Golfweek's Bradley Klein on this week's PGA Championship host:
For those who think narrow, tree-lined fairways are the paradigm of good course design, Medinah No. 3 stands out like an icon. For others who are keen on strategic variety and a nuanced aesthetic of vistas and playing textures, there is no more boring example of architecture in America than this very long parkland layout in suburban Chicago.And...
Medinah has length. What it doesn’t have is a lot of trouble around (or on) the greens. The modestly sloped greens don’t unduly punish approaches that are short-sided. With the par-5s vulnerable and little trouble elsewhere, expect lots of low rounds and a tight bunching of the field.
And from his "America’s Best” ballot...
3. Natural setting and overall land plan: 5
The 106,000 square foot Byzantine clubhouse gets a 10, and Lake Kadijah helps situate the golfer. But the course is otherwise devoid of vistas or any external sense of place, other than all of those towering hardwoods, and that gets repetitive real fast.
4. Interest of greens and surrounding chipping contours: 7
The newly rebuilt/regrassed greens, average size 4.200 square feet, are modestly sloped, flawlessly manicured, and without a lot of trouble left and right in terms of short-game recovery.
5. Variety and memorability of par 3s: 7
These are like latte breaks during a valium drip. There’s just enough variance among the trio of over-the-water par-3s (2nd, 13th, 17th) to make them interesting. But the shaping is so odd. Rees Jones’ handiwork is evident in the flat horizon line 2nd green with symmetrical, linear outslopes -- it looks like an upside down pie plate. No. 13 is set above and apart from the lake by surrounding bunkers, but the vinyl support wall there that also creates the diagonal effect of the 17th green (much improved over the old green, by the way!) has a hard-edged look out of character with the grounds.
6. Variety and memorability of par 4s: 5
All of the strategy is along the tree lines; none of it involves bunkering on the inside of a dogleg. At Medinah, the fairway bunkering on par-4s squeezes landing areas laterally or contains the outside of a dogleg. Only the 12th and 16th holes offer dramatic falloffs for slightly wayward shots
7. Variety and memorability of par 5s: 5
Trees are the primary defense here, which gets repetitive. Play here will likely be decisive for the outcome of the PGA, with birdies abundant and little threat to anyone playing boldly given the lack of interesting bunker positioning on second shots or the element of water in play. The relatively short par-5 fifth is very narrow; the tenth offers the one interesting option of a bold play right in order to get home in two; and the long fourteenth hole requires loft on the approach to hold a tightly bunkered green.
8. Basic conditioning: 10
For a (still) heavily shaded parkland site, Medinah No. 3 thrives. Tom Lively, CGCS, like so many other Chicago-area superintendents, deserves credit for working well under demanding conditions.
9. Landscape and tree management: 7
Thousands of mature hardwoods frame the holes and define the place. They’ve done a good job of clearing out heavily shaded greenside areas, removed nuisance conifers and trimmed up the canopies so golfers and visitors can see under the trees. For a densely wooded course, this is the start of wise tree management. The curtain has at least been lifted.
10. “Walk in the park” test: 7
An enjoyable walk, one that’s strong on ambiance and tradition but a little short in aesthetics and variety.
Medinah No. 3 is ranked No. 57 on the Golfweek Classic Top-100 List, with an average score of 7.14. That’s marginally over-rated in my view. The course is a joyless grind.