The Onwentsia Club became a twinkle in the eye in 1892 when
Charles Blair Macdonald laid out a rudimentary 7-hole course in the garden of Senator Charles
B. Farwell's summer estate which overlooked Lake Michigan.
“Charlie Macdonald was far from happy with the course
on Farwell’s estate,” wrote George Bahto in The Evangelist of Golf, “and
was in search of more suitable land ‘where it could be possible to take a full
swing without over-driving a hole’… the small course on Senator Farwell’s
estate gave birth to the Lake Forest Club, using the nine holes at the
McCormick farm until they purchased additional property to build a new nine. Lake
Forest later added a second nine that was laid out by Macdonald’s future
son-in-law, Henry J. Whigham. The club eventually evolved into the Onwentsia
Host to the 1899 US Amateur, 1906 US Open and 1915 US Women’s Amateur, today's course extends to a modest 6,645 yards from the back tees and it has been touched by a number of acchitects; James Foulis, Robert Foulis, H.J. Tweedie and H.J. Whigham. Tom Doak revised Onwentsia nearly a century after the club's formation.
"Going in the front door of its fashionable brick clubhouse, you might expect great things of a course that hosted the US Amateur and US Open championships in its early years, but those were the days when a club's social standing meant much more than its golf course." Wrote to Doak in The Confidential Guide to Golf Courses. "The course out back was a 5,700-yard layout that no one would restore, but we did what we could to add interest."
Paul Rudovski, one of our US contributors, "loved the layout…wide open with wonderful vistas. Similar to Quaker Ridge and Muirfield, it has nine holes around its circumference surrounding the other nine. The course was superbly firm and fast and in simply perfect condition. Interestingly, there are three pairs of greens so close to each other that they seemed ideal candidates for double greens (#1 and #8, #3 and #6. and #7 and #11). Apparently, this was voted down by the membership due to the fact that Shoreacres, also located in Lake Forest, has several double greens and the members did not want to be seen as “copying” that club.”
I didnt know what to expect going into it because of how secluded and hard it is to find anything about it online. I think it is severely underrated. I found it to be a very good layout. Front nine is in the middle while most of the back nine runs the outskirts. I thought the front nine was more superior in its undulation, beuty, and course design. I also thought that it was a better course than Skokie, which is currently third in Illinois. Greens tend to be fast here and some of the views make you think your looking at Shinnecock. Course was in top condition and it was just a fantastic experience.