The Shriners, or the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, are an association not unlike the Freemasons and we have to thank the local Order – who came from the Chicago Medinah Temple – for realising their dream country retreat, which is now known all over the world as the Medinah Country Club.
Medinah was first founded in the Roaring Twenties and the objective was to create the finest country club in America. 54 holes were planned, and the first course, simply called No.1, was ready for play in 1925. The second course, unsurprisingly called No.2, followed behind a year later. We’ll give you one guess as to what the third course was named, but most people won’t know that it was originally laid out for the Medinah ladies. No.3 course was ready for play in 1928 and much has changed since then.
Tom Bendelow, a Scotsman, laid out all three Medinah courses but his No.3 design did not last long. The original layout was considered too easy after Harry Cooper shot a 63 in the 1930 Medinah Open, and so the course was refashioned and toughened up in the 1930s by Harry Collis. Further changes were made by Roger Packard and Roger Rulewich ahead of the 1988 US Senior Open, which Gary Player won. In 2002 by Rees Jones made further fortifications and he also spearheaded renovations to the No.3 course as part of the club’s 2012 Ryder Cup preparations. The work included greens renovation and a dramatic redesign of the 15th hole, which is now a drivable par four sporting a new lake. We're also led to beleive that George Fazio made changes to the layout somewhere along the line.
Lake Kadijah is a pretty backdrop to a number of holes but it also doubles up as an intimidating water hazard at three par threes, the 2nd, the 13th and the 17th, all of which require a forced carry across the water – the 17th is perhaps the best hole on the course. Vicious doglegs feature on a number of par fours (most notably the 9th and the 11th) where an accurate tee shot will reap more benefit than sheer length.
Three US Opens have been held on the No.3 course and Tiger Woods acquired his fifth major here in the 1999 USPGA Championship. The 88th PGA returned to Medinah in 2006. Tiger claimed his 12th career Major title after destroying the rest of the field on Sunday with a 4-under 68 which propelled him to a massive five-shot victory.
The 39th Ryder Cup proved to be perhaps the most incredible series of matches in Ryder Cup history. Team USA dominanted the foursomes and fourball matches, taking a 10-6 lead into the Sunday singles games. USA required only 4½ points to win the Ryder Cup, but Europe smashed the away team comeback record, completing Mission Impossible, winning 8½ singles points from the 12 available to clinch an historic 14½-13½ victory at Medinah Country Club.
The first thing that comes to mind for Medinah is tremendously overrated. Those who rate golf courses for large publications must be smitten by some sort of pampering at this place because the golf course is nothing to write home about. No real standout holes and constant overhead air traffic from O’Hare airport do not make for a very memorable afternoon.
An observation about Medinah in relation to the Ryder Cup, but more specifically about the length of the manicured and prepared rough on all modern (and indeed not so modern) parkland and meadowland style courses. I am not referring here to links courses or to heathland/downland/mountain courses nor to the really deep rough which you'll find on most courses if you hit shots far enough off line (eg when a re-load is needed ). What I'm specifically referring to is manicured rough 2-5 inches thick immediately adjacent to fairways. If you hit the ball say 25-100 yards off line you pretty much deserve to lose the ball (some might deeply disagree, but I reckon you do!) but if you only hit it only say 1-10 yards off the fairway all players, whether they be young or old or fit and strong, should be able to find the ball pretty easily and be able to play a reasonable recovery shot which travels a reasonable distance. Frequently on parkland/meadowland courses this isn't the case as you often require semi-Charles Atlas like strength to play the smash-gorge shot with a short iron or wedge to move the ball even a short distance out of manicured rough 2-5 inches thick, and thick seems an appropriate descriptive word, immediately adjacent to most fairways.
Watching the Ryder-Cup at Medinah has been interesting. Tee-shots especially, when missing fairways have been bouncing and rolling quite some distance off line, but because the grass off the fairways is shortish the ball can be found fairly easily (okay I know the spectators/TV helps, but I'm sure you get the general idea). In addition, playing shots from shorter grass off the fairway, often with a tree canopy overhead and with tree limbs on the direct line of play, doesn't need semi-Charles Atlas like strength. No, recovery shots from this type of spot can be played by any level of player with skill, indeed even delicacy, witness mid-iron punches, draws and cuts, even chips with hybrid/rescue clubs. What's needed is skill, not just brute strength, and it's pretty much only brute strength that's needed to hack it out of 2-5 inch manicured rough. So maybe DL III by asking for Medinah to be set up with lower manicured rough has hit on something at parkland/meadowland courses, as in aiming to do something tactical or strategic in Ryder Cup terms, he and his R-Cup colleagues may have accidentally shown a revised style of parkland/meadowland course set-up better suited to all levels of player, whether they be Pro's, fit & strong fitness junkies, male or female, or juniors or seniors.
Furthermore, although I'm sure some would would argue the point, I for one would need quite some convincing that any more green-keeping resources would be needed, after all the mowers regularly cut the manicured rough anyway, so the mowers might as well have the blades set a bit lower and cut the rough a wee bit shorter each time they drive over it. I've just re-read Alistair MacKenzie's famous 13 principles of course design and can't help but wonder if this wasn't what he was aiming at nearly 100 years ago, ie more interest and enjoyment with less rough. Just a thought. Will the floodgates now open and drown me? In closing I'd just like to say that this is a splendid website full of excellent course reviews and comments. Well done to those who set the website up, administer it and contribute to it. I hope that those who are members at or love Medinah do not feel that I have criticised your course. This is not at all my intention, but what DL III has had done for the R-Cup at your wonderful looking venue is most interesting and thought provoking if considered in the wider golfing context.
I’ve played all of the Major courses except for Augusta and for me Medinah is one of the toughest but least enjoyable for this single digit golfer. It’s a monotonous and relentless test through suffocating trees with no particular hole that truly endeared itself to me. Ground movement is uninspiring and overall I felt the course lacks any subtlety whatsoever. Doctored by Rees Jones so that big events can be staged here is no endorsement of architectural quality. The main thrill starts as soon as you drive up to the clubhouse and that thrill diminishes once you get out on the course.
It’s a modern slog rather than a classic stretching to more than 7500 yards from the tips. I’ve played it from the members tees (7100 yards) and it was a bruising experience with tight fairways, monstrous trees that cause all sorts problems and yawning bunkering. I liked the par 3 2nd and I hear Jones intends to create a drivable par four for the 2012 Ryder Cup – I’m sure this hole will still end up measuring 400 yards and it won’t be drivable for 99.9% of golfers.
No.3 is a hard course to like as an amateur golfer and remains a testament to what can happen when a club tries to out tough today’s big hitting professionals. It leaves behind a course that is not enjoyable for most golfers. The club should maybe install new forward tees rather than back tees. The clubhouse on the other hand does its best to make up for the course’s misgivings and the wonderful caddies also try to make the visit enjoyable. However No.3 is not for me.