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Golf Hole of the Week: St. Andrews No. 18

A view from the fairway next to the pond on the par-4 18th hole at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago.  | Gene Chamberlain/Sun-Times Media
A view from the fairway next to the pond on the par-4 18th hole at St. Andrews Golf & Country Club in West Chicago. | Gene Chamberlain/Sun-Times Media

There is both history and treachery at the 18th hole on St. Andrews Golf & Country Club’s Joe Jemsek course.

The closing hole on the 85-year-old course formerly known as Lakewood seems benign enough at 404 yards from the tips and an inviting 367 from the white tees. It’s a fairly straight shot, par-4. However, it’s nowhere near that simple.

“First you have to negotiate the chute,” said Bill Crouse, general manager of the 36-hole, two-course complex. “But you have to make a decision at the same time.”

The decision is how far to take the ball down the fairway through woods on both sides and over a hill toward a pond that runs almost from the rough on each side. A good drive can result in a penalty because it’s 240 yards from the middle of the tee, so many golfers are forced to take a 3-wood or hybrid and lay it back for a relatively simple approach to a green that slopes down toward the water.

“A 3-wood might be too much for some people even,” Crouse said.

The kicker is the slope after the hill leading down to the water makes it difficult to judge. It’s a gradual slope, but when the ground dries out and becomes firm, a tee shot intentionally left back from the water might also bound down into a watery grave.

“The big hitters can always try to carry the water,” said Frank Jemsek, son of the late patriarch of Chicago public golf and the course’s namesake, Joe Jemsek.

Frank Jemsek, a member of the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame who is CEO of the four Jemsek golf courses, recalls one player who may have been the first to carry the water — his father.

“He was a big hitter, a long-drive champion,” Frank Jemsek said.

Joe Jemsek won a long-driving contest at the World’s Fair in 1934 with a 501-yard drive from an elevated platform.

So to hit it 290 yards plus by carrying the water definitely wasn’t beyond Jemsek’s capability.

“You have to remember he’s doing it then with a wooden-headed club and steel shaft,” Frank Jemsek said.

The feat has been noted in the past by a plaque on the hole. It’s something for golfers to ponder and perhaps attempt to do when playing No. 18.

Gene Chamberlain

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