Course: Cog Hill is a well known public golf club in the Chicago area. It’s owned by the Jemsek family, whom are famous for facilitating and promoting public golf in the area. The Cog is a great example of that, as there are four courses that range in green fees, difficulty and design, providing accessibility to basically all golfers. The Number 4 course, named “Drubsdread,” is nationally ranked and hosted PGA tournaments as recent as a few years ago.
The facility was unlike anything I’ve seen. The parking lot was enormous, with numerous tourist buses unloading golfers and a few pro shops scattered hundreds of yards away from each other. There were a few pro shops and grill rooms, all very nice, throughout. In fact, we got lost a few times just trying to figure out where to check in and where to grab a hot dog. Although we arrived late in the afternoon, there were still lots of golfers around. I can’t imagine what it’s like during the weekends. Really though, the place is big enough that it can handle crowds pretty easily.
We literally landed at Midway and drove straight to the course, so were interested in getting as many holes in as we could before it got dark. We also didn’t feel like spending a lot of money since we probably couldn’t clear all 18 holes, yet didn’t feel like playing at a dog track and were instead interested in enjoying an interesting course that told us something about the area’s rich golf culture. The Cog fit that bill perfectly on all counts. For $30 each, we had a tee time on Course #3, which was designed by Dick Wilson, the same guy who was involved with Drubsdread. Wilson has also designed well known courses Laurel Valley, Doral, Bay Hill and the Meadows course at Greenbrier. Wilson did most of his work in the 1960’s and is known for his slightly elevated greens, which promoted the aerial game. He was involved as a construction supervisor of Flynn’s design at Shinnecock Hills prior to designing courses as well. A well known man in golf design for sure.
I get the feeling that Course #3 has remained largely unchanged since it was designed in 1963. It’s a classic park land lay out with holes framed by trees, water hazards, and nicely shaped green side bunkers that require varying shots. There were enough contours to create some blind shots and yes, there were a good amount of elevated, and slightly elevated, greens. It was interesting without being very penal on mis hits. Quite honestly, I would have had no issue with playing the Back tees, which come out to 6,402 yards and 116 slope. With these slope ratings and length, you would think the course would be a boring pushover, but it’s quite the contrary. It’s a nice and gentle round, where you’re called upon to hit a variety of shots and more importantly, are able to attack many different ways to maintain a respectable score. There are many different available shots to get around this course, which I think promotes creativity. For $30, sign me up any time.
The First is a very short par 4 at 254 yards. The some what narrow fairway is lined with trees on both sides and proceeds uphill to the green. Bunkers are in front on the right and left, leaving access in the middle while another bunker is long left. An extremely friendly starting hole, yet just enough challenge to keep you honest. The Second gets a little more serious with a 340 yard par 4 with a blind tee shot to an uphill fairway, which then dives down to the green. Keeping it in the fairway makes it a fairly easy hole, but the rough was up when I played, making it a but tougher.
The Third expects you to be all warmed up, as it’s a 509 yard par 5 that dog legs right after another uphill tee shot. You start noticing that some of these trees come out and challenge you in the fairway, which also affect your lines to the hole. Once again, you have a slightly elevated green here to make the approach a tad more interesting.
Approach shot on the Third
The Fourth is the first par 3, a 120 yard carry over a pond to a wide but shallow green that is multi tiered.
The Fifth introduced us to one of the fixtures of the course: geese. Hundreds of them. I literally had to wield my driver to get all of them off of the Fifth tee area and fairway so we could tee off without whacking into them. When you have that many geese, you’re bound to run into geese crap, which we encountered here and a few other choice spots among the course. As for the hole, it’s a 360 yard par 4 that turns a little to the right to an elevated green that is narrow yet deep.
The Sixth is a short 275 yard par 4 that presents an interesting tee shot. The tee box is angled towards the right of the fairway, which is lined with elm trees. The first tree actually abuts into the fairway more than the others and partially obstructs your view of the fairway. I aimed at that first tree and my tee shot carried it and landed in the middle of the fairway, giving me an easy approach into the elevated green. I could see how it’s easy to line up too far to the right and ending up on the other side of those elm trees.
Tee shot at the Sixth
The Seventh is a 342 yard par 4 with a fairway that gently terraces down to the green, which is, you guessed it, slightly elevated. There’s water along the left side of the green as well.
The Eighth is a hard dog leg left 376 yard par 4. I started hitting my stride on this hole, but I also enjoyed the hole aside from that. Driver is too much off the tee, but you need to get the ball to the far right of the fairway to get a clear look at the green with yet another slightly elevated green. Dick Wilson was famous for these greens for a reason. The different trees along the hole along with the simple and undulating green made for a nice hole to play.
Tee shot at the Eighth
Approaching the dog leg at the Eighth
Approach shot at the Eighth
The Ninth is the second par 3 at 180 yards. There was some nice bunkering along the front right of the green and left side as well. The green slopes from back to front as well.
The Tenth is a 349 yard par 4 that proceeds gently uphill to a kidney shaped green that undulates severely compared to the other greens and bunkers surround the green as well. Trees go along the right side of the fairway, so straight or slight left are your options, but it’s better to favor the left side. Oh yeah, the green is slightly elevated. The Eleventh is a 545 yard par 5 with a narrow fairway. It’s similar to the Tenth, but doesn’t turn and is straight away. The green is, wait for it, elevated.
The Twelfth is a 155 yard par 3. There is a severe bunker on the right of the green and the green slopes toward the bunker. I guess you can call this hole some what of a reverse Redan, but the green is only slightly elevated rather than a full blown uphill tee shot. The Thirteenth is a 391 yard par 4 that dips downhill before getting to the raised green, which is tucked in to the left. The fairway narrows as it gets to the green as well. I really enjoyed this hole, as the approach shot was tough to line up. Also, the green was full of geese crap. It made putting very interesting.
Tee area of the Thirteenth
Getting to the Thirteenth green
It started to get really dark at this point, so photos after the Thirteenth didn’t come out. The Fourteenth was a 389 yard par 4 where your tee shot must carry water, then the fairway leads straight to the green, which is protected by bunkers on the left and right. The Fifteenth is a 483 yard par 5 where you tee off to an uphill fairway, leaving you with a blind second shot. The narrow but deep green has one bunker on the left side, which I found myself in.
At this point in the round, I could have used one of those helmets with the flashlight in front like the miners use. We decided to play the 185 yard par 4 Sixteenth as our last hole. There is water along the entire right side of the hole and the green slopes from left to right with multiple tiers. A nice par 3.
We didn’t play the Seventeenth and Eighteenth because we couldn’t even see the cart path, so I can’t tell you anything about those holes other than what is on the score card. The Seventeenth is a 515 yard par 5 that looks straight, with the only hazard listed being water on the right side of the fairway about 250 yards out. Not sure if we’re dealing with hills or slopes here though. The Eighteenth is a 395 yard par 4 that also looks straight with a tree listed on the right side of the fairway about 300 yards out and what looks like pretty interesting bunkers left and right of the green. Really wish I could have played those holes to finish the round.
Generally, this course was exactly what we were looking for. An affordable, interesting course designed by a notable architect at a well known place to take in the local scene. I would love this course, and Cog Hill in general, if I was a local. It offers so much variety, with top notch quality. Once I get back to Chicago, I could see playing #3 as a warm up to Drubsdread. The #2 course, Ravines, is also supposed to be nice and we almost played it, but I wanted to find out more about Dick Wilson. There were well established halfway houses that I saw more than once and the hot dogs rivaled those at White Clay (except the buns at White Clay are better). This would be a great place to spend 3 or 4 days playing all the different courses and I’m glad we were able to check it out for the few hours we were able.
Gripes: The geese were a little much. They charged extra for carts, which is a pet peeve of mine. The grill room arrangement was confusing, as some served different food and it took us a while to figure out where we could grab a beer and a good. It should be easier. Along with that, the place is so big that it was a challenge to find our way around, but I imagine you figure it out after a while. And no cart girl.
Bar/grill: There were a couple and they were all great. I especially liked the bar with the downstairs lounge and poker table set up. That’s a country club set up, so I was glad to see it so well furnished and used at a public course.
Clubhouse: Again, there were a couple. A smaller one and a bigger one. A ton of different apparel and equipment. Quite honestly, I would have bought a few things, but I knew I was going nuts at the Ryder Cup the following day.
Nearby: I guess…Chicago? No idea.
Getting there: It was about a half hour from Midway. My GPS led me there, so as a clueless tourist, I can’t tell you anything more than you take Cicero to 63rd and turn right.