Cantigny is a 500-acre estate located in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, belonging to The McCormick Foundation, a public charity created in honor of Colonel Robert McCormick, the former Chicago newspaper baron.
Named after the French village where the US Army embarked on its first sustained offensive during the Great War in May of 1918, Cantigny is one of America’s best run public-access golf facilities and within its impressive grounds, there are a couple of museums, 40 acres of formal gardens, camping and picnic areas, as well as a wonderful 27-hole golf complex.
Designed by Roger Packard, son of architect E.Lawrence Packard, and opened in 1989, the parkland course at Cantigny is laid out in three 9-hole circuits that present all manner of challenges as they wind their way in and out of wooded areas, past a dozen lakes and a couple of creeks, to intelligently-bunkered green sites.
The Woodside nine are routed through the most heavily forested part of the course but water still comes into play here, especially at the 171-yard, par three, 8th where the island green is played to from island tees on the other side of a lake.
The Lakeside nine have four lakes that feature on six of the holes and the pick of these is the 410-yard, par four, 9th which has water on either side of a narrow fairway leading to a green that’s also aquatically-challenged on three sides!
Hillside is not as long as the other two nines but it contains some of the most difficult holes on the property. The 405-yard, par four, 6th is a favorite of many, played to the island double green that is shared with the 8th at Woodside.
The course was renovated in 2003 by the Jacobsen Golf course design company and the reward for this work came four years later when Cantigny hosted the US Amateur Public Links Championships.
A quality layout generally in fine condition but just lacking in consistent architecture that really demonstrates a wide range of engaging elements.
The 27-hole complex features a modern looking design bent with the Woodside / Lakeside combination the strongest configuration.
When the course first opened the fanfare was pronounced and much of the hoopla tied itself to the Dick Tracy bunker on the 9th / Lakeside. But, as the quality of privately-owned daily fee courses evolved in the USA it became clear that so many of the high-end courses that came into being in the late 1980s and early 1990s were overly manufactured and appeared to be designed on top of the land -- rather than showing a real connection to the terrain.
The course provides all the amenities that those who play golf will certainly enjoy. But for architectural mavens -- relishing a more arousing design there will be a fair amount of disappointment. Superior conditioning can often disguise the lacking of a golf experience that goes beyond how well prepared the property is for golf. Sometimes the confusion comes from those who see the "extras" as the elements of special note -- the reality should be about core architectural elements that resonate long after the golf is completed. On that front Cantigny comes up short.
Cantigny is built on the former sight of Colonel McCormick's estate, as is evidenced by the treelined driveway right of Hillside #1 and the beautiful house north of the property. The Packard design has some interesting holes including the meandering creek on Woodside #2 and the maiden green on Lakeside #8. Personally, I like the course but don't think its worth the $100+ green fee. It's certainly one of the best public courses in the western suburbs, and usually in great condition.
Cantigny is a 27 hole facility that is usually in remarkably good condition. All three nines are good, but the Woodside/Lakeside combination is best. One of the few public courses in the Chicago area that has a decent caddy program. The course was formerly part of the estate of Colonel Robert McCormick, publisher of the Chicago tribune. Look for the Dick Tracy-shaped bunker on the ninth hole of Lakeside paying tribute to the publishing history of the former owner.