Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Western DuPage County is an interesting place. From above, you can see the huge 6,800 acre piece of land in Batavia that is used by Fermilab. Fermilab is essentially home to the world's second largest energy particle accelerator, as well as a small herd of Bison. Not too far too the north of Fermilab lies the 2,800 acre DuPage airport which serves as a reliever airport for both O'Hare and Midway airports. Part of that 2,800 acres owned by the DuPage Airport Administration is a world-class Robert Trent Jones, Jr. designed golf course appropriately named Prairie Landing Golf Club.

One thing that you will be keenly aware of by the time you finish your round at Prairie Landing is transportation...perhaps even before you begin play, the planes, trains, and bicycles will make themselves known. Prairie Landing is directly in the flight path of the aforementioned DuPage Airport, which lands some surprisingly large aircraft. Additionally, the southern edge of the course is flanked by an oft-used railroad carrying frequent Metra trains as well as long freight trains, which do occasionally prevent on time arrival to the course. In fact, for those coming to this course from points east on I-88, I suggest driving all the way to Farnsworth Rd., heading North to Rt. 38, then coming back to the east to reach Prairie Landing to avoid the potential train/tee time stymie. Finally, as you play the front nine, you will cross the Illinois Prairie Path before and after you play holes number 5 and 6, and will likely see more than a handful of cyclists pedal by.

As you arrive at the course and make your way up Longest Drive, take note of the long prairie grasses that surround virtually every mowed surface of the course, this grass will likely be playing at least a minimal role, and potentially a great part in your game today. The clubhouse is not huge, but nice, and offers all the amenities you might expect from an upscale public course. Be aware that they have a better than average locker room downstairs from the pub, so a post round scrubbing is available before a long drive home.

Prairie Landing prides themselves on their vast practice facilities. I was once impressed by the setup, but have grown increasingly apathetic to the offering. The driving range offers many flagged targets which is good, but the hitting area is surprisingly small, and seems to be getting more and more beat up every year. It is apparent that it gets a lot of play...more than the allotment of grass can accommodate. The stretching rack is a nice touch, but I have yet to see anyone actually using it.

Once done with the range, you can move over to the two full-sized practice holes. Yes, there are actually twenty holes on this course, and what better way to get those bad first swings out of the way than on two actual holes that don't count? Sounds great, but again, I have become less enamored with this concept each time I go there. It seems to me that a lot of land is used for these two practice holes that could be used for a larger and better conditioned driving range. Don't get me wrong, I like the idea, but perhaps it is overkill. Hidden way at the back of these two practice holes is a nice and extensive pitching/chipping area...but who knows it is back there? I think in all the many times I have played this course, I have seen someone using that area only once, since they changed it from a third practice hole, that is. Finally, next to the first practice tee lies the larger of two putting greens. This green is nice, but a tad far from the first tee for walkers...though there are many ways this course is a bit tougher on those of us out for a little exercise as well. The smaller putting green is right next to the first tee, and is serviceable in preparing you for the fast sloping greens soon to be encountered.

Prairie Landing offers five tee options providing extremely fair playing conditions for all levels of golfer, though anyone not in control of their rights and lefts will suffer from even the most forward tees. This review will be based on the Gold tees which are the last tees before the Black "tips" and play to a rating of 71.3 and a slope of 130 at a 6,580 yard Par 72. One of my favorite features of this Par 72 course is that is has 5 Par 3s and 5 Par 5s.

They don't start you off with a piece of cake at Prairie Landing, though it will feel like one if you manage to hit the perfect long tee shot over the lake in front of you. If you aren't feeling up to the 210+ yard carry over the water on your first official swing of the day, you can hit almost any club in your bag other than Driver up the left fairway on this 330 yard Par 4, then take a short iron into the green over the second water hazard short and left of the green. If the big stick is your friend, well go ahead and aim for the right side of the green from the tee...a well-struck shot just might get home in one, or will at least leave you a very short second shot. Whatever you do, get on the green in as few strokes as possible, especially if they give you the nasty front right pin placement. This green is very fast and slopes very hard from right to left, sometimes leaving you with damn near impossible putts, and often taking three to get into the hole.

Stay relaxed on number two, and save the greed for later. This relatively short 350 yard Par 4 dares you to hit it anywhere but straight ahead. Do yourself a favor and leave the driver in the bag for this one. Unless you can bomb it 350 yards uphill into a prevailing wind, just pull a 3-wood, hybrid, or even a long iron, and get onto the fairway. This is another sloping green, but nothing like the first, so get near the hole and a birdie or par is not too tough.

Proceed with caution on number three. The first of five Par 3s doesn't look like much. A 178 yard shot to a green fronted by a bunker and framed behind by hills makes this shot look shorter than it really is. Hit an extra club than you want to, and do whatever you can to get onto this green on the first shot because most of the pin placements on this green are evil. Almost every putt, no matter how short can break a full cup in either direction. I am sure birdie can be had here, but I've never seen one that I recall.

The fourth hole brings with it something new...hit your drive anywhere, and you will probably be OK. I am serious, the fairway of this very reachable 513 yard Par 5 must be at least 100 yards wide where most golfers land their driver, and big hitters can get over the crest and down the hill, sometimes leaving a short iron to the green. For those players, eagle is in play, but birdies are common, and par should be your goal. This is also one of the more puttable greens on the course.

Cross the Prairie Path, avoiding the hardcore bikers, and the 390 yard Par 4 5th will open up before you. If they named their holes at Prairie Landing, I think this one would be called "Options", because you have several. A stream bisects this fairway running parallel to the direction of your drive. A fairly straight drive up the right fairway should avoid the stream, but presents a very difficult approach shot over the "pond" portion of the stream to what from that angle will be a wide, but shallow green that will run short and right shots well off the green, and potentially back into the water. I believe the more advisable play off the tee is to cross the stream, and don't be afraid to go farther left than it appears you can. The fairway opens up just beyond the large hill to the left, and any well-struck shot landing in the visible fairway left of the stream runs the risk of bounding into the stream anyway. A shot to the left side of the left fairway also offers the best angle to approach this green. Once on the green, a 2-putt should be achievable.

Before heading back across the path, there is the matter of the Par 3 6th. With three tee box possibilities, this hole can play anywhere between 174 and 125 yards long. I almost always hope for the "East" tees for an easier approach usually impacted by a crosswind, while the "western" tees will often be either dead into or dead with the wind making the tee shot very difficult. This is another tricky green, so don't get too greedy for birdie, and be happy with a 2-putt.

The Par 5 7th is, in my opinion, one of the most intimidating looking holes on the course, especially when the wind is blowing in your face. At 555 yards, it is unreachable in two for most, but you will still want to hit driver, as the first shot offers the widest fairway on this hole. The fairway narrows as you get closer to the green, so if you are going to miss, try to stay right to avoid the deep prairie grass and stream running all the way down the left side to the green. This green is enormous, so make sure you choose your approach club wisely or another 3-jack may be in your future.

Leave driver in the bag again on the 360 yard Par 4 8th, it is the dumbest decision you would make all day. Just hit something 200-220 yards straight at the bunkers through the fairway, and you will have a fairly easy approach shot to a green that breaks left to right. The pin position makes this hole, so just hope for any pin situated center or left on the green. The back right pin placement is very challenging with any shot short and/or right being gobbled up by deep rough at best, water at worst.

The front nine ends as tough as it begins with the longest Par 4 on the front at 408 yards. Play your drive a little further left than it appears you should and the mounds on the left should kick you ball down to the fairway with a little bonus distance. If you miss left often, just aim up the center of the fairway for the same effect. Missing too far left leaves you a blind shot from the 1st hole. The 9th fairway tightens up substantially as you approach the hole, and the green is very long sloping hard from back to front, and having at least two tiers. Get that approach close to the hole and take your par.

Grab a dog at the snack shop, and take the long hike past the driving range to the 10th tee. If you are walking, cut off some distance by cutting through the parking lot rather than following the cart path...thank me later. Number ten is a straightaway 530 yard Par 5 that seems like it plays tougher than it looks. The fairway is wide almost all the way to the hole, but missing the fairway either left or right is quite penal, often costing at least one stroke just to get back to a clear shot. If you aren't trying to get home in two, which you probably won't be, the layup is fairly easy, but don't lose focus. The large green features two very distinct tiers, and a miss long is dead gone lost ball. Even a found ball presents a very difficult uphill pitch to a downhill green. Get on the correct tier in regulation, and par should be yours...maybe even a birdie.

Number eleven is another wolf in sheep's clothing. At only 335 yards it demands nothing more than hybrid or 3-wood off the tee at the very most. The swamp that runs across the middle of the hole is closer than you might think, and a driver can get into a lot of trouble. Short and right can be just as bad or worse however, as the trees will block your approach to the green, and might be bad enough to force a chip-out layup just in front of the swamp. The green should be easy enough to hit, bit it is another long one with some sneaky slopes, so be satisfied with par here despite the short length.

Turn the corner and face the signature hole of this course in my opinion. The 208 yard Par 3
12th is a good 180 yard carry all over water, and looks longer than that. Leave it short and wet, and you will next be hitting from perhaps the most difficult drop area I have ever played...a mangled patch of deep rough pocked by divots about 85 yards from the green and slightly blocked by hanging tree branches on the left...ouch. Even carrying the water isn't the only challenge from the tee. Should you clear the water, but miss too far left or right, you may be dropping a new ball with deep woods surrounding the outskirts of the hole. Resist the intimidation, make a smooth swing with one bigger club, and take your two putt par.

The 549 yard Par 5 13th is next, and is my nemesis. This is a narrow par 5 with mounds on the right and big trees up the left. Played with a straight well-struck drive, the layup is relatively easy, leaving a short approach shot over another stream to a simply gigantic green with a back to front and right to left slope in the whole thing. Just keep your ball in play and take a par, or play like me, and bring a few extra rocks to hit the rest of the way.

Climb the hill behind the 13th and another Par three awaits you, hopefully playing the same ball you finished number 12 with. At 171 yards, this is one of the more manageable holes on the course, and the first time you might be hitting directly at a passing train. Avoid the multitude of bunkers on this hole, but definitely don't miss left as the deepest of prairie grass awaits your ball. The green, of course is sloped, but not so severely that a 2-putt is overly difficult. Number 14 is the beginning of a three hole stretch where I think you can make up some ground.

The Par 4 15th hole is another short one at 363 yards. Don't be afraid to hit driver here as you could get over the crest and be very close to the green on your first. Don't be afraid to hit a long iron or hybrid either as this approach shot is perhaps the easiest on the course, and the green is perhaps the most straightforward. This is your best chance for birdie all day.

Did you like that hole? Here it is again, but much longer. At 414 yards, the 16th is the longest Par 4 on the course, and is the number 4 handicap hole. I'm telling you now, it's not that hard. Make a smooth swing off the tee to a very wide fairway, knowing that you will have to hit a longer club than normal on your approach shot. On the approach, don't worry, this green is enormous, and hitting it with a reasonably good shot shouldn't be too hard. Your miss here should favor the right side to avoid the prairie grasses. Though the green does slope somewhat severely from right to left, a 2-putt is in order.

Another walking hint here. Instead of walking the long cart path around the back of the 16th green, just head up over the hill on the back right of the green and you will pop out right at the 17th tee. The final Par 3 of the day, and definitely the most challenging, this 207 yard tee shot will challenge your you still have a solid strike with a long iron or hybrid left in you? Getting onto the green is only the beginning as this is probably the most ridiculous green on the course. A deep trough runs through the middle of the green from the very front to almost the very back funnelling shots from all sides and back of the green down into it. If the pin is down there too, great, but if not, a 2-putt is outstanding as is a par.

Finally, the eighteenth hole is another with lots of options. At 545, the safe play is down the right side of the fairway, right of the bunkers, a layup to the right side corner of the fairway, then a wedge home all avoiding the lake on the left, but when is safe any fun? Play at the bunkers or left of them with a well-struck drive and this hole will beg you to make one last attempt at glory or ruin with a shot that is all of 200-250 yards of carry all over water to what is almost always a front-tucked pin. Neither option appeal to you? There is always option number three of yanking a big pull hook into the ninth fairway, then playing a shorter shot over the lake from that side. Depending on wind direction, that could be the best route! The big green slopes from back to front, and the bunker on the right is not too bad a place to be in two, or even three.

Head into the quaint, but nice little pub for a drink, or even a bite to eat, and you will not be the beverage, I will not comment on your score. Don't forget that locker room downstairs complete with showers. If you have been tramping through the prairie all day, your legs will be itching by now and a quick rinse takes care of that in a snap.

Prairie Landing Golf Club offers an all-around excellent golf experience. They regularly have special deals, though their standard rates are a tad high, and can be difficult to figure out. This course, while challenging, is quite walkable, and the pro shop is accommodating to walking as an option, bravo! If you do choose the cart, they offer full GPS to help with distances and speed things along. I recommend that everyone try to get out to Prairie Landing this may just find your new favorite Chicagoland course.

For some great 360 degree photos of Prairie Landing, check out

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

No comments:


Golf Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory

BlogCenter Rank

Submit my blog Golf