Exmoor Country Club was inaugurated in 1896 and was a founding member of the Western Golf Association in 1899. One of the early clubs in the Chicago area, the Exmoor course in play today is largely a Donald Ross design from 1915.
Just to the east of Saunton Golf Club’s fine East Course lies the Exmoor region of Devon, site of Richard Blackmore’s romantic novel, Lorna Doone. The book was such a sensation in turn of the century America that the Yale University student body voted it their favorite novel in 1906. The members of what was then Highland Park Golf Club north of Chicago were also fascinated by Blackmore’s work…………so much so that they changed the name of their cub to Exmoor.
They made more good decisions in later years, hiring Donald Ross to build their golf course and Ron Prichard to restore Ross’s work some 90 years later. As is his usual practice, Prichard restored bunkers, removed trees, and reclaimed parts of greens, improving the course considerably. The tenth is a fine example. From the right tee, the player appears to be confronted with a wall of bunkers crossing the entire fairway. As (s)he gets closer, it’s apparent that the left half of the wall is 80 yards farther down the fairway. Dr. Mackenzie was not golf’s only brilliant camouflager.
Unlike most of Ross’s work, the routing is not a strong point. The first holes of the back nine give a déjà vu sensation, as the first, second, fourth, fifth, and sixth form a horseshoe on the perimeter of the property and are too similar to the tenth, eleventh, thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth, respectively. Nor are the greens nearly as interesting as the top tier of Ross courses. Nonetheless, Exmoor provides a fun round on a course with an unusual name.