Arlington Lakes will always hold a special place in my heart. It’s the sight of some of my most cherished golfing memories, most made playing alongside my best friend, Brad.
As middle schoolers, we’d be strolling up the old 18th fairway laughing without a care in the world. Meanwhile, our parents were anxiously waiting in the parking lot. As mine tell me now, hearing our laughter was the greatest relief.
One time, I remember we took cover in a gazebo between the old 3rd green, 4th green, and 5th tee. We figured that was a safer bet than trekking back towards the ominous clouds hovering over the clubhouse. As the storm got closer, we knew we had to get to a safer shelter. We jumped the fence, made a mad dash across Central Road and called our parents from the payphone at Northwest Community Hospital. If they were worried about us in the dark, imagine getting a call from the hospital!
With that nostalgia, I was excited to see what the newly renovated Arlington Lakes would look like. Prior to a recent round there with my Dad, I did a lot of reading on the renovation. From a macro perspective, it seemed that Arlington Lakes was made “easier.”
Not easier, but more accessible
To start, many of the bunkers were removed. The 107 bunkers were thinned down to 37, decreasing the bunker surface area by 65%.
Already short, the course lost about 200 yards due to rerouting, 9 new green complexes, and several new teeing grounds.
The former 9th hole, now the 18th, was completely leveled. The old, volcano-like green was always a brute. Even with a wedge in your hand, it was difficult to get the ball close to the hole. It was even more difficult with a back right pin location.
That being said, Arlington Lakes isn’t easy, but it is more accessible. Some of the old contours have been soften and many of the forced carries have been eliminated. This, along with the bunker removal, is great news for the high handicapper.
For the more skilled player, you will still find plenty of challenge and strategy. Arlington Lakes offers a number of short par 4s and very reachable par 5s that give you great scoring opportunities if you think your way from tee to green.
Nostalgia beats newness…for now
Overall, I will miss some of the quirkiness that I grew fond of, particularly the old 5th and 9th green and the tee shot on the old 13th hole (even as I wrote that I fear I’m becoming an old man). They were features that likely drove the average golfer and the first timer absolutely insane. For those unfamiliar, the features were likely called stupid and dumb. But as C.B. McDonald said:
Criticizing a golf course is like going into a man’s family. The fond mother trots up her children for admiration. Only a boor would express anything else than a high opinion. So it is a thankless task to criticize a friend’s home golf course. ‘Where ignorance is bliss tis folly to be wise.’ It is natural one should love his home course. He knows it, and with golf holes familiarity does not breed contempt, but quite the reverse.
The good news is that I found nothing “stupid” in the new design at Arlington Lakes. In fact, I’m looking forward to learning the new holes more intimately.
In short, Arlington Lakes is infinitely more playable for the average golfer, and that’s the right decision for my hometown. The 3 hole loops give more people the opportunity to try golf or to play with less of a time commitment. That’s great for golf, even better for the community.
Arlington Lakes Photo Tour
Hole 4 (Old 13) Tee Shot
Initially, this one made me sad, but there’s a happy ending.
Gone are the beautiful trees that guarded the right side of the fairway on the tee shot. Some may have remarked that they encroached on unfair, but I loved deciding whether I should hit a high draw over their tops or hit a hard fade challenging the left side.
Once I got to the approach, I was happy to see that one side of the fairway is still preferable to the other.
Hole 4 (Old 13) Approach Shot
The Old 13th required absolute precision from the tee. Hitting your ball to the left center gave you the opening to the green, as large trees protected shots coming from the right side of the fairway. While the beast appeared to have been somewhat tamed from the tee, it was great to see that the left gives you a much better opening to the green than the right.
I faced a tough shot from the right side of the fairway to the pin shown above. It wasn’t until we walked up that we realized how tough a pin it was. It was sitting on a nob between the middle and back portions, which was deflecting all shots.
All that made me sad was removed by this green complex. It’s an absolute stunner, and I’m looking forward to getting a better photo on my return trip.
Hole 7 (Old 18) Tee Shot
The start of three brand new holes, 7 is a lot of fun.
I played conservative and hit a 5 iron down the right side. I had a little bit of a tree issue, but was able to hit a low punch to the right side of the green. My Dad hit 3-wood from the tee with a draw towards the left side. It took a hard hop left and went into the pond.
Everything goes left here (even the green) but a well struck approach leaves you with a great scoring opportunity.
Hole 7 (Old 18) Approach
As you can see the 7th Green at Arlington Lakes alludes to a redan style hole. Shots played to the front right will chase to a back left pin. Anything hit to left will likely kick further left. Guess what? You don’t want to be left.
Hole 7 (Old 18) Green
Looking back at the clubhouse, this was the view from the old 18th tee. Hole 7 is a smart redesign with way more character than its predecessor. From tee to green, it’s a great strategic hole.
Hole 8 (Old 17) Tee Shot
In my opinion, the new Par 3 8th is an absolute gem. It’s the former 17th hole flipped on its head. I love this hole for so many reasons, but I’m perhaps most happy that it plays in the opposite direction. Prior to the renovation, 3 out of 4 par 3s played in the same direction and sometimes the Old 14 (to the right) and 17 played to the same yardage.
With its brand new design, the 8th hole evokes Augusta National’s Par 3 12th. While it’s one of the most copied holes in the world, this interpretation was done right.
Hole 13 (Old 4) Green
The old green had its opening to the right side which brought the Old 3rd’s green into play off the tee. Still a short, drivable par 4, you now have to hit it down the left hand side for the best look. The left brings into play the treelined out of bounds of Central Road. Anything heading hard towards the left is likely to end up blocked or worse.
I love that this green was kept shallow, but the back left portion was raised to allow a properly played approach to stick. The old green was nearly impossible to hold even with a short club in your hand.
Hole 18 (Old 9) Approach
A shadow of its former self, the new 18 (old 9) is infinitely more playable. I love that there is a path to the hole should you not want to carry the water. This is a huge benefit to golfers unwilling to challenge the front left carry. Also, it provides a bail out area for those going for the green in two. However, a shot from the right bunker or above is no guaranteed up-and-down.
Hole 18 (Old 9) Green
A closer look at the green complex shows that it’s truly on a peninsula. Until I hit my wedge a little bit long, I had no idea how shallow the left side was. The back half of the green slopes towards the water behind.
Precision is still require here, but good shots are rewarded rather than repelled.