Highlands of Elgin

The Highlands
875 Sports Way
Elgin, IL 60123

Course Review Date: 10.26.2011
Course Reviewer: Ian

Well, we have a bit of a curve ball for all the golfchops readers out there.  Vacations and business trips have allowed us to review some absolutely random and fantastic golf course this fall and without debate the winner of the “out of left field award” goes to The Highlands of Elgin.  Freshly minted by Golfweek as the #12 new golf course to open in the U.S. in 2011 (Salish Cliffs in Shelton was #8) The Highlands is public municipal in the suburbs of Chicago offering a ‘links style’ track with rolling winding fairways, heavy bunkering, firm greens, and very tall fescue style grasses.

Chicago decided to greet us with a constant 20 mph wind and 45 degree day for our 1st off the box tee time of 8am.  Weird weather out here as it got colder as the day went on…and it was 70 stinking degrees the day before.  Over a 20 degree high temperature drop between the two days.  From the tips this golf course is a real bear coming in at exactly 7000 yards with a rating/slope of 73.8/136.  None of us would be testing those waters however on a chilly, windy day so we played from the less murderous gold tees at 6365.

I have always believed that a good golf course will look very straight forward, provide play for all skill levels and still present a significant challenge.  I don’t necessarily believe that a tricked out golf course with a Trump waterfall defines quality.  The overall hole designs at Highlands does this very well and it effects you in a very mental way.  For example, hole #4 is a short par 3 at 134 yards from the gold tee’s and really just a wedge away.  Two bunkers guarding the long tee shot and one short right.  Then a significant slop left to right and a monster water area and lake below.  It’s a beautiful par 3, and basically an easy wedge in, but no matter who you are, you are telling yourself “don’t hit it right!”  Inevitably you either hit it right, or hit a pull hook left because you are worried about the danger.  That is excellent design.

As with hole #4, all of the par 3’s on this course were very good.  Of the most challenging (without debate) is the 203 yard, 7th.  Basically just look at the picture below.  Left is death.   And sure as *&^% all 3 of us pulled tee shots left.  Sometimes a golf hole that scares you is just fun.  That is a scary tee shot, 203 into a very strong head wind with barely any bail out.  Arg, knew it was going left. Continuing the theme of dangerous and watery par 3’s is the 148 yard, 15th hole.  Check out the picture below, but its full water carry the whole way to an odd shaped narrow green.  There’s also a well placed bunker to the left as this hole just naturally gives you the don’t hit it right thoughts once again.  Anything short is wet, right is wet, left is in the bunker, long is in a back bunker.  That is tough.

Besides some very challenging Par 3’s The Highlands has a lot of very tough tall grass out there.  I wouldn’t go as far as calling it Chamber’s Bay style fescue but it was certainly tall and the threesome donated a few balls out there when we hit it in the 3rd cut.  Around this time of year, most courses are cutting that layer back for the winter and Highlands staff was out mowing away as we played through.  The great thing about cutting down thick, 1 foot tall grass?  Lost balls everywhere!  We had a ProV1 finding fest out there!  It was like and easter egg hunt.  JR must have come off the course with 30 high end balls from buckwacking through the mowed fescue.

Some really tall grasses, a lot of fairway and greenside bunkering, and water everywhere.  Throw in a constant wind and if you are not on your game The Highlands is set up to throw some big numbers at you.  It’s one of those courses where you can be dialed in, posting a solid round and poof, three holes later you just went triple, quad, double.  Excellent track with a great set up and many different levels of difficulty based on tee box selection.  Its also a pretty kicking deal greens fee wise for a course that is recieving a bunch of national media awards.  $36 walking (weekday) for a non-resident of Elgin with a $19 replay.

Golfchops.com rating: 17.5/25
Customer Service: 2
Condition of Greens: 3.5
“Perceived” maintenance level of course: 4
Value: 5
Amenities:  3

Rating Notes: 
– Ummm…well, kind of ho-hum.  We arrived at 7am an waited at the gate until 7:30 for our 8am tee time.  Kind of an aloof operation honestly.
– Greens we’re firm and fast but looked like summer took it’s toll.  Significant ball marking on all of them.
–  Minus the greens, the course was in excellent shape.  Only thing to note is that most of the greenside bunkers are bricks.  Hard as a rock.
– $55 for 36 holes is good anywhere.  Even better when its at a place with this kind of quality.  Excellent deal!
– Good looking driving range and average putting green.  No place to run a few warm up chips.  No cart service with a very light tee sheet.  Carts have navigation, which I still think was giving bad yardage all day.

Editors Note:  The score is decieving on this one.  I think just in pure golf standards it’s a much better than the score reflects.

Pictures of The Highlands at Elgin


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