Mistwood Golf Club is one of numerous public golf options in the Chicago region that takes its aesthetic cues from Scotland, but architect Ray Hearn seems to have had the legendary Lido in the back of his mind when laying out this track. There are several courses featuring a tribute to that route’s iconic Channel hole, but Mistwood has two within its front nine! Nos. 3 and 8 both offer optional, riskier fairways that make reaching the green easier on these par fives.
Water is a constant presence, due to the large lake that the property is based around. Hearn managed to make a risk-reward par five of a different stripe out of the thin strip of land on the opposite shore of the lake at No. 15: a hard dogleg left, players can try to bite off the corner of the lake to get some extra distance on this 570-yard nail-biter.
The links claims aren’t totally unfounded however, as the course features a number of sod-faced bunkers to emulate influences abroad.
Hearn returned to the property recently to make renovations, including stretching the course beyond the 7,000-yard mark.
Mistwood is often lauded as one of the best public courses in Chicago and I believe a lot of that is due to the aesthetics and service. The beautiful clubhouse, fantastic practice area, and well maintained turf lined with a few sod walled bunkers make for a unique experience.
I personally am a huge opponent of the "faux links" style of courses that seemingly come in spades in America. It truly goes against the tenants of links golf-playing across sandy soil as nature has dictated it. This second stipulation makes true links almost impossible to find, with only 8 courses off the top of my head in America being able to qualify for the heralded true links designation. Links golf is the pinnacle of golf, but it is such because of that connection with nature. There are multitudes of courses in the U.S. that destroy a fine piece of parkland to try and create a links, something that only God Himself can create.
Mistwood is definitely a fine course, but the amount of water and contrived mounding make it far from a links. I will say that of those who have attempted this faux dunes template, Ray Hearn did a very above average job here. There are tons of interesting holes requiring a lot of thought off the tee, with the par 5's all posing extremely interesting risk reward questions. The shot values off the tee are excellent, and the greens definitely feature a good number of shelves that force strategic play into them.
Overall, the course has seemingly gotten a little more affordable over the years and is definitely enjoyable to play, I would say it rests in the top 10 public courses in Chicago, being very similar to Prairie Landing or Highlands of Elgin.
I always like to offer this counter to arguments against faux links — although I am sure your comments on the design of the course itself are accurate! Certain examples, such as Bayonne and Ferry Point, are not true links, to be sure, but using "brown sites" (mines, garbage dumps, etc), places that would be nothing by methane dumps otherwise, to create an attractive (if not authentic) facsimile of links is fine by me.