Each year golf writers from Wisconsin and Illinois emerge at the course of the hosts’ choosing for an epic 27-hole battle: The Writers’ Cup.
After sending our neighbors to the south home beaten from Sand Valley in 2016, Illinois welcomed us to their newly renovated gem in Addison, The Preserve at Oak Meadows.
Closed down for the 2016 season, The new Preserve course has been beautifully redesigned by Greg Martin as a single 18-hole championship course (pared down from 27 holes) that is now not only a more functional golf facility but also better serves its expanded role of providing water retention/flood control for the Wood Dale/Addison area.
As a golf course architect, Greg Martin is not yet a household name but I believe he will be. Martin, based out of Illinois, recently ended his two-year term as President of the American Society of Golf Course Architects (ASGCA). He’s highly revered within the industry for his work ethic and talent; you’ll never talk to a golf course architect with anything bad to say about him and his work.
Martin’s most notable project to date is one that few will ever experience: Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. The story goes that billionaire Jerry Rich wanted to be a member at Augusta National Golf Club – who wouldn’t? When he was turned down, he decided to build an Augusta-class course on his own property, leading to the development of Rich Harvest Farms.
This passion project at Rich Harvest Farms has done well enough to host the NCAA Men’s and Women’s Championships in 2017, the 2015 Western Amateur, the 2009 Solheim Cup and countless regional events.
Combined, that is probably as many players as the course sees on a seasonal basis. From what I’ve heard from media friends who’ve played it, the course sees a few foursomes a day while employing a massive staff to ensure perfect course conditions and customer service. It is the type of place where nothing is overlooked and the golf experience is second to none. I’ve heard they have 30 members (including Michael Jordan) and over one hundred employees.
It’s this attention to detail and professionalism that I’m sure won over DuPage Golf for the $17 million remodel project at The Preserve at Oak Meadows. Martin’s work impresses with well thought out teeing locations, terrific greens and strategic shot value.
I’ll claim it’s an effort to avoid spoiling all the surprises, but reality is that the downpour during much of our round was so torrential I didn’t even take my camera out. I hope to get back sometime to add in the first through third holes, though, to complete my course review.
We’ll start out with the short par four fourth, a terrific risk/reward layout: The 302 yards the scorecard shows from the blue tees is indicative of playing down the fairway, so it’s shorter and very reachable.
Anything aimed at the green will need to fly a whole lot of fescue, so while the reward is high, the risk can be substantial.
The fifth is a right-to-left par five playing uphill and to the right through a chute of trees. Just left of the right-side fairway bunkering is the perfect line off the tee.
The narrowest hole on the course, the sixth is perfectly straight, slightly downhill and well bunkered short-right of the putting surface.
Playing over marshland, the seventh is a short par four that finishes slightly off to the right. The driving area is tight, as anything lost left will be gone and anything right is likely to have serious tree troubles.
The Preserve at Oak Meadows features a ton of forced carries. Most, like the one on seven, are short and little to worry about but can create anxiety when deciding on lines off the tee.
The eighth is a short par three with a dramatic back-to-front two-tiered green. I actually made a snaking 40-plus foot downhill birdie putt to win this hole during alternate shot.
An incredibly challenging finishing hole, the ninth plays along and around a water hazard. The sand traps at the corner of the fairway are well within reach off the tee, and will make for a difficult and long approach shot if hit.
Our Writer’s Cup tournament started on the back nine with a beautiful par three. Stretching as long as 223 from the tips, the green is all carry over the wetlands.
A front or middle pin requires daft club selection as anything past will either catch the back bunker or lead to a severely downhill putt coming back.
A long par four, the eleventh plays over marshland with the opportunity to cut off distance by taking on more of the hazard.
The twelfth is a mid-length par four that runs left-to-right with another forced carry over marshland. Just right of the tree grove is a solid line from the tee.
The longest hole on the course, the thirteenth hugs the left side of a retention pond stretching the length of the hole.
Finishing near the pump house, the green on thirteen is risen and features a sharp false front.
The green complex and false front on thirteen:
The fourteenth is a long par four. The right-side treeline means any attempt to cut the corner will have to be faded hard off the central sand traps – a straight ball will find those bunkers or the long grass.
While not the longest par five on the course, the fifteenth probably requires the most strategic approach. A river dissects the approach area far enough out that almost any tee shot will leave a decision of laying up or taking on the carry.
A flurry of sand traps helps keep everything short of the green from finding free space:
The sixteenth is one of my favorite holes on the course. A short par four, this tee shot will make you think about club selection.
There is plenty of room left before the three fairway traps, but more distance can be chopped off right of them.
The green on sixteen is narrow and raised. Something about this hole reminds me of the approach area on twelve at Medinah Country Club, Course No. 3.
I think this is a fantastic golf hole design by Greg Martin.
The seventeenth is one of those steely penultimate par threes that demands attention off the tee. A sand trap left and mounding in the green complex are less intimidating from the tee as they are up-close. The actual green is huge, though, so make it a goal to find part of it.
The new Preserve course ends with a long par four. A tree-lined fairway lies well beneath the raised tee boxes, and a long sand trap lines the front-right portion of the green while the left side allows for shots to run on.
A view of the front section of the green complex on eighteen:
Greg Martin’s newly renovated Preserve at Oak Meadows emerged in 2018 with a splash, having already been named Golf.com’s 2018 Renovation of the Year and GolfWeek’s sixth Best Course You Can Play in the state of Illinois (just behind The General at Eagle Ridge).
I think The Preserve at Oak Meadows is a terrific story because it does so much good in so many ways: Its functionality for the Addison community is invaluable; Martin’s design itself promotes strategic and fun golf, and it provides an upper-scale public golf course option in an area of Illinois that’s otherwise lacking.
This is a project I think will only continue to garner high praise, and it’ll be fun seeing all the area and regional tournaments I anticipate will be held at the new Preserve at Oak Meadows.
Location: Addison, IL
Yardage: Tournament-7015, Black-6631, Blue-6213, White-5700, Red-4906
Slope/Rating: Tournament-142/74.1, Black-138/72.4, Blue-134/70.6, White-128/68.2, Red-126/68.6
Weekend Rates: $89 (includes cart)