Bull Valley Golf Club
|Tip of the Horn||72||7325 yards||77.2||151|
|Green (W)||72||6186 yards||77.7||145|
|Black M: 77.2/151||435||461||557||385||164||389||550||179||448||3568||425||437||402||220||418||585||217||603||444||3751||7319|
|Grey M: 75.7/146||423||442||534||377||150||372||533||168||434||3433||404||423||391||195||406||554||186||585||420||3564||6997|
|White M: 73.8/141||400||409||504||357||130||352||511||136||402||3201||383||408||380||168||386||540||158||558||398||3379||6580|
|Green M: 71.8/136 W: 77.9/146||372||377||485||341||119||339||498||121||339||2991||366||390||343||152||372||517||142||529||384||3195||6186|
|Red W: 72.3/134||314||330||419||306||93||263||410||97||292||2524||320||340||284||78||300||438||84||455||334||2633||5157|
Available FacilitiesBanquet Facilities, Lockers, Locker Rooms
Member for a day
Got an opportunity to play as a member for the day at Bull Valley. It did not disappoint from the moment we got there and got terrific service and advice on how to play certain holes from the pro in the pro shop (Make sure you get a player card it really helps. I had heard about how difficult this course was and it was true as true can be, especially holes 4, 6, 10, 12 those holes really require some shot making and thinking to make your way through those holes( and that includes not using driving). Course conditions were terrific squared boxes, rolling fairways, and fast greens. As long as you take what the course gives you and try not to do to much you can score pretty well, but if you get in the wrong spot some big numbers are coming. After the round we got lunch in the restaurant and the food was fantastic. Signed up for Kemper sports emails and that is how I got this opportunity to play a great private track.
Bull Valley GC was recently ranked as the #15 best course in Illinois by Golf Digest. In addition to its high rankings overall, it is also routinely listed as being one of the toughest courses in Illinois. Both of those "accolades" are legitimate. If you try playing here with anything but your "A" game, the course will eat you up. The members joke that when a new member joins Bull Valley GC, their handicap will immediately jump up several strokes no matter if they are a scratch golfer or a high handicapper.
The course is private and membership is not cheap. However, they do host multiple golf outings/scrambles throughout the year that would allow non-members to get onto the course. I've been fortunate enough to get onto the course a handful of times.
Pros: The course just might be the best conditioned course that I have played this year and that included Forest Dunes. Tee boxes, fairways, and greens are all pristine. I had a hard time finding any ball marks in most of the greens. Whereas most courses only have one length of rough, this course has a true first cut and second cut of rough which truly makes a difference in shot selection. Greens were smooth and fair. They rolled fast but not ridiculous. Many of the greens have tough subtleties that are difficult to read at first glance.
Play with an experienced member or take a caddy to help you out your first time here. This is not a driver off of every tee box course. I love courses that force you to hit driver down to a long iron off the tee. My favorite tee shot is off the 15th, par 5 hole, where you have to chose how much water you are willing to try to carry over to a narrow fairway that has mature trees on the opposite side.
You WILL use every club in your bag here and you will pay a steep price if you are unable to execute the shot. Challenges of every type come into play. Elevation changes, water, narrow fairways, strategically placed bunkers, fairways lined with mature trees, and OB are present on every single hole. The course does not let up on you from the first hole through the last. As long as you know that going into the round, bring an extra sleeve or two of balls, and don't beat yourself up over a bogey or double bogey (or worse), you can actually enjoy yourself here.
The design of the course also makes you feel as if you are playing two different courses. The course winds through woods but then also has holes in which it is wide open and appears to be links style (although it does not play like links style). There are multiple picturesque holes throughout the course and multiple "signature" holes. The 1st, 5th, 10th, 13th, 15th, 16th, and 18th all stick out in my mind.
Cons: From my understanding, this course was built to test the best players/professionals. It was not designed for beginners, that's for sure. I would liken this course to The Bear course at the Grand Traverse Resort in Traverse CIty. That course was designedd by Jack Nicklaus and when designed, he intended for it to be the hardest course in Michigan. I was informed that the course has been "softened" up over the years to try and make it more playable. Big thumbs up from me for that, however, the playability of this course is still low due to the extreme difficulty. All you have to do is look at the rating/slope of the gold tees which are 6186 yards and you'll know the difficulty from all tees, for all levels is real (the rating/slope from the golds is 71.8/136).
The challenges the course presents are ever present. Even with multiple tee boxes ranging from the "tip of the horn" at 7325 yards down to "greenhorn" at 5176 yards, all of the hazards will find you. The difference is that the pristine course conditions make you feel like you are playing on a course that could host a professional event. Even with all of the challenges, it can be fun to test yourself knowing that the pros face similar challenges week in and week out. That being said, some of the holes here just don't make sense to me. I understand making a hole tough, but don't make it impossible. No one wants that. Friendly tip: The 6th hole is one of the shortest par 4"s on the course but the landing area off the tee is narrow, like really narrow, and bordered by death on all sides. When first playing here, drive/walk ahead and check out your surroundings. A hybrid or long iron would be best off the tee but you'll have a very difficult second shot, being a forced carry over water, into the green.
The only course condition I could even think about criticizing is the bunkers. Depending on the green side bunker you are in, you may have nice, fluffy sand or you might have wet, thick sand or even very, very little sand at all. I'm nitpicking this. It has been a historically wet year in Illinois and from playing the course over the past several years, I have never noticed this before.
Verdict: Very easy for me to give it a 5 star rating just based upon the pristine conditions alone. I know I listed the challenges the course provides in both the pros and the cons, and I truly believe that all depends on your mindset going in and the state of your game. I didn't play great when I played there last week but I enjoyed the challenge each shot from tee to green provided. I left the course not thinking about the double bogeys. Instead, I was thinking about the few "pro level" shots I was able to pull off on a "pro style" course. Its very easy for me to recommend this course to others. Its a big treat any time I get to play the course and it will be for anyone else as well.
A course in luxury, Bull Valley is a private course with beautiful fairways and greens. Bring your A game. Hardest course in the area