DuPage County is home to the first 18-hole golf course in the United States and it played a pivotal role in the evolution of golf, bringing local history to life that started with one man.
An accomplished golf player, Charles Blair Macdonald was at the forefront of the industry’s footings. Charles was born in 1855 in Niagara Falls, Ontario and was raised in Chicago. At the age of 16, his wealthy Scottish father sent Charles to study at St. Andrew’s University. He learned to play golf at the Old Course on St. Andrew’s in Fife, Scotland and quickly fell in love with the sport. He was tutored by and played with the likes of “Old Tom Morris,” and won amateur championships.
Macdonald returned to Chicago in 1874. For 17 years after his return, Macdonald hadn’t played a game of golf; a period he termed as “the Dark Ages.” Then in 1892, golf was back in his life again. After designing a 7-hole golf course in conjunction with the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair, Macdonald and his friend and architect, Jarvis Hunt wanted their own golf course.
Charles Blair MacDonald, who was, according to Golf Journal, “a true and imposing pioneer of golf in America” persuaded thirty of his Chicago Club colleagues to contribute ten dollars each to design and construct the first U.S. nine-hole golf course in Downers Grove, the original location of Chicago Golf Club.
Some historians believe that it was also the location of the first U.S. 18-hole golf course as Macdonald was said to have convinced Chicago Golf Club members to add nine more holes to the existing course. The former Chicago Golf Club is currently the Downers Grove Golf Club, owned by the park district and holds a significant place in U.S. history.
After establishing Chicago Golf Club in Downers Grove, Charles purchased the Hiram B. Patrick Farm located in Wheaton. Not knowing anything about golf architecture, he modeled the 18-hole golf course design after the Old Course on St. Andrew’s in Scotland. It became a beloved weekend retreat for wealthy Chicagoans. Men and women traveled by train to play golf, badminton, ride bicycles, and socialize. The Chicago Golf Club, Wheaton is also recorded as the first and oldest U.S. 18-hole golf course.
While controversy remains and research continues around which location in DuPage County was the original U.S. 18-hole golf course, World Golf Hall of Fame member and father of American golf course architecture, Charles Blair Macdonald’s vision and passion for a sport 125 years ago transformed the history of golf in DuPage County.
Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton is one of Golf Digest ranked “America’s 100 greatest golf courses in 2019.” The Club has hosted prominent events, including U.S. Opens and Walker Cups.
ICONIC GOLF COURSES
Fast forward 125 years and DuPage County is one of the top golfing destinations in the United States. It is home to prestigious and iconic courses that followed the first 18-hole golf course. With more than 50 golf courses, the County has hosted professional tournaments including the Ryder Cup, PGA Championship, BMW Championship, Western Open, the LPGA Solheim Cup and more.
Chicagoland is a premiere destination for avid golf enthusiasts. Below are a few of the prominent DuPage County private and public facilities, each having unique features that attract both corporate and public entities to use their facilities for golf outings and entertainment.
Medinah Country Club, Medinah
Also making Golf Digest ranked “America’s 100 greatest golf courses in 2019,” list is Medinah Country Club, one of the most prominent private country clubs in the United States, boasting three world-class 18-hole golf courses. It is recognized as the best golf course in Chicago and one of the finest in the United States and internationally.
Tom Bendelow, world-renowned Scottish course architect designed the original three golf courses and Richard G. Schmid, Schmid Brothers Construction Company served as general contractors, designing and building the clubhouse. Today, it is one of 18 most recognizable sites in all of golf and is ranked the sixth most iconic clubhouse in the world.
Golf legends including Harry Cooper, Byron Nelson, Gene Sarazen, Jacky Cupit and Billy Casper have played and won National Tournaments at Medinah. The club has hosted seven Major tournaments with notable championship winners to include Tiger Woods, Hale Irwin, Gary Player, and Byron Nelson, Billy Casper and Gene Sarazen.
The private and membership-only club has served many memorable moments in its 60 years of major championship golf and hosted notable tournaments:
- 2012 Ryder Cup
- U.S. Open (1949, 1975 and 1990)
- PGA Championship (1999, 2006)
- U.S. Senior Open (1988)
- Three Western Opens (National Tournaments, now BMW Championship) (1939, 1962, 1966)
Medinah is the only private country club in Illinois with 54 holes.
*2019-2020 Golf Digest ranks Course #3 as the third greatest golf course in Illinois.
Butler National Golf Club, Oak Brook
Another course found on the Golf Digest ranked “America’s 100 greatest golf courses in 2019,” is Butler National Golf Club. This exclusive private golf club is the creation of Paul Butler, an affluent entrepreneur, philanthropist, and sportsman who was the founder of the village of Oak Brook, Illinois. https://www.golfdigest.com/story/butler-national-golf-club
What was previously York Country Club, renowned golf course architect George Fazio designed Butler and the project took a short two years to complete from seeds to buildings. Butler National Golf Club is one of four all-male golf courses in the Chicago area. The club has been home to the PGA Tour’s Western Open from 1974-1990.
Arrowhead Golf Club, Wheaton
Arrowhead Golf Club was the original site of the Antlers Country Club founded by the Elks. It is now owned and operated by the Wheaton Park District. To learn more about the history of golf, visit the exhibit located in the clubhouse, “Wheaton, Illinois: Golf History Starts Here.”
Cantigny Golf, Wheaton
Cantigny Golf is home to a superbly maintained 27-hole championship golf course. With challenging and scenic holes, the special venue provides a “private club experience” for all ages and skill levels. Golf Digest named it the Best New Course in America when it opened in 1989. Cantigny Golf, is widely regarded as one of the finest public golf facilities in the Midwest.