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2 Play the Tips played Beverly on Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Beverly Country Club

Tranquility Amid Turmoil...


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The tunnel you see here passes under 87th street and connects the front nine and the back nine at Beverly.
Nicklaus, Palmer, Nelson, Snead...The walls in the clubhouse at Beverly look like you have entered the golf Hall of Fame.
#1 - Make sure you don't go over the green on this opening hole. A treacherous decline awaits.
#2 - The 2nd tee is the highest point in Cook County, IL
#5 - The approach shot to the 5th green which sits prominently atop a ridge, must not come up short or your ball will come racing back to your feet
#7 - "Heartbreak Hill" has denied many a weak drive.
#12 - In the distance you can see 12's menacing green. Look at that slope!
#13 - The 13th hole at Beverly looks simple but it is deceptively uphill
#14 - Notice the steep faces and long rough on the green-side bunkers at Beverly
#16 - The fairway bunkers are basically one stroke penalties. This one at the 16th is nearly as tall as the cart and still 215 yards from the green
#17 - The long par 3 17th doesn’t get any easier once you reach the green. Nicklaus once four-putted here to lose the Western Open.
#18 - From just short of the 18th green, players get a great view of the back of Beverly's clubhouse.

There's a kind of hum about The Beverly Country Club - a rhythm, almost.  There's the golf staff and clubhouse staff, working together to provide an exceptional experience for the golfer from the moment they step out of the car to the moment they drive away.  There's the caddies, joking and conversing (and maybe even napping, depending on the hour) while they await the day's loop, all lucky enough to be part of one of the best caddie programs in the nation (more Evans Scholars have come out of Beverly than any other club - anywhere).  There's the grinders; those few guys who show up almost every day to work on their game - maybe they add a little more 'ho-hum' than 'hum'.  There's the trees, too - century-old towers whose tops rustle, trying their best to whisper to the golfer their advice about the indecisive Chicago winds.

Then of course, there are the sounds you wish were hums...

Built in 1908 (the same year the Ford Motor Company came out with the Model T, maybe you've heard of it), The Beverly Country Club bore witness to Chicago's coming-of-age.  Once an intersection that perhaps saw only a few of those Model T's per day, 87th and Western Avenue is now a bustling collision of thoroughfares that provides constant and ample noise for Beverly's golfers.  Combine that with the freight train line that runs down the entirety of the west-side property line and the landing pattern for Midway airport that lies directly overhead, and you've got planes, trains, and automobiles (without the comedic relief of Steve Martin and John Candy, unfortunately).

The Course:

Donald Ross's design at The Beverly Country Club compels you to think about what the land on the south side of Chicago looked like before the city enveloped it.  This quarter of a square mile of rolling terrain has remained untouched by would-be builders of homes, offices, and storefronts who would have gladly erased the storied hills and valleys.  The preeminent feature of the front nine is a ridge that runs east to west, providing dramatic elevation changes that come in to play on several of the holes.  This ridge was the southern shore of prehistoric Lake Chicago, a body of water that drained after the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier during the last glacial period.  Perched atop this ridge is the championship tee box on the second hole, which is actually the highest point of elevation in the city of Chicago.  I guess after the first hole you could say that your round is - quite literally - 'all downhill from here'.

One of the more unique aspects of The Beverly Country Club is that the two nines are on opposite sides of 87th street, connected via a one-lane tunnel (also known as a traffic jam if you forget to hit the signal button that warns the other side of your imminent arrival).  The golf shop, caddie shack and front nine sit on the north side of 87th, with the clubhouse, pool, practice facilities and back nine to the south of 87th.  While the elevation change on the front nine is severe and obvious, the south side of the golf course challenges you with its subtlety.  The 13th hole is an excellent example of that subtlety, and Jason's favorite hole on the course.  A relatively short par 4 with a blind tee shot, the approach on 13 doesn't feel like it requires the extra club that it most certainly does.   

The bunkering at Beverly was one of the most integral portions of Ron Pritchard's 2003 course renovation, and has since sparked some mixed reactions.  Nearly every bunker on the property was deepened, and the bunker faces were made steeper and more penal.  Additionally, the faces of the bunkers were seeded with a wiry fescue grass that is allowed to grow to about 6 inches, making advancement of the golf ball nearly impossible in some cases.  The severity, depth, and placement of the bunkers have been a point of controversy since the renovation.  In our opinion, the severity and depth are appropriate for a championship caliber golf course, but the placement of the bunkers could have been given a little more thought.  On a number of holes, the bunkers punish the wrong players.  Better, longer-hitting players can carry nearly all of the bunkers on the course with driver off the tee.  It is even to the point that if a good player is hitting driver exceptionally well, Beverly can be left nearly defenseless (7,016 completely tipped out really isn't much of a match for a long hitter).  On the other hand, the shorter hitter will find the bunkers quite a bit more often, as they sit generally 230-250 yards from the tee.  Numbers 5, 8, 11, 14, and 16 are perfect examples of holes with poorly placed bunkers, with the most severe bunkers on 11 and 16 (faces so steep you literally cannot advance the ball more than 20 yards if your ball comes to rest in the fescue on the face).  Some of the better players at Beverly have never visited these pits, and some of the higher handicaps probably wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat following a nightmare about them. 

Like most Ross courses, the greens are easily the most interesting feature. Most of Beverly's greens slant from back to front with only a few exceptions.  A front hole location on 5 and almost any hole location on 17 warmly invite you to putt your ball clear off the front of the green when the greens are rolling nicely.  5's green holds a special punishment for a downhill putt hit with too much zeal - take a ride down the ridge and enjoy a 20-yard pitch back up the 25-foot slope. 

The majority of the severe greens on the course are located on the back nine, which, in our opinion, is the more interesting nine at Beverly (whether it is the more difficult of the two nines is debatable).  The severe slopes on Beverly's greens catch your eye, but the subtle ones will catch your ball.  This is the true challenge at Beverly - rolling the ball.  The golfer has to take in to account an incredible amount of nuance and realize that on some holes, putts roll in directions that the eye can't see and the mind can't comprehend.  The greens might not always look difficult, but when you tally up your putts on a good ball striking day you’ll realize why it can be so tough to score well at Beverly.  Even when the greens are rolling true, putts seem to burn the edge of the cup more often than not.

Members and guests alike will agree that this golf course gives you the opportunity to practice a couple different things ad nauseum: playing with noise, hitting punch shots out of thick rough, and putting straight down a hill that quite literally fills you with fear. 

The Club:

The clubhouse, pool, and practice facilities occupy the south side of the club and provide a nice setting for a relaxing day or a pleasant meal with family or friends.  While none of the facilities are necessarily world-class, they are more than adequate for a high-quality neighborhood country club.  On the other hand, the staff at the club makes a great deal of difference.  From the bag drop and valet to the men's locker room to the golf shop to the bar - Beverly has attentive and respectful people who endeavor to make your experience second-to-none. 

The recently renovated practice facilities at Beverly now offer a short game area that allows players to practice just about any shot inside 100 yards. The area consists of 3 greens - one of which is surrounded by 3 bunkers - and a lot of fairway with a minimal yet serviceable amount of rough. The driving range at Beverly is quite nice, with about 2500 square yards of neatly trimmed fairway for practice, but will be improved still when the plans to make the range double sided come to fruition at the end of the year.

History:

Conditioning at Beverly in recent years has been a bit of a struggle.  Though the conditions have never been truly awful, they have been less than 'high-end country club level' in recent years. A recent push to get back to the great conditioning that Beverly was once known for has resulted in some noticeable changes in 2011.  The tree removal program that went into effect during Pritchard's renovation was an attempt to allow the rough to get more sunlight and grow thicker, providing a tougher test for the golfer.  The plan has finally seemed to take, as the rough has been as thick as ever at Beverly this year, and at times makes a leisurely afternoon round feel like the weekend at the US Open.  The long, thick rough makes Beverly feel more like the championship golf course that its rich history suggests. 

Since opening in 1908, Beverly has played host to many great championships, including the Western Open (1910, 1963, 1967, 1970), the 1930 Western Amateur, the 1931 US Amateur, and the 2009 US Senior Amateur.  These championships have yielded great victors, including Chick Evans, Francis Ouimet, Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Luke Donald.  The prestige of The Beverly Country Club continues to grow as the club has received the distinction of hosting the 2011 Western Junior Amateur Championship and the 2014 Western Amateur Championship.

With a history like that, there’s no denying that the golf course has held its own over time.  It may not be the most awe-inspiring golf course in the Chicagoland area, but it keeps things interesting enough that golfers always seem delighted when they walk off the 18th green.  After winning the 2009 US Senior Amateur, Marvin “Vinny” Giles, one of golf's most decorated and respected amateur players, summed up Beverly in a similar fashion to many other greats before him, saying: “This golf course is fun.  This golf course passes the test that I think is the ultimate test in golf, a golf course you can play every day and never get tired of.  I think that is the ultimate test of a golf course.”

We'll 2nd that, Vinny.



The Beverly Country Club scorecard is not available

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TAGS:  CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, DONALD ROSS, RON PRITCHARD, BEVERLY, COURSE ROUTING, WESTERN OPEN, WESTERN AMATEUR, US SENIOR AMATEUR, US AMATEUR, VINNY GILES, CHICK EVANS, FRANCIS OUIMET, ARNOLD PALMER, JACK NICKLAUS, LUKE DONALD, WESTERN JUNIOR AMATEUR