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2 Play the Tips played Rich Harvest on Monday, August 29, 2011

Rich Harvest Farms

The Richest Kid in the World

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The driving range on the clubhouse side of the road.
Jerry Rich is the proud owner of one of the finest car collections in the world. You can see them right inside this building.
#1 - The tee shot at the first hole is played over a road. Buckle up for a wild ride.
#2 - Hole two was designed with the Scottish links in mind.
#3 - Welcome, you're at Snead's Crotch. Your gonna have to thread the needle to hit this fairway.
#4 - This par three requires a long iron - Dave hit a great one here.
#5 - This hole is one of Dave's favorites here at Rich Harvest. Hit a good tee shot and you'll have a short iron left into this shallow green. Finding this fairway is key.
#7 - Another long par 3. This was one of the coolest green complexes on the course. It's almost a mirror image of the par 3 6th at Augusta National.
#8 - This is the tee shot to one of the most difficult par fours we've ever played in our lives.
#9 - Neither of us had ever seen horses on a golf course before.
#9 - The green on the ninth is no easy target to hit.
#11 - Tempted to go for the green in 2? It might be a watery grave for you, your ball, and your score.
#13 - Easily one of the most demanding tee shots in golf.
#13 - The first astroturf tee of the day but not the last. luckily we didn't have to hit off of this one.
#14 - Jerry Rich's version of the 12th at Augusta - He claims this one is better though.
#14 - Trouble lurks just a few feet from the edge of the front of the green here.
#15 - The wolf always guards the alternate tee on the 15th hole at Rich Harvest Farms.
#16 - Tee shot on the long par 5.
#16 - One of the prettiest holes on property.
#16 - Dave's approach shot
#16 - Jason's approach shot
#18 - The 18th tee box is another astroturf teeing area. You're required to play a cut here if you want to find the fairway
#18 - Jason's tee shot

Remember Richie Rich? Yes, I'm talking about the title character from your favorite 1994 children's comedy portrayed by none other than Macaulay Culkin.  Richie was the richest kid in the world.  He had everything he could ever want; big house, nice cars, basketball court in his room...  And let's not forget the 'kid-apult'.

Now obviously Richie can't stay a kid forever, so he gives up his killer baseball swing and decides to take up golf.  Through his numerous connections he garners an invitation to Augusta National, and immediately falls in love.  The pristine course conditions, the unmatched service, the locker room that somehow seems intimate and ostentatious at the same time - these are things that Richie wants for himself.  So he goes back home to Chicago, buys some property in Sugar Grove, and starts building.  Oh, and somewhere along the way he changed his name to Jerry.  

Welcome to Rich Harvest Farms.

Upon arriving, you start to feel like those sandlot kids when they first pulled in to the Rich's estate.  You're someplace special - or at the very least, someplace you're not used to visiting.  Jerry Rich doesnt seem to mind it being different, though.  We think he prefers it that way.  He does things his way.  He could have easily hired a big name designer to come in and make a masterpiece, but he wanted to get his hands dirty.  If we were in his shoes, we would probably want to do the same thing.  What golfer wouldn't want to play his own design every day?  ...What kid wouldn't want a kid-apult?

If Jerry Rich's creation is in the image of Augusta National, then we're afraid his success only goes as far as the locker room; more specifically the "important member" area - a dead-ringer for the Champions' locker room at Augusta.  While maybe not on par with the best in the world, the rest of the facilities are at the very least some of the best we've experienced.  The rest of the locker room is done in immaculate fashion, and the pro shop is quite possibly the most unique we've ever seen.  The fact that there are quite possibly more antique carriages in the pro shop than golf clubs reminds you that you are at a club that is unlike most others.  It's almost as if you've turn off the road not in to a golf club, but rather in to another man's dream.  Jerry Rich attempted to create an aura out of thin air, and when it comes to the buildings, the staff, and the conditioning, he succeeded.  With flying colors.

We warmed up on the smaller of the two practice facilities, which could still accomodate a hefty number of players.  Unfortunately we were not able to check out the larger of the two practice facilities located on the other side of the property near the tenth tee.  Hopefully there was a better short game area on the second range, because the smaller range lacked any real space for short game practice - aside from a medium-sized putting green.  

From the moment you arrive at Rich Harvest, it's impossible not to notice the conditioning.  Everything is just so.  Not a blade of grass out of place, not an unparallel vaccum line on the carpet, not a speck of dust in sight.  I bet there wasn't even an un-popped kernel of corn in the popcorn machine.  We both agreed that the course was in the best condition we had seen all year.  This was no easy task, either, since it was the end of the summer season - a time where golf courses begin to succumb to weather and golf spikes.  Conditions like these were impossible to ignore, always make for a better experience, and definitely deserve some love.  

Now for the course.  To be honest, this golf course has made us think about adding a category to our rankings.  The category would be "First Impression."  Rich Harvest gave an EXCELLENT first impression.  We both walked off the course smiling, thinking about all the ridiculous shots we had to produce, and the eclectic design of the golf course.  Upon returning home and putting the course under the microscope, though, we began to fall out of love with it... quickly. 

We knew going in to the round that the golf course had a reputation for being a little goofy.  Jason had heard the same about Lost Dunes Golf Club, but as you've (hopefully) read, he thought Lost Dunes was more intereting than it was goofy, making it a blast to play.  Rich Harvest, on the other hand, was a little bit over-the-top goofy. There were trees in the middle of the fairway on the "Snead's Crotch" third hole.  Some of the tee boxes had trees in front of them, making for some of the most demanding tee shots we've ever encountered.  While we're on the subject of tee boxes, you havent seen goofy on a golf course until you've hit a shot off of one of the three Astroturf tee boxes at Rich Harvest.  Since these specific teeing areas do not get enough direct sunlight, they were unable to put in normal grass.  You know you have way too many trees surrounding your teeing area if the use of Astroturf is needed. 

The routing of Rich Harvest Farms leaves much to be desired - a byproduct of the manner in which this course was designed and built.  After requesting a membership at Augusta virtually killed any chances he actually had, Jerry Rich started designing a few holes back home in Sugar Grove, IL.  The problem was that he didn't realize that it would eventually turn in to an entire 18 holes.  The routing is, well... it's pretty awful.  The best example is holes 5 & 6 on the Silver nine.  The par 3 5th and the par 4 6th both cross Welch Creek, and both head the same direction.  In order to save time, members hit their tee shot to the par 3 5th, and then walk to the next tee to hit their drives on the 6th.  They then finish the 5th hole and continue to their tee shots in the 6th fairway.  While this fiasco is definitely interesting and can even be a fun experience, it is terrible routing - especially when you consider that the creek that runs through these and two other holes is without a doubt the best natural landscape with which Jerry Rich had to work.

Another thing to note is the lack of continuity from hole to hole.  While there are some courses that run you through the woods for nine holes and then take you out in to open areas - Forest Dunes should come to mind - this one seemed to have a noticable disconnect from hole to hole.  When you look at each hole individually, almost all of them are good (even great) holes.  Silver 7 is an excellent hole that can be played as a par 4 or 5, with an interesting green that demands a quality approach over Welch Creek.  Gold 2 is also an excellent par 5, built in Scottish fashion with pot bunkers and open expanses.  The problem is that Gold 2 has no business being on this golf course.  It is the only hole built with any sort of links-style attributes and it even sits somewhat on its own on a piece of property that looks like it was aquired later than the rest (I don't think this is the case, but it sure looks like it.  Check out Google Maps.).  Even the tee shot on Gold 2 doesn't make sense for the hole.  You would think that a Scottish style hole would possibly have a blind tee shot, wide open but difficult to pick out a spot to hit to.  Not at Rich Harvest.  Step on the pro tee and you'll see an opening for your tee shot through the trees that is roughly the width of two golf carts.  Oh, and you need to cut it. 

Rich Harvest was the most demanding course we've played this year - maybe ever.  Check out the back of the scorecard below.  Each hole is named, followed by a short tip for the hole.  You know that when you're reading things like "tee shot 230 with a draw," "tee shot to skim the left treeline," "Most demanding tee shot in golf," and "Do not miss right," you've got your work cut out for you. 

While Rich Harvest Farms was no great example of design or routing, it surprisingly didn't detract that much from the round.  The land on which Jerry laid his creation flowed very well, and had lots of good movement, especially around Welch Creek, one of the better natural hazards one can hope to have on their property.  The conditioning was second-to-none.  The facilities were unique and interesting, and equally immaculate.  The staff were excellent - polite, accomodating, and helpful.  Ultimately, we enjoyed Rich Harvest Farms from start to finish.

Make no mistake - this is a shot-makers golf course.  We had fun out here because it was the least boring golf course we've seen in a long time.  We like hitting interesting shots and testing ourselves and taking chances.  We like watching how a shot reacts to the course, and watching each other's reactions to the shot - which at Rich Harvest was more often that not a big smile and a "Oh my god that is ridiculous..."  This is not a course for the average golfer.  It's not a place my (or your) 18-handicap father would enjoy playing more than once.  It's not a place for everyone.  But thats the beauty of it - it doesn't have to be.  It's Jerry Rich's dream turned reality. 

And just like those sandlot kids at Richie Rich's, we're glad we got invited to come over and play. 

Thanks, Richie.

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