By Jim Zucarelli
Windy City Public Golfer’s Guide
Anyone who watched the Men’s or Women’s 2014 U.S. Opens at Pinehurst #2 were treated to the golf course architectural genius of Donald Ross, arguably the most revered and accomplished designer to have worked on American soil. According to the Donald Ross Society, 13 courses in the Chicago area from 1913 to 1921 were either new creations or redesigns by Ross. All were private clubs until 2008, when Ravisloe Country Club in south suburban Homewood was sold to veterinary surgeon Dr. Claude Gendreau and became a public fee facility.
The original course at Ravisloe dates back to 1901, and Ross installed his trademark domed greens and deep, mounded bunkers between 1917 and 1919. Much of the Ross touches were lost over the years, and in 2002 local architect David Esler was commissioned to restore the course back to its former glory and to hopefully increase the dwindling membership numbers that affected many local clubs at this time. After an exodus of members a few years later to nearby Idlewild CC, the decision was made to put the land up for sale.
Dr. Gendreau, a non-golfer himself but committed to maintaining open urban spaces, stepped in and welcomed the general public in 2009. I’ve played at Ravisloe twice since then, and this course is a remarkable testament to Ross’ work nearly 100 years ago and Esler’s recent restoration. At just over 6,300 yards, the par 70 layout may be overlooked by golfers who prefer lengthier tracks, but that would be an unfortunate oversight, as this is a rare opportunity to experience classic golf from a bygone era.
Water comes into play sparingly, as the pond fronting the 7th green and the creek weaving through the 14th and 15th holes the only significant hazards, but the thick stands of century old hardwoods, along with the sloping putting surfaces and 80 distinctive sand traps, provides a challenge beyond the 70.8 / 127 rating / slope.
The routing on the compact 160-acre site is an excellent mix of proper spacing and whimsical quirkiness. The par 35 front nine is a full 200 yards shorter than the back, with back to back par five’s (2nd and 3rd holes) and par three’s (6th and 7th holes) an unusual configuration that nonetheless works well here. The 2nd hole, the #1 handicap at 535 yards, has several grassy mounds to the right and a large fairway bunker left off the tee, and the fairway drifts left with another deep trap about 125 yards from the left to right sloping green. The parallel 3rd hole is only 490 yards with OB along the entire right side, and any putts from above the cup are treacherous on the steeply tilted back to front green.
The first par three follows, 181 yards from the back tees with 3 traps short of the green, and another 4 positioned at the corners of the putting surface, and the narrow 25 yard deep green is a challenging target. The short par four 5th hole is only 315 yards, but it features three traps devilishly placed just left of center as the fairway bends to the right. The 203 yard 7th hole is a 175 yard carry over the pond from the tips, with the “cRc” logo shaped from the shrubbery displayed to the right, and after holing my bogey putt I had completed a stretch of 4 holes in only 834 yards, most likely the shortest quartet that I’ve played on a regulation length course.
The nines transition with three middling par 4’s at the east end of the property, with #8 featuring three grassy mounds inside the large fairway trap, a stylistic touch that is later repeated on the 390 yard 16th and 355 yard 18th holes. The highlight of the back nine is the 13th hole, one of the best par fives I played in 2014. The slight dogleg right is carved out of dense woods, with deep fairway bunkers alternately flanking each side up to the elevated green. A par on this beauty was the apex of a round where I struggled with my putter from start to finish on the slick greens.
The last par three, #15, is a short (146 yards) and scenic hole with a tee shot over the creek to an elevated green that’s well protected by half a dozen deep traps. The course heads home with three par fours, and although the 18th lacks distance, the 13 total fairway and greenside bunkers (plus the large “grassy knolled” trap 100 yards shy of the green), and the view of the regal Spanish style clubhouse is a fine finish to the round.
A good sized driving range and practice area flanks each side of the entrance drive that crosses the 10th fairway, and I’m guessing that a few cars have been dented by drives off the 10th tee over the years. If I have one complaint it would be the close proximity of the range to the 10th fairway, as I had to spend a few minutes finding my yellow Noodle among the similarly colored practice balls in the left rough, but that’s a small inconvenience to endure on this splendid track.
The prime time weekend rates at Ravisloe approaches the mid $70’s (weekdays are about $15 less), but you can save $17 by skipping the carts, and this is a course that can best be enjoyed by foot, as we did on a gorgeous late September afternoon, and the $40 fall rate was money well spent for a thoroughly enjoyable round. If you share an appreciation for classic Windy City golf but have yet to experience Ravisloe, then you need to make the trip to the south suburbs for a taste of this timeless Donald Ross inspired treasure.
Ravisloe Country Club
18231 South Park Avenue, Homewood, IL
3 Tees, 6,321 / 5,243 Yards, par 70
70.8/127 – 66.3/117 Rating / slope (Men)
76.4/136 – 70.5/118 (Women)
M-F $47/64, $31/$43 at Twilight
SA-SU $55/72, $40/$52 at Twilight
Seniors (62) / Juniors (17 & Under) $35/$49 M-F,
$47/$61 SA-SU after Noon
Senior Special – $35/$40 Tuesdays
Driving Range Onsite
8-Minute Tee Time Intervals