for being amongst the most difficult and penal layouts in America which examines every aspect of your game. The demographic of the golfers who play Butler is pretty one-dimensional as this place isn’t for average golfers. You’ll use every club in your bag and you’ll find yourself in awe of the property the whole way around. Click the link to read Fergal’s full report on Butler National.
That's pretty sexist, I'm sure that there's many women much better than you.