By Jim Zuccarelli

Although they are separated by only 7 miles of far northeast Illinois real estate, Bonnie Brook in Waukegan and Shepherd’s Crook in Zion are golf courses that are a world of difference in style. But both Park District facilities share the common goal of providing a great experience and a premium value to area golfers, and each has announced significant adjustments to their greens fee schedules for 2014.

7th Hole Bonnie BrookBonnie Brook is a classic parkland layout dating back to the 1920’s and features thousands of mature trees, rolling terrain and the north branch of the Waukegan River that meanders through the course. The weekend morning rate with cart for 2014 at the 6,600 yard, par 72 track has dropped to $54, a five dollar savings from last year, while weekdays this season are $48, down from $54 in 2013. “We know that we have to be a fair value, not only with other golf courses, but also with other recreational options, and the improvements in the greens fee structure places us in a better position to compete,” stated Tony Tinetti, General Manager at Bonnie Brook.

11th Hole Bonnie BrookThe “Brook” has also added mid-day discounts this year, so golfers pay only $20 to walk or $35 to ride after Noon Monday thru Friday, or $25/40 on weekends. “We studied the tee sheets over the winter and confirmed that we had a ‘dead zone’ between Noon and 2. Instead of discounting the early afternoon rates with coupons, we decided to just change the fees for 2014.” Tinetti added, “We feel that Bonnie Brook is enjoyable whether you’re a 30 handicap or a 2 handicap, and that with the new rates we are more than fairly priced and offer one of the better values in the Chicago area.”

8th Hole Shepherds CrookShepherd’s Crook resides in the shadow of the Wisconsin border and was designed by architect Keith Foster. The par 71 links style track opened in 1999 and features wide expanses of native prairie grasses spread over the 6,800 yard length of the course, with undulating greens, elevation changes and bunkering reminiscent of the classic courses in Ireland. The highest rate each day is $60 with cart or $45 to walk (which is encouraged), and an “Early Bird” special of $40 w/cart is also available Monday thru Thursday before 8 am. “We don’t necessarily look at what other courses charge,” remarked Larry Myers, Manager at Shepherd’s Crook, “but we’ve always strived to provide a fair value for what we have to offer.”

New for 2014 are reduced Twilight, Senior and Junior rates. The twilight rate is $35 w/cart after 3 pm ($5 less for walkers) every day, while the same rate is offered to Seniors over 60 any time Monday thru Thursday. Junior golfers 17 & under can walk Monday thru Friday for $20. “We know that golf can be expensive for people on fixed incomes, so we wanted to make it more affordable for our Senior golfers so that they can still get out to play,” said Myers, who will be celebrating his 25th anniversary with the Zion Park District in September.

12th Hole Sheperds CrookThe “Crook” also has the added bonus of 10 minute tee time intervals, a rare occurrence for courses at this price point. “The first 3 holes are fairly straight forward ‘warm up’ holes, but the 4th hole is a long par 3 (245 yards from the tips). Before we opened the course, we had groups go off at different intervals, and the 10 minute times worked the best to keep the flow of the course moving properly, and we have kept it the same since the beginning,” shared Myers.

Though Bonnie Brook and Shepherd’s Crook are certainly exceptional values for north suburban residents, the location at the edge of the Windy City area may make them less than ideal as a destination for golfers from other metro Chicago regions. But those willing to take the trek will discover two fine courses that can hold their own with many of the top facilities in the region. And if you’re up for a 36 hole marathon, a round each at the “Brook” and the “Crook” will provide two distinctly different layouts that are easy on the wallet and fun to play, and worth the drive to the north shore.