Shepherd’s Crook is a public access golf course north of Chicago. It is one of the northernmost courses in Top 100’s Illinois list, with the green of No. 13 coming within 40 yards of the Wisconsin state line. In fact, groundskeepers who live in Illinois must leave the state to get to the maintenance facilities, which has a driveway off of the road that marks the state line.
All of the golf, however, is in Illinois, although Keith Foster and ownership have tried mightily to make you believe that you’re teeing off in Scotland. The links-like presentation involves deep bunkers, waves of native grass, and curvaceous putting surfaces (the winds coming off of nearby Lake Michigan don’t hurt the effect).
That said, there is plenty of American influence to be found in the water hazards, including several extended carries across ponds from the tee. Even so, the most prominent wet challenges at Shepherd’s Crook come in the form of traditional burns, such as that which crosses the fairway at par five No. 14, making players question their second shots, or the creek that sits very close to the green on the 570-yard closer.
The layout of the course itself is fine--nothing terribly memorable or interesting, but it has a nice overall aesthetic, attempting to create the feel of a links course. The real problem here is the location. It is right next to--and I meant right next to-the Zion Landfill. You are in fact close enough on parts of the course to see open garbage pits and flame-topped methane vents. The land this course is built on was once in fact owned by the landfill company. Let's just say you won't be taking in fresh country air if the wind is blowing in a certain direction.
As for the course itself, nothing again really stands out about it to me other than the general links feel of much of the course (parts of it are in fact wooded). It has some undulation to it in a generally very flat region. It is a very natural design, making good use of the land that Keith Foster had to work with. It's a pretty wide open course, not terribly difficult, and should suit players of many different skill levels.
It is certainly worth playing once, but your mileage will vary depending on your tolerance for the surroundings.