Location: Niles, Illinois.
Architect: Charles Wagstaff, 1925.
Restoration: Bob Lohman, Doug Myslinski and Todd Quitno, 2018.
Yardage| Rating/Slope: 2,475 (for nine holes) |63.2/110 (when played as 18-holes).
Saturday morning green fee: $21.
Caddie service: No. (Gas carts and pull carts available).
Walker friendly: Absolutely.
Facebook: @Tam O Shanter Golf Course & Learning Center
STARTER: The history of this place is like no other. While the course opened in 1925 it came into prominence after George S. May purchased it in 1937. May was a super promoter and, as far as golf goes, was way ahead of his time. The prize money he put up for tournaments – both men’s and women’s – far exceeded that of any other event on the pro tours.
His first event was the Chicago Open of 1940. It was deemed a success, so May went a step further with the creation of the All-American Open (with divisions for both men and women) in 1941. Its success led to the creation of the World Championship in 1946. In 1953 the World Championship became the first tournament with live television coverage, and Lou Worsham gave it a dramatic ending by holing out from 104 yards for eagle to beat Chandler Harper by a shot.
These were exciting times in the development of golf’s popularity, but May had issues with the PGA and discontinued his tournaments in 1957. The course was last a big tournament venue as the Western Open site in 1964 and 1965.
May eventually sold the club to developers who built an industrial park on roughly two-thirds of the property and the original clubhouse was lost in a fire.
PLAY BECAUSE: More than anything, it’s a fun layout. It doesn’t hurt that the course is very affordable, allows for walking and provides a look-back in history, as well. Most of the holes still have a resemblance to Tam O’Shanter’s golden years. No. 1, a 404-yard par-4, is identical to the original starting hole and is the longest hole on the present course. The par-3 sixth was No. 16 in the May days and is still a toughie from 215 yards. The others are a mixture of short, sporty par-3s and par-4s.
TAKEAWAY: It’d be a shame if all of this historic property was ever completely lost as a golf course. What’s left, as far as golf is concerned, is a great use of available space. The course re-opened after a renovation in June with the tees expanded, the bunkering and drainage upgraded and the greens and collars re-designed to make for an easier day for higher handicap players. What was once a failed practice range is now an indoor/outdoor golf school that focuses on youth play. There’s also a museum that offers lots of memorabilia from the May years and the Howard Street Inn, which operates in conjunction with the course and adjoins the pro shop, is a most popular sports bar/restaurant year-around.
THE RATINGS (1 to 10 with 10 being the highest)
Pro shop 7.0
Course difficulty 6.0
Pace of play 4.0
Overall rating: 7.0
Rated by Len Ziehm