Once upon a time, Olympia Fields Country Club was the largest private country club in America and it was originally founded in 1915. By 1925, the club had four golf courses with plans in the pipeline for a fifth, but the Great Depression scuppered that. WWII then forced the club into serious financial difficulties and they had to sell half their land. Three golf courses were distilled into one (now called the South course) but the gem in the Olympia Fields crown – then known as No.4 course – remained intact and it’s now a priceless jewel in America’s rich golfing heritage.
Willie Park Junior designed No.4 course and it’s now known universally as the North course. The layout was lengthened and the bunkers improved in the 1990s but the layout we play today and indeed the layout which hosted the 2003 US Open Championship, is still ostensibly a Willie Park Junior design. It’s little wonder that Olympia Fields is one of Jim Furyk’s favourite courses. Furyk won the 2003 US Open equalling the record for the lowest 72-hole score in US Open history on his way to claim his first Major title.
Apart from the North course, Olympia Fields Country Club owns the world’s largest clubhouse, which took two years to build and cost a whopping $1.3 million way back in 1925. With its eighty-foot clock tower and English Tudor design, it’s possibly the most famous clubhouse in the world and it’s a monument to the extravagant Roaring Twenties.
The North Course is a throwbacks throwback course. A Willie Park design, it was originally #4. While not long by today’s standards, it is a par 70 and has hosted numerous championships including the 2003 US Open.
The front opens with a long narrow par 5. If one can avoid the fairway bunkers left and right, and hit 3 average shots you are off to a good start. Now it gets tough. The 2nd hole is a long par four slight dogleg right. There are 3 bunkers on the inside elbow. The courageous and foolish will try to carry the bunkers to set up an easier approach. Trust me, it is not worth it. Play it left off the tee. This green is protected by four serious bunkers. The 3rd is even tougher, but at least there are no fairway bunkers. The tees hot is blind and out of a chute, favor the left side to ensure that you are not blocked out. A good drive will roll to the bottom of the hill. The approach is over a creek to an elevated table top green with more greenside bunkers. An awesome hole, a par here is worth celebrating. The 4th and 5th holes are not long but very tight. Good scoring holes, favor the left off the tee on 4 and right on 5. The par 3 6th is off an elevated tee to a green with ridge on the back 1/3 of the green with 3 green-side bunkers. The 7th is another tight hole, fairway bunker and creek on the right with bunkers left and right protecting the green. The 8th is a monster par 3. From the tips 280 and uphill. I was smart enough not to be playing from the tips, but still hit driver. For pure entertainment there are also four greenside bunkers, 3 left and one right. The front closes out with a demanding par 4. Off the tee the ideal shot will be left, this will avoid the right fairway bunker and hopefully take the water right out of play on the approach. The green slopes back to front but has a large hogback on the right side. Par is your friend.
The back starts with a long slight dogleg left. Fairway bunkers left and right, favor the left side off the tee. The green is well-protected, bunker left and two right. This green is sloped hard back to front so your approach should hold. The 11th hole will allow you to catch your breath as it is a real birdie oppty. The tee shot is critical as once again there are bunkers left and right. You should have a short iron into the green. Aim about 5 yards right of the flag as this green moves hard right to left. Long is death. I think the 12th hole plays much tougher than is ranking. Tree lined and bending slightly right, too far right off the tee and you will be blocked out by trees, but there is another fairway bunker left. Also, a creek bisects the fairway about 100 yards out. Another green guarded by two bunkers left and one right. The shortest hole on the course is the par 3 13th. Uphill and from the tee one can only see about 1/3 of the green. The 14th is really tough. You will cross the creek twice and parallels the hole on the right side. Left is better off the tee, the green is a table top with a false front, take an extra club. The 15th is a dogleg right par five that most should play as a 3 shotter. Possible to get home in two, but you need to go down the left side and avoid the fairway bunkers on the left. This green is protected by four bunkers, 3 right and one left. The 16th was my favorite hole, a mid-length par 3. One must carry the creek and keep the ball between the two greenside bunkers. Yes, I birdied. The 17th is another tight fairway with the creek on the right side and a cavernous fairway bunker on the left. The 18th should be a par 4 1/2. It is long and difficult. A good tee shot is between the fairway bunkers. There is also a water hazard right. This is one of the biggest greens on the course and it is protected by 4 bunkers.
Olympia North is a wonderful course. If you can get on, you gotta go.
Olympia Fields (North) makes for a tough day of golf. This course in no frills; simply a collection of challenging golf holes that make you earn every par. It's a great place to host championship tournaments. However, the course lacks two things that most Top 100 level tracks possess. First, the course looks and feels like any other parkland layout you can see all over the Midwest. The only holes that standout are the 3rd and 14th. Second, from any tee you choose, between the brutal rough and elevated greens, scoring is really tough. I can't imagine anyone over a 10 handicap having much fun out there.
Plenty of history here. Has held more than one major championship and the difficulty is on par with that tradition. Huge, old clubhouse housing which I believe is the largest locker room in the world. Originally, Olympia Fields had four courses instead of two so the locker room was built to accommodate more than double the number of current numbers.
The thing that jumped out at me more than anything about the North at Olympia is how well-placed the bunkers are. Navigating them is the biggest trick to succeeding when playing here. If you get around them, the chances are you'll shoot a decent number. Even still, the greens can be lightning quick and the rough is plenty thick enough to challenge anyone. It's an unbelievably well-manicured course. I had to take a second walking down the 18th fairway to savor one last time just how perfect the grass is cut here. It's a tough track, but a good score is definitely doable. It's the first course I've played that's hosted a US Open, but based on what I've observed and studied over the years, it is one of the more forgiving and more likely for the average golfer to have success at.