$300 is the correct answer to which question about Belmont Golf Club? 1) The cost of a yearly membership? 2) The cost of all the balls you lose in one round? 3) The cost to build this 9-hole course in 1892? 4) The cost of a tank of gas to drive from O’Hare Airport to the course?
In 1892, Charles Blair MacDonald persuaded 30 of his Chicago Golf Club colleagues to contribute $10 each to design and construct a nine-hole course. Really, design and construct for $300? Let’s see what $300 bought and hope today is not a downer for us.
Death is a possibility today at Hole #1. Geese line the fairway at this 398 yard (white) par 4, so any shot that does not get airborne may result in a tragedy. If your tee shot starts to flutter to the left, water can come into play. Trees line both sides of the fairway; however, the right side is a little less dense. Two bunkers guard the right side of this large, tricky green that slopes from back to front. I am pleased to say that no geese were harmed in any way at the opening hole.
Hole #2 is broken up into two parts due to water that spans the center of the fairway. The landing area for your drive is squeezed by the water that begins on the right and a large fairway bunker. If you survive the fairway hazard, you will have two large greenside bunkers to avoid. Hole #3 is a par 5 with a dogleg to the right. Be sure to pick the appropriate tee box because you may need to clear water from the back tees. This fairway is well guarded by trees on both sides, however, the right side is less penal. The approach shot is a “fun” one as the putting surface is uphill and hidden from view.
It’s decision time at the par 4 fourth hole. It’s a big dogleg to the left with tall native grass to “try” to carry for the risk/reward factor. Or you can just hit a nice draw to the middle of the fairway like Mr. 5-Wood. However if your ball does not draw, you risk the chance of driving through the fairway like I did. I then proceeded to hit three trees as I attempted to find my way to the green. Again just to be perfectly clear, left is better but not too far left. Another winner of a hole!
Hole #5 is a cool but tricky hole. It’s only 312 yards, so the long hitter may want to take a direct line over the trees and grasses to find the putting surface. If you want to follow the safer route, the fairway meanders to the right, then to the left, before arriving at the green and it’s three large bunkers. If you decide to take the “safe” route, the water to the right may not make it that safe! Another masterpiece of hole design.
The green at the par 3 sixth hole is surrounded by bunkers left, right, and behind. If that is not enough trouble, dense trees will devour shots hooked left, and sliced shots to the right will find water. There are trees everywhere on Hole #7 except in front of the green. The hole is straightforward but your drive needs to be precise or you will almost certainly find tree trouble.
From the white tees, the par 3 eighth hole is 184 yards from an elevated teeing area. Better to be short than long because a bunker and trees band together at the back of the green. Hole #9 is an undulating par 5 with a slight curve to the left, and it reinforced my decision to take a cart today. From the blue and white tees your tee shot needs to soar over a water hazard. The fairway is lined with trees, but they are more aesthetically pleasing than being very penal.
Rating – Ace (57 out of 60): Wow, just wow! I think that about sums it up. In 1892 the first 9 holes were completed and became the first course west of the Allegheny Mountains. In 1893, another 9 holes were added and the original Chicago Golf Club (later Downers Grove GC) became the first 18-hole course in the United States. Holes 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, and 9 remain from the original course. Over the years the name has been changed a few times and in 2023 it has been renamed again to Belmont Golf Club to honor its history. You can read more about this storied course on their website.
The course was in excellent shape and had quite a few amenities. There is a driving range that includes a lighted and covered hitting bay. The clubhouse staff was excellent and the 19th hole was a nice place to grab a post round beer. A great place to step back in history and play an excellent Chicagoland course!
2420 Haddow Avenue, Downers Grove, IL 60515; 630-963-1306; www.belmontgolfclub.org