The biennial Ryder Cup between teams consisting of the dozen top golf pros of the U.S. v. Europe is being held Friday-Sunday at Medinah, in Chicago`s western suburbs. Chicago is undoubtedly one of the world`s great golf cities, except in terms of quality of golf courses. The flat landscape and the failure to reserve more than a few hundred yards of the lakefront for golf, combined with less than inspired design work long made Chicago the world capital of pretty good golf courses.
By Chicago standards, Medinah #3 has a spectacular site with four holes playing across an artificial lake formed in a surprisingly deep canyon. The clubhouse, built long ago by the Shriners in an Arabian Nights mode, is staggering. The last time I saw it in 1990, however, the detailing of the course wasn`t quite up to classic levels of interest. The course looked more hard than fun. The members have spent a lot of money since then upgrading the course, so it may be much improved.
(By the way, one individual associated with the 2012 Ryder Cub scores significantly higher on the Google Gaydar index than anybody else in the world of golf that I`ve ever heard gossiped about.)
In contrast to Chicago, the Philadelphia area has better golf land and had better golf architects in the Golden Age before the Depression (e.g., Merion, the 120 acre miniature of the Main Line that the USGA is sacrificing a lot of money to bring the 2013 U.S. Open to).
Golf course architecture is the invisible art form (invisible relative to the colossal investment in golf courses), in part because most of the great courses in America belong to private clubs. The most celebrated course in the history of American golf design is Pine Valley in the New Jersey suburbs of Philadelphia. Because large galleries would trample down the brush in the sandy rough, Pine Valley never hosts professional tournaments. (Also, it`s a men-only club, which haven`t been allowed to hold PGA tournaments since 1990, Augusta National of the Masters excepted.) However, the public is invited to walk the course one day per year, the final Sunday of the annual amateur Crump Cup, named after rich guy who built fourteen holes of Pine Valley in 1914-1918.
This Sunday afternoon, Pine Valley is open to spectators to follow the amateurs. It costs $20 per car for parking and a bus ride to the course, then admission is free. Details are here.