My relationship with Seven Bridges Golf Club in Woodridge is similar to the one I have with a Snickers bar. One is bad for my waist line and the other isn’t good for my golf score, but I still indulge in both every so often. Architect Dick Nugent razed the property of the old 36 hole Woodridge Golf Course and created a menacing monster of woods and water that will test the low handicapper and scare the heck out of the average golfer. The par 72 layout stretches to 7,100 yards from the back set of 5 tees, and the 74.6 rating / 144 slope ranks it in the top 5 metro Chicago public courses in terms of difficulty, a clear indication that this is not a course for the easily intimidated. On my last visit this past fall, I played the 6,300 yard white (middle) tees, and the 70.7 / 135 was all I could handle as I scrambled to stay in double digits.
The course is split into 2 very distinct nines. The current front side (the nines have periodically been flipped over the years) is a classic parkland setting of towering trees plus water / wetlands that are prominently featured on the middle 3 holes (4 thru 6), while the back is an ornery odyssey aptly named Poseidon, and I nearly expected to see the Greek god of the sea rising from the sizable lake that is the centerpiece of the final nine. If you’re looking to cleanse your bag of the balls you’ve been saving as sacrifices to the golf water spirits, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Dupage River flows north / south through the course and requires the need for the namesake ‘Seven Bridges’, and it comes into play on half the holes, but it’s the back nine where the river really wreaks havoc as it runs thru the last 7 holes. The par five 12th is a perfect example, as the river cuts diagonally across the fairway, and for as many times as I’ve played this course since its opening in 1991, I still haven’t quite figured out exactly where to aim on the second and third shots on this visually deceiving hole. The 14th hole is a 427 yard par 4 with the river bordering the left side before the fairway makes a sharp left turn across the hazard to a unique front to back 2-tiered green, but it’s the 16th hole where Seven Bridges really bares its teeth. The 441 yard par 4 has the river to the left and the lake to the right, and the green is elevated and tucked around the water to create one of the more difficult 2nd shots you’re likely to encounter.
The front nine is actually 50 yards longer but much more civil, while still packing plenty of punch. The 2nd hole is only 378 yards (the second shortest par 4), but the enormous sand trap the last 150 yards effectively splits the fairway, and the view from the slightly elevated tee with the woods to the left in full fall colors was memorable. The 4th hole is slightly longer (392 yards), with an intimidating approach over a small pond through a tight squeeze between 2 large trees, and the 5th hole adds another 20 yards as the dogleg right over a large willow, wetlands and a beach bunker provides another tricky 2nd shot. The #1 handicap hole is the 469 yard 7th, with the drive through the trees and a slight curve right to a large, well bunkered green. The 9th hole is the longest at 579 yards, but it’s all downhill with a carry over the narrow width of the river on the approach to the green.
Mr. Nugent has had his hand in many of the more acclaimed tracks in the Chicagoland area, including Kemper Lakes, George Dunne, Harborside and Heritage Bluffs, and Seven Bridges fits comfortably in this group. The complex greens are uniformly large, fast, severely sloped and challenging for the average golfer. I was able to reach the right front of the 10th green in regulation, but a back left pin called for a sweeping right to left breaking putt over a ridge, and the subsequent four putt double bogey quickly sucked the life out of my round, so be prepared for a potentially long day if your putter is shaky.
Seven Bridges is one of a handful of local courses that tops out over $100 ($110 in 2014), but there are plenty of opportunities to play at reduced green fees through late morning and early afternoon discounts, and the 4 pm twilight rate is $55 w/cart, not an unreasonable price for a premium layout. Bring a foursome and you score a 20% break off the pre-twilight fees, and that $70 tee time at 2:30 suddenly becomes a much more affordable $56. The one glaring negative is the absence of an on-site driving range, so the net near the first tee will have to do.
But even if Seven Bridges is kicking my butt (which it usually does), I can always enjoy the scenery, which is abundant on this Audubon Certified course. Mr. Nugent was once quoted as saying “People like to play better courses because they feel better when they score on a good course,” and I couldn’t agree more. So find the right price point and test your skills at one of the harder courses in the Windy City, and you just might come away with a round to remember.
Seven Bridges Golf Club
One Mulligan Drive, Woodridge, IL
5 tees, 7,111 / 5,262 yds, par 72
74.6/144 -68.5/130 rating / slope (men)
77.0/141 – 71.2/128 (women)
M-TH $85 before 10 am, $90 to 2:30 pm, $70 to 4 pm, $55 after 4
F $95 to 10 am, $100 to 2:30 pm, $70 to 4 pm, $55 after 4
SA-SU $110 to 10 am, $90 to 2:30 pm, $70 to 4 pm, $55 after 4
All Rates include carts w/GPS
20% off w/foursomes before 4 pm