Course: George W. Dunne National, Oak Forest, IL
Former name: Forest Preserve National
Conditions: Sunny, 10 degrees, some wind. Approximately three inches of fresh powder on top of 6-24 inches of ice covered snow.
Reputation: Forest Preserve, or Dunne National, is "recognized by Golf Digest as one of the top public courses" in America, according to the Forest Preserve website. I concur. It is hands down the best public course I've ever played, and even covered in a foot of snow, it did not disappoint.
Trudging: It took me almost three hours to JEDgolff the front nine. Each step was an exercise. First you stepped into three inches of overnight powder, then your foot hit a layer of ice, then as your weight shifted forward, the ice would break and your foot would slam down another 6-24 inches, depending on the drifting. Snowshoes?
Searching: It's a minor miracle that I played the whole round with the same ball. When the ball landed, it would bust through the powder, then the ice, and burrow next to the ground... with the added challenge that all you could see was an approximately two inch round entry mark on the surface of the powder. Spent a lot of time trudging and searching.
Kneeling: Since there were three layers - powder, ice, packed snow - I had to kneel down or bend at each location, dig through the ice with my hands, feel around on the bottom layer, and pull the ball out. Sometimes it was burrowed into a layer of ice, making it difficult, through my clumsy gloves, to pinch my fingers around the ball to lift it out. The whole finding process took a while and covered my legs in frozen powder.
Placing: I relearned a lesson about powder - you basically gotta build a platform for your ball and GoPro at each location. For the first couple of holes, I forgot this, so when I'd put the GoPro down, it would sink in a couple inches to the frozen layer beneath. Same thing with the ball. Then I remembered the last time I played powder, and what you do is this:
Appreciating: The only reason I got to play George Dunne is that two people went above and beyond. I first went to River Oaks Golf Course in Calumet City, IL., which is also part of the Forest Preserve system. Tyrone, after shaking his head several times - "you want to do WHAT?" - said River Oaks didn't open til Monday. But he called Nicole at Forest Preserve, which is open all year "I am not messing with you, Nicole. This guy wants to play TODAY. He does this extreme golf and he's got a website and everything."
Turns out that Nicole was set to get off work at Forest Preserve at 1pm... and it was already 12:32.
"How long does it take to get to Forest Preserve?" I asked Tyrone.
"Half hour. But don't go back to 294. Stay on 162nd all the way to Central. Hang a left there. Now go."
At Cicero, I called Nicole and she waited for me. Tyrone and Nicole - thank you.
Sublime: Although there were issues with finding the ball, placing it, wet socks, frozen feet, and some really wicked hunger, the best way to describe playing Forest Preserve in a foot of snow on a glistening sunny day may be this - sublime, which Webster defines as: "of outstanding spiritual worth... tending to inspire awe." Yes, that's it. Sublime.