Medinah's Course No. 1 up to high standards

Though even after it's 21-month renovation it won't become as famous as No. 3, Tom Doak design makes for fun, memorable round

Medinah

The 7th hole at Course No. 1 at Medinah. (Warren Skalski / Photo for the Tribune / June 25, 2014)

Let's play word association, Chicago golf fans.

Cog Hill? Western Open.

Conway Farms? Luke Donald.

Butler National? Men.

Medinah?

"Excellence," said Chris Collins, the Northwestern basketball coach and 7-handicap who played in the pro-am at last week's Encompass Championship.

Indeed, Medinah is the standard for championship golf in Chicago, having hosted three U.S. Opens, three Western Opens, two PGA Championships (a Tiger Woods sweep) and the 2012 "Miracle at Medinah" Ryder Cup.

Course No. 3 plays second fiddle to none, but many consider it a brute. And if you're spraying it off the tees into trees or gnarly rough, an 18-hole loop can feel like a chore.

Enter Course No. 1, which opened June 14 to its members following a 21-month, $6.5 million renovation.

It's Eli Manning of Chicago golf — not as famous or respected as its big brother. But in some ways, better.

The fairways are 55 yards wide, on average, compared with 30-35 yards on No. 3. Some greens have roller-coaster slopes. The design variety is such that two par-4s are drivable, while others call for a hybrid or bounced-up 3-wood.

Medinah used some of its Ryder Cup revenue to fund the project, put it in the hands of Tom Doak (2013 Architect of the Year by Golf Magazine) and got out of the way.

"He'd ask about a routing change or removing trees and say, 'Are you sure?'" recalled Curtis Tyrrell, Medinah's golf course operations director. "We'd say: 'Do it.'"

The result is a course that members describe using this word — fun.

As Doak told one member: "If you want tough, just walk across the road."

It's a modest 6,895 yards from the back tees but can be stretched to 7,000 if there's a need.

And that need would be to accommodate the USGA or PGA Tour. The 2017 BMW Championship likely will be played at a Chicago-area course. If Conway Farms declines a third opportunity (2013, 2015) to host, officials from the tour, BMW and the Western Golf Association will consider Medinah No. 1.

WGA officials John Kaczkowski and Vince Pellegrino toured it recently, with Pellegrino saying: "I wanted to play it. It looks really good."

Said Marty DeAngelo, Medinah's director of golf: "If it's good enough for a pro championship, great. Either way it's a course members can play every day and have fun."

The first hole tells a story. Visible from the tee is a bunker in the shape of a camel — which is serves as the course logo.

Collins pounded his drive and upon being told he had 265 yards remaining to the pin, shot back: "Is this a par-5?"

For mortals, yes.

"For a tour event," DeAngelo said, "it would be a 500-yard par-4."

Medinah officials plan to invite and solicit feedback from area pros such as Mark Wilson, Kevin Streelman and perhaps Donald.

But you get the sense that even if Course No. 1 never hosts the world's finest, members will be satisfied with the work of Doak, a traditionalist who designed gems such as Lost Dunes in Michigan and Old Macdonald, in Oregon.

"The feedback from members has been so positive," DeAngelo said. "It's playable. The back nine is really enjoyable. And it's an easy walk, too."

tgreenstein@tribune.com

Twitter @TeddyGreenstein

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