Wilmette Golf Club is a public course operated by the Wilmette Park District just north of Chicago, but don’t let the municipal tag scare you. This course offers great value with decent playing conditions and challenging approach shots. At a par 70, 6,363 yards from the back tees, Wilmette is definitely on the shorter side, but with bunkers strategically placed along the fairways and protecting the small greens, there is plenty of challenge for every caliber of golfer.
We played this course on a Saturday afternoon, with temps in the lower 90s, but the course was no worse for wear. The tee boxes seemed appropriately trimmed and level, with plenty of fresh area to position your desired launch point. The fairways, at least the ones we found, were in great shape with only a few patches on the course staked out for repair. There’s also a first cut before the primary rough, not always seen on municipal courses. As stated before, there are a decent amount of fairway bunkers, capturing a few of our tee shots. The bunkers were dry and highly playable, being able to clip fairway bunker shots, and hit comfortably behind the ball near the green. Speaking of greens, they were small, but even on a hot day, slow enough to be aggressive. Not much undulation, but given their size that’s expected. The course does have some water hazards, but really only in play on two of the par 3s. Some of the holes do seem a bit on top of each other, so wayward tee or approach shots may end up in the next group. “Fore” was heard a couple times during the round. When comparing local municipal courses, Wilmette certainly stands out, but in terms of local public offerings its conditions fall closer toward the mean.
Pace of Play:
Since we all have lives beyond golf, we try to play whenever our schedules will allow. This weekend we ended up playing a late round, teeing of at 4:50pm. Wilmette requires all carts to be returned by 8:30pm(mid summer) so we did not anticipate finishing the full round. We had 3 in our group and played behind a twosome. After letting the group ahead reach the green before our tee shots on the first, we did not wait on a shot the rest of the round. While we were conscious of the potential for fading daylight, we did not necessarily rush through our round. Finishing the front in less than 2 hours, and having the group ahead of us stop after 9 holes, we managed to complete the round in just over 3 hours. This is obviously not a typical result, but highly enjoyable and certainly one that will warrant a late twilight round at Wilmette in the future. We did see the ranger a few times during the round, so while the course was a little quiet, perhaps due to the heat, they still cared enough to know that groups were moving.
The clubhouse was clean and relatively modernized. The locker rooms felt updated and the restaurant was welcoming with plenty of space both inside and along the outdoor patio facing the finishing hole. The pro shop offered plenty of gear, and while there was a slight computer malfunction with processing of our payment, the staff was very friendly and accommodating. The clubhouse is well positioned to the course, close to the first and finishing holes of both nines. There is also a practice green and decent driving range with buckets available for purchase in the pro shop. There was a refreshment cart patrolling the course, finding us multiple times even being one of the last groups of the day. We ended our round with dinner at the restaurant, opting to sit outside on the generous patio. Their menu has a wide range of offerings, even having breakfast available all day. There were several beers on tap and even more craft options available in bottles. It is rare that we find ourselves eating anything other than a hotdog at a public course, so the diverse menu was a pleasant surprise.
This course offers savings for residents of Wilmette, however coming from Chicago, we were subject to the non-resident rate which allows us to review in line with other local public course prices. As I mentioned, we teed off late so we had the twilight rate of $31 for walking/$47 with riding cart. I believe there is an even cheaper rate after 5pm. Since we almost always ride, and courses typically offer a standard rate that includes cart, $47 is a bit high for a twilight round. The standard non-resident rate for the weekend at Wilmette is $55 walking/$71 riding, again a bit high when comparing similar local alternatives. That being said, if our place of play was any indication of the normal twilight crowd, I would gladly pay the $47 again.
With decent course conditions, enticing short holes, and challenging approach shots, this course offers excellent playability for all levels. The clubhouse and amenities offer more than the typical municipal course and the staff is very friendly. Call the club directly to verify pricing, as the various rates for members, residents and non-residents can be a little confusing. Booking can be made online through their website.