High tea or high tee? Over in England for the working class folks in the region around Buckingham Palace a “high tea” means a worker’s substantive meal (supper with tea) that is served at a table while seated on high back dining chairs and is meant to be differentiated from the afternoon tea that is traditionally served with scones or cakes at 4 o’clock on low tables while sitting on shorter parlor chairs (a snack with tea). Back in Chicago, in the region around Buckingham Fountain, a “high tee” could mean either a 4-inch peg of wood or plastic used to help launch the first shot of a golf hole –or– an area used for the first shot of a golf hole that is substantially higher in elevation than the intended landing area.
The six county Chicago Metropolitan Area is generally flat, quite the antithesis of Loyal Chapman’s imaginative artistic Alps International Golf & Climbing Club or the real Legend Golf & Safari Resort in South Africa. However, there are a few public courses in our locale that challenge their golfing customers with a hike, or ride, up to an elevated teeing area. Our quest was to make a list of the top-10 elevated teeing grounds incorporated into public golf courses in the Chicago area. In addition to height (drop), our other criteria included scenery, drama and fear-factor. With apologies if your personal selection is not included, here is the Chicago Golf Report list with ten places to “elevate your game”.
10) Cary Country Club, Hole #2 – Par 4 (325 / 287 yards)
Elevated tee shots can vary from mild to wild, and here’s one that pleases nearly every golfer. The first inkling that there’s an elevated tee shot coming on hole #2 is experienced in the slope of green #1, then stride over to the cart path and journey up to tee #2 which perches a lofty 75 feet above its wide fairway — pleasing to the eye, and, receptive to hooks and slices. Cary Country Club has a handful of lovable, helpful elevated tees. Could this be due to its proximity to the Norge Ski Jump in nearby Fox River Grove?
9) Coghill-Dubsdread, Hole #14 – Par 3 (215 / 194 / 184 / 174 / 171 / 108 yards)
While standing on the teeing plateau of the 14th hole, contemplating the descending tee shot, many other distractions are present here at Dubsdread. Besides factoring for the elevation change of more than 25 feet, the tee shot must find the narrow opening between the stands of trees to the left and to the right of the forward tee box. The target green sits in a valley, but rises up like a mesa with six Rees Jones steep-faced bunkers surrounding it. Off-line shots and those that lack the proper spin often proceed toward and into the menacing bunkers. Trees, sand, berms, and don’t forget the barranca ditch and big white barn; this is a visually memorable hole.
8) Foxford Hills Golf Club, Hole #5 – Par 4 (428 / 382 / 363 / 342 / 325 yards)
This hole’s nickname is ‘Double Jeopardy’ with out-of-bounds bordering the entire left side and a pond to the right for the final portion of the hole. From the teeing ground the hole has a downhill slope of 35 feet to the 150-yard marker then continues sloping another 15 feet to the two bunkers adjacent to the pond. A sprinkler head near the two bunkers is marked as 126 yards to the center of the green; any tee shot that does not reach the 126-yard sprinkler head will face a downhill lie for the approach shot into the green. Out-of-bounds, pond, downhill lies — perhaps the hole should be named ‘triple jeopardy’!
7) Settler’s Hill Golf Club, Hole #4 – Par 3 (141 / 123 / 116/ 107 yards)
The 4th hole at Settler’s Hill in Batavia fits into the classic definition of an elevated tee shot: put the teeing area on a hill and situate the green in a valley. Although the hole is a man made fabrication, this hole looks completely natural. The wide teeing ground and kidney-shaped green permits the superintendent the means to force his golfing customers to hit cuts or draws, or laser-straight shots, to the correct portion of the green situated approximately 55 feet below the tee. The contour of the ground just right of green will cause many shots to bounce into the bunker or into the unplayable natural wooded area. This hole has produced a “love it or hate it” relationship for the regular golfers at Settler’s Hill.
6) Harborside International Golf Center – Port, #16 – Par 4 (407 / 359 / 324 / 286 yards)
It’s a gradual sloping change in elevation (40 feet) from tee to green at Harborside International Port’s 16th hole, but it requires one of the most precisely positioned tee shots of any of the thousands of holes throughout the Chicago area. Aptly named “Land’s End”, the 16th hole occupies a peninsula into Lake Calumet; the water left of the fairway and behind the green is just one of the issues to deal with when playing this par-4. The fairway is positioned to the left of a series of fairway bunkers, which are located on the true straight line from tee to green — intentional deception on the part of architect, Dick Nugent. The natural downhill runout from drives hit on the straight line end up in the fairway bunkers; sloping runout from drives too far left end up in the water. The unheralded 16th does not receive the acclaim due it, but rather it receives considerable cussing and swearing at it.
5) The Glen Club, Hole #4 – Par 3 (156 / 139 / 129 / 108 yards)
Located in the center of the golf course property and at one of the property’s highest points, this par-3 has a elevated tee 40 feet above the green. While its yardage is short, it is a deceiving and difficult hole. Playing from north to south, the prevailing wind during the summertime will be against the player or a right to left crosswind from the west. The semi-circular hill behind the green along with evergreen and hardwood trees add further deception to assess correct wind speed and direction. The variables of elevation, wind, and pin location necessitate correct club selection; a wrong choice of club or a miss hit can easily result in a “double” — bogey or par.
4) Mistwood Golf Club, hole #14 – Par 3 (233 / 202 / 190 / 168 / 133 yards)
Standing high atop a point gazing across an expanse of water — no, it is not the Cliffs of Dover to Calais — you are on the 14th tee at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville. Hole #14 at Mistwood is known as Kelpies Lookout, in reference to ‘Kelpie’ the mythical Scottish water horse, and the 14th is the first of a treacherous three-hole stretch called Kelpies Korner. Hole #14 plays 202 yards from the gold tees and 233 yards from the championship tees. The elevation change from tee to green is 40 feet and the shot requires a forced carry over Lake St James. The green is surrounded by 3 bunkers, one of which is an inverted sod wall positioned middle right of the green. The prevailing wind from the west is always against the golfers, making club selection a vital factor in maneuvering through this tough par three. An elevated tee, a forced carry, and strategic bunkers produce quite an impressive and memorable hole at Mistwood.
3) Vernon Hills Golf Course, Hole #7 – Par 3 (137 / 132 / 104 / 104 yards)
In 1982 Alice Dye convinced her husband, Pete, to dig a big hole, fill it with water and position a green in the middle, then use the extra dirt to create mounds elsewhere on the course. Decades before the creation of TPC-Sawgrass the builders of Tally-Ho golf course with a similar maneuver dug a hole, created a pond, and a hill right next to the pond. Tally-Ho golf course has evolved to become the challenging 9-hole course, Vernon Hills GC. Official surveying records in Lake County, Illinois, show that the altitude of VHGC’s green is 682 feet above sea level and the tee is 727 feet above sea level, a drop of exactly 45 feet from tee to green. Taking the average apex of 90 feet for a short-iron shot for the average golfer, there is a descent for your golf ball of 135 feet. But be sure that your short iron shot has sufficient forward travel to clear the pond or else the ball’s descent will have another 15 feet to the bottom of the pond.
2) Prairie Isle Golf Club, Hole #8- Par 3 (160 / 134 / 120 / 100 yards)
Prairie Isle Golf Club in McHenry County, Illinois is a course whose topography resembles the topography of courses found in other states. In addition to containing meadows and wetlands, portions of Prairie Isle rise up similarly to courses found in the Catskill Mountains (NY) and Blue Ridge Mountains (NC & TN). One impressive ‘rise’ at Prairie Isle is the elevated tee on hole #8, whose panorama connotes that of Northern Michigan. The drop from #8 tee to #8 green is sixty feet, and the target is fronted and flanked by two ponds which nearly encircle all 360 degrees of the triple tiered green. The yardage guide’s tip is to “bring your straight shot and your camera”.
1) Chalet Hills Golf Club, Hole #12 – Par 4 (361 / 354 / 323 / 262 yards)
The basic elements, the “A, B, C’s” — altitude, beauty, and challenge — of a great elevated teeing area are not only present, but plentiful on the tee of hole #12 at Chalet Hills Golf Club. The fairway landing area, some 60 feet below the tee, at first, appears to be wide, but the presence of ponds, marsh, trees, and cart path will physically and psychologically shrink the fairway to ‘narrow status’. The appearance and sounds of wildlife, both in the air and on the ground, can afford the reason and excuse for a double-bogey. It’s a spectacular view of golf and nature at the same time.
If we are allowed to expand our Chicago golfing area by roughly 150 miles to the west and include Jo Daviess County, then there are many more spectacular golf holes to include with elevated tees. Immediately coming to mind are three from the Eagle Ridge Inn and Spa in Galena, and borrowing from the pizza chain’s marketing description, these three elevated tees would be the “extra most best-est” in Chicago Golf Report’s set of top elevated tees.
1c) Eagle Ridge Inn & Spa – East, Hole #2 – Par 3 (150 / 131 / 114 yards)
With all 63 golf holes of Eagle Ridge Inn & Spa situated on a single large property, it is logical to assume that all four courses would share similar earthly characteristics. The terrain of this large property is unique for the region, as ice age glaciers left behind steep hills, limestone cliffs and breathtaking views. The East Course, a 9-hole routing, in a similar manner to its three bigger-brother courses contains elevated teeing areas. The tee of East hole#2 sits 45 feet above the target green. Be mindful of the trouble behind the green when making your club selection; trust your swing and don’t overshoot this green.
1b) Eagle Ridge Inn & Spa – South, Hole #18 – Par 4 (406 / 372 / 372 / 341 yards)
It’s a fantastic finish for Eagle Ridge Inn & Spa’s South course, as #18 is South’s signature hole. The tee is set 90 feet above a landing area which is guarded by lakes on both sides and a stream that crosses the fairway 265 yards from the tee; the second shot plays uphill to a well-bunkered elevated green. Therefore, paying attention to these two facts, your first shot (drive) should be with ‘less club’ and your second shot (approach) should be with ‘more club’. Laying up too close to the stream will result in a downhill lie. In-season foliage adds to the beauty of this hole.
1a) Eagle Ridge Inn & Spa – General, Hole #14 – Par 4 (357 / 341 / 339 / 313 yards)
Golfers have most likely forgotten that on May 24, 1997, former Chicago Bears head coach Dave Wannstedt fired the cannon that signaled the official opening of The General at Eagle Ridge, but after ascending to the tee of hole #14 on this course, golfers will never forget the sight they witness when gazing down at the fairway or across at the horizon which encompasses the three states of IL, IA, and WI. Hence, this hole has acquired the nickname of “The View”. Perched at 180 feet above, the descent from the tee box to the fairway must be so gradual that the cart path design requires six hairpin turns to reach the bottom. Can’t complain if play slows down a bit on #14 tee, because each golfer is allowed one extra shot — a snapshot with their camera / smartphone. If music were allowed on #14 tee, it would have to be Bob Dylan’s song “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.
Back in the six county Metro area, earning an honorable mention are: Bourne #10; Broken Arrow Golf Club #6; Cary Country Club #3, #12, #13; Countryside-Traditional #18; Glen Club #8; Redtail Golf Club #8; Silver Lake Country Club -Rolling Hills #3; Water’s Edge Golf Club #10; and, Willow Crest Golf Club #18.