THE MISTWOOD GOLF CLUB on Renwick Road in Romeoville, get your tee times by calling the pro shop at (815)-254-3333 or visit Red-White & Blue Scramble is coming up on the 4th of July, sign up now, this event normally does sell out. _____________________________________________________________________

THE GOG BLOG by RORY SPEARS, Director of Content and Creation for Golfers on Golf. Follow Rory on Twitter @GogBlogGuy, and on Facebook or LinkedIn. With the late Jim McWethy at Mistwood Golf Club.

IT FELT GOOD TO TRAVEL AGAIN, it also feels good to be back home again from Indiana.

The golf road trip was only three days and two nights, but it was great to get away. Somethings however were different, other things felt more like normal.

But Indiana seems to be ahead of the curve, while Illinois lags slightly behind.

Illinois will catch up a little more as things open up on the golf side starting tomorrow. July 6th seems to be a date when everyone will take another step forward in putting this crazy virus behind us. Let’s hope that is the case.

Indiana is off to a great start in putting things together. Gasoline is back down to $2.07 a gallon for starters. The golf courses are moving ahead. In some places it’s like June of 2019, and in others that status will be in place on July 6th. Golf actually seems pretty normal, it’s the rest of traveling that can still be an issue.

The Marriott Fairfield in Carmel is 4 miles from the 2020 Western Amateur venue, Crooked Stick Golf Club.

The Marriott Fairfield Carmel that is only two years old, is still doing all the safe things for it’s guests.

It might have large elevators, but only 3 people in them at a time. The housekeeping staff won’t visit everyday, unless you ask for them.

One great thing about Fairfield’s, is the breakfast downstairs in the morning. Currently that has changed, into a paper bag on the counter by the front desk. It contains a granola bar, a danish, and a carton full of orange juice. That’s it, but the coffee bar is open for those of you who need a cup of Joe to start your day. The health club did not look busy, but it seemed like every time I walked past, someone was in there sanitizing the facility.

As for the food side, my dinner the first night was at Five Guys. Nobody has masks but the employees, and only six tables were spread out in the restaurant. I took my food to go, and went back to the hotel. My second night was dinner at Chili’s, Terry the bartender where I sat alone, makes a great frozen margarita. The tables were not movable, but guests were spread out and not sitting near each other. Only the employees wore masks in the entire restaurant, with about 40 guests dining inside.

Welcome to the Pfau Course at Indiana University.

The new Pfau Course at Indiana University home of the Hoosiers golf teams has just opened in the last 12 days.

It was supposed to open maybe last fall, which turned into April 1st of this year. Thanks to Covid-19 that did not happen until June 15th.

In fact only GM Greg Bishop the course’s superintendent and one other staff worker were allowed on the grounds every day for almost two months. All they did was cut the fairways, the greens and tee’s everyday, sometimes for 12 hours a day to keep up and make sure the new course wasn’t overgrown before opening day even rolled around.

The clubhouse is still closed, and the open bathroom count is but only 1. A co-ed special in the cart barn. The food and beverage for now, is a couple boxes that have small bags of pretzels, granola bars, and a bin of ice that has nice cold bottles of water. The Styrofoam is still in the cups, and there are no rakes to be found on the golf course. I’ll have more on the golf course in the next few days.

The Brickyard Crossing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Of more concern is the famed Brickyard Crossing Golf Course located next to, and inside of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This really good Pete Dye designed golf course has four holes that run through the inside of the track itself.

It’s a great venue so I hear, and a popular bucket trip stop, for those enjoy both golf and car racing, and for those traveling the Pete Dye golf trail.

Problem for 2020 is that the course has not yet opened for the year, because it got classified as a sporting venue due to the holes in the race track. But it will on July 6th. Then it will be open for about 6 weeks before it closes for two weeks around the new dates for this years running of the Indy 500. Then it reopens until it closes for the season in the fall. Another issue that has come spinning out of Turn 2, is that the track could close for good. Rumors have been flying since new track owner Roger Penske bought the track last year. I’m told Penske likes golf, and even is a member at the home of the Masters Tournament, but might need space for a new Formula One track to host that type of racing. If that track gets built, Dye’s masterpiece will get the checked flag.

Welcome to Crooked Stick Golf Club, home of the 2020 Western Amateur. Yes it will get played.

Crooked Stick Golf Club in Carmel Indiana is home to this years 2020 Western Amateur.

NHL hockey referee Garrett Rank is the defending champion, and has told me that he will defend his title in late July.

The great news is that the Western Amateur will get played starting on July 28th, and running through August 1st.

During my visit this past Tuesday the club marked a return to pretty much the “old normal”. After much research and consulting with medical experts, and golf industry professionals, the club learned that touching the flag stick or a bunker rake will not make you sick from Covid-19. So the Styrofoam in the cups are gone, and the bunker rakes are back out on the golf course. I’ll have much more on Crooked Stick in my Western Amateur preview story, and the club remembering it’s architect the late Pete Dye.

Welcome to the Fort Golf Course at Harrison State Park in Indianapolis.

The Fort Golf Course in Indianapolis is really good, and one of the best state park golf courses anywhere.

General Manager Bruce Rearick says operations at the golf course will change around July 6th. As for the next few days, the drinking fountains in the clubhouse are not running, and the water coolers are missing from the stands that still sit empty on the golf course.

The golf carts all have signs on them telling customers that their cart has been sanitized. The Styrofoam is in the cups and the employees all have masks. But I did not see any masks on the customers. More on the Fort as we get closer to the Western Amateur in late July.

If your looking to travel you can, it might and feel a little different at the hotel or in the restaurant, but within days most golf courses will be pretty much back to normal, whatever normal is these days.

Ziehm and Spears Podcast Series 2020-Volume 15 returns tomorrow.

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About Rory Spears

Rory spent over 8 years growing up working at Rob Roy Golf Club in Prospect Hts.IL, then two years at Chevy Chase in Wheeling. He has covered golf in Chicago since 1986. Rory was one of the initial members of WSCR all-sports radio Chicago and covered golf there for 5 seasons, before moving on to work for ESPN/Sportsticker and ESPN Radio. In addition to hosting Golfers on Golf Radio on WNDZ Am 750 Chicago, he writes for both the Chicago District (CDGA) Magazine, and formerly Chicagoland Golf. Rory has played over 525 courses in 39 states, and rates golf courses. He does golf course management and communications consulting, within the golf industry.