Location: Evanston, Ill.
Course Architect: Tom Bendelow
Tee — Yardage | Rating / Slope:
White — 5,368 | 59.1 / 92
Red — 4,599 | 58.4 / 90
Saturday morning green fee: $ [Under $50]
Caddie service: No
Walker friendly: Yes
Fairways: Bluegrass / Rye
Greens: Bentgrass / Poa
Starter: Tee off from under the El tracks. Next to an Evanston fire station. Across from the dome of the glorious Bahai House of Worship temple. Down the street from Northwestern University's football stadium, Ryan Field. And over the engineering miracle of the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. That’s what happens when you play Canal Shores — formerly known as Peter Jans Golf Course — a most unique early 20th century public course whose evolving template may well be ideal for the time-and-budget-pressed 21st century golfer.
The non-profit group that oversees the affordable and fun 18-hole, par-60 course also has devised a five-hole loop to eliminate the time-barrier objection to playing golf. Though two-thirds of the course's holes are par 3s, this course is no pushover, as many holes require long irons or hybrids to small, quick greens. Recent modifications included restoration of strategically-placed fescue mounds. If you’re into highly refined playing surfaces, super-white tour signature sand or wall-to-wall SR007 creeping bentgrass, you’ll be disappointed by Canal Shores. If you like courses that have a soul, then Canal Shores is calling.
Play because ...: Canal Shores is challenging, fun, affordable, and a pleasant and interesting walk through a couple of Chicago’s lovelier old-line suburbs, Evanston and Wilmette. The whole vibe is great, from the friendly attendants in the pro shop to the other players encountered to the dog walkers to folks hosting backyard barbecues. The so-called clubhouse is American Legion Post 42 — upstairs from the pro shop — where you can grab a drink and a sandwich and hang with the legionnaires. Judge Smails, this one’s not for you.
Takeaway: Like many public courses around the country, Canal Shores had fallen on hard times. In recent years the course has been pulling itself up by its bootstraps. Hopes are high for a significant renovation. The course has a good group of business savvy golf lovers who’ve taken over running the place on a non-profit basis so it can be financially self-sustaining without hitting up taxpayers. The goal is to keep the course viable while growing the game. A worthy mission. But nothing in golf is easy – not even if there’s nothing else to do with the land. The 100th anniversary of the course is coming in 2019 and hopes are high to keep the place going for another hundred years — at least.
THE RATINGS [1 to 10 scale; 10 being the highest]
Food | Beverage: N / A
Pro shop: 3.0
Clubhouse: N / A
Course difficulty: 7.0
Pace of play: 8.0
THE COURSE | Scorecard
Best par 3: No. 16 (170 | 140 yards)
Among the numerous choices, it would be the 170-yard 16th, known as Metra. The canal is about 130 yards from the back tee and the crossing is squeezed by trees and brush on either side. To the right of the tee box is a huge stone wall supporting the Metra train tracks about 50 feet above. It’s a roar, not a clatter, this train. The approach is between a hybrid or 6-iron. Greenside bunkers and a relatively flat green lurk ahead.
Best par 4: No. 3 (330 | 293 yards)
At 330 yards, No. 3 is the longest hole on the course. It’s straight and narrow. Trees and underbrush on both sides of the fairway beckon slight fades and draws alike. The tee box is next to the fire station and sits below the El tracks. This may be the ultimate Canal Shores hole.