Location: Niles, Ill.
Architect: Charles Wagstaff
Restoration: 2018 | Bob Lohman, Doug Myslinski and Todd Quitno
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope*:
Blue — 2,457 | 63.2 / 110
White — 2,250 | 61.4 / 106
Red — 1,844 | 60.8 / 98
* — rating / slope when course played as 18 holes
Saturday morning green fee: $ (Under $50)
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: Yes
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 the course in 1937. May was a master 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 1941 Chicago Open, held at Elmhurst Country Club and won by Ben Hogan. The tournament 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) at Tam O'Shanter in 1941. Its success led to the creation of the World Championship, which began in 1946 and was also played at Tam O'Shanter. In 1953, the World Championship became the first tournament with live television coverage, and Lou Worsham delivered 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 hosted its last significant tournaments, the Western Open, in 1964 and 1965.
May eventually sold the club to developers who built an industrial park on roughly two-thirds of the property.
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 would 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. In June, the course reopened after a renovation with the tees expanded, the bunkering and drainage upgraded, and the greens and collars redesigned 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. 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]
Food | Beverage: 8.0
Pro shop: 7.0
Course difficulty: 6.0
Pace of play: 4.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 6 (190 | 150 | 97 yards)
This is the hardest hole on the course. A very tight driving hole with out of bounds right, it’s a real toughie when played from the tips, and is the No. 2 handicap hole. A previous version of this hole was No. 16 on the original Tam O’Shanter layout.
Best par 4: No. 1 (408 | 400 | 352 yards)
A good starting hole, this is the only hole that most closely resembles a hole on the original layout. It was also the starting hole in Tam’s glory days. Now it’s the longest hole on the course and the No. 1 handicap hole, though its designation as the most difficult hole is highly questionable.
Best par-5: N/A
Unfortunately there’s not enough room for a par-5 hole on the current layout.