George O’Neil, perhaps sensing that the Chicago golf scene was saturated, happily took his talents just east to South Bend, where he designed that city’s title country club route. Chicago’s golf experts must have approved, and in time brought the Western Open (traditionally held in the Chicago metropolitan area) to O’Neil’s course.
The route has long since fallen behind in the distance wars (maxing out at just 6,600 yards) but it still offers a Golden Age strategy test to more everyday golfers. The closing par five, a mere 478 yards, shows just how.
Despite its short distance, it plays uphill, meaning players must have a quality tee shot to consider going for the green (a creek running ahead of the putting surface will create doubts for those who have not). In a match between quality players, it is almost assured the hole’s winner will be on in two, putting pressure on all competitors.
For those playing a casual round, the waterfront holes will surely be the highlight. No. 5 is a par five that wraps around the South Chain Lake for its entirety, while the shorter No. 16 (388 yards) has tee boxes built out into the lake, so the surest route to success is simply not to slice your drive. O’Neil, more than 100 years on, would not regret golf’s move out of the big city.