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Thinking through a round is key at Oak Brook Golf Club.
The west suburban club is an easy 40-minute drive east on I-88 and a test that will challenge every club in your bag. Oak Brook also has a history of being a stern test for the PGA and LPGA tours.
This week, The Golf Insider also exposes the best-kept secret location for the ideal 19th hole.
GOLF COURSE SPOTLIGHT
Swallow your pride at Oak Brook.
It’s not easy to do.
But because of undulating greens, which always are in pristine condition and that slope back to front, approach shots that find the fairway are vital. It might mean keeping driver in the bag and working backward in terms of yardage and shot selection.
Although the greens are Oak Brook’s greatest defense, a variety of hazards and doglegs also make scoring a challenge.
“I like to play desert courses because all the good areas are clearly defined, they are bright green as opposed to the desert,” said Oak Brook’s PGA head golf professional Trey VanDyke. “That helps you focus in on a target. At Oak Brook, the doglegs make the trouble shaded into a hole. If you aren’t paying attention how narrow a fairway gets, you won’t realize the trouble being brought into play.”
And there is trouble in the form of a meandering Salt Creek, heavily wooded areas, well-placed bunkers and ponds that challenge players from the tee and on approach shots. Oak Brook is a shot-makers course at its finest.
“It’s a classically designed golf course,” VanDyke said. “There’s not a flat spot on any green, The undulation requires a discipline, you’ve got to know where the pin is and be mindful of it.”
The PGA Tour discovered the value of a well-placed shot for nine holes in the 1987 Western Open when Butler National, which is a chip shot from the Oak Brook parking lot, was pummeled by rain. Oak Brook’s back nine was pressed into action as the tournament’s front nine.
In 1991, Oak Brook hosted the LPGA Chicago Shootout.To manage the crowds, there was some back nine rerouting and No. 16 played as No. 18. Martha Nause finished birdie, birdie, birdie, eagle – where she holed in a wedge from 107 yards – to overcome a four-shot deficit. Kris Monaghan was up four with four to play, and didn’t make a bogey and lost.
No. 16, with out of bounds left and trees left and right, requires a perfectly placed draw for a right-hander from the tee. It’s a real three-shot hole for most that will test a golfer’s patience. There’s even a pond that will capture any second or third shots that are sprayed too far right.
“So many club championships are decided on No. 16,” VanDyke said. “If you cut the corner too much, you get some nasty lies. So, we started to hit 6 irons off the tee. We played it as a pure three-shot par 5. But, who wants to hit a 6 iron on a par 5? It takes a lot of discipline.”
Re-occurring themes at Oak Brook: Lots of discipline and thought required on each shot.
ON THE TEE
York Tavern is easily overlooked.
A wood building stained with a red finish no larger than a humble house adjacent to a rambling portion of Salt Creek just before a bridge and offset from the two-lane stretch of York Road is a destination tourists might drive by but a homey place where locals flock.
It’s the perfect 19th hole – just a few blocks south – when you wrap up your round at Oak Brook. A recent renovation brought some light and new fixtures into “The York,” as it’s affectionately dubbed. But the charm is still the same. Golfers have joined businessmen, families, locals and a slew of others at an establishment that turns joyfully boisterous as you enjoy a post-round burger and beverage.
Play the percentages to have game-ready shots.
If involved in a stroke play round and not a tournament, VanDyke encourages players to do what it takes to go low.
“A shot is game ready if you can hit it 8 of 10 times not 1 of 10,” VanDyke said. “If your primary objective is to score, then players shouldn’t hit a lot of shots they choose.”
He’s seen challenging flop shots attempted unsuccessfully when a lower flighted shot had greater odds of working. If a player can’t hit 11 or 12 fairways then perhaps driver should be kept in the bag.
To go low, take a disciplined approach in shot selection.
TIP OF THE WEEK
Being short often works at Oak Brook when it comes to good scoring because most greens have a drastic slope from back to front, which is why Oak Brook’s PGA head golf professional Trey VanDyke recommends playing your approach shot a few yards short.
If you have 145 yards play to 140. If the shot ends up at 135 yards because of wind or less than stellar contact, VanDyke offers a unique “putting” tip.
“Because there’s a premium on being short of the hole a good shot in that situation is to putt with an 8 iron,” VanDyke said. “Fly the ball a couple feet if you are just off the green and let it roll out. It comes in very handy if you are in the front of the green.
“Choke down to the shaft so your eyes are over the golf ball. You’re now much closer to the ball and the toe of the club is on the ground and the heel up. It’s easy to get to the bottom of the golf ball from this position.”
Oak Brook has a full staff of PGA professionals. For more information on a lesson, contact the pro shop at 630-368-6400.