Located just 45 miles west of Chicago, outside of Aurora, is a little slice of Heaven developed by attorney and real estate developer, Vince Solano, Jr.
One of four men’s only clubs in the state of Illinois (which makes up about a fifth to sixth of the total in the US), Solano developed Black Sheep to provide its membership a true home-away-from-home, with a comfortable but well-appointed, functional open clubhouse with a locker room, pro shop and a great room / bar area. It has everything it needs, and little it doesn’t.
There is no pool. No tennis courts. No dining room. No dress code.
There are no menus and no kitchen. The dining options are burger or chicken sandwich from the grill out back, or their famous peanut butter and jalapeno sandwich (there may have been a few pre-made options in the refrigerator that I missed).
There is no waitstaff. In fact, there are very few employees, in general, although those who are there including PGA Head Golf Professional Kevin Healy are tremendously helpful and accommodating, and will help throughout the clubhouse.
All of this adds up to an intimate experience with low overhead. That means members get an elite, top-100 club with the lowest dues of any private course in the Chicago area (just over $7k/year, although initiation is ~ $35k), no food and beverage minimums, and no reliance on outside cash flow. With no need to host outside events on Mondays, for example, the course is open to membership seven days a week.
Black Sheep has 27 holes of fantastic David Esler designed golf that ebbs and inhales across a vast 285 acres of Illinois prairie land.
The holes Esler laid out will test every club in the bag, and will reward players who can pull off drawn and cut shot shapes while allowing for straight and steady play down its forgiving fairways.
In fact, it played host this day to our 2019 Illinois vs. Wisconsin Writer’s Cup match.
The first and tenth holes tee off adjacent to the clubhouse, but while the first hole heads west, the tenth leads players downhill and to the north.
One of my favorite holes on the course is the lightning bolt shaped par five 11th. The fairway runs out from the tee, and helped turbo-charge my 275-ish yard drive well over 300.
Any 200-yard shot at the green in two, though, will need to carry a ton of greenside bunkers and would be ill-advised, at best. There is a ton of room short and left of the green for laying up and leaves a great angle in.
The course uses elevation well, especially on the par threes. My favorite is the short 25th, measuring just 135 yards to a postage stamp sized green that slopes hard from back to front.Continue reading