On April 18th 1977, I was hired by Don Mortell as the golf professional at the “Balmoral Woods Inn &
Country Club” in Crete, Illinois – 35 years to the day – on April 18th, 2012 I sat down with Dave Mortell,
Dons’ son, and current general manager of Balmoral Woods CC, to discuss all the wonderful changes the
facility has seen, the “maturing” of the golf course, and to just “catch up” with this great golfing family!
A Little History
“Balmoral Woods Inn & CC” was established in approx. 1970 – with the course actually opening in 1975 – and was built with an eye towards the future of this great south suburban area. The “Inn” was a five story hotel located in the center of the property, with all the amenities you would expect to find at any resort hotel: comfortable rooms, fine dining, lounges with entertainment, and a beautiful pool with a retractable roof! Once the course became more of the focus of the property, however, the need for a larger more functional space for the golf operations was deemed necessary. So, in 1985 a large, well-designed clubhouse was built in a more strategic area of the property – and the “Inn” was readied for the changes that were to come. In these following years, a marvelous job was done with the usage of the land in, and around, the property; including the building of dozens of luxury homes and townhouses on the course -and- by turning the former hotel into the “Village Woods” assisted living complex – as it is known today.
Balmoral Woods CC is the work of the famous golf course designer/architect George Fazio. Among his other well-known course designs have been the outstanding National Golf Club of Canada, the Butler National GC located in Oak Brook Illinois, and the highly acclaimed Pinehurst #6 course in Pinehurst North Carolina. The course has a variety of holes that will make you use every club in your bag – some holes that give you a good chance at birdie, and other that will test your game to the limit. The many tree-lined fairways are at the same time beautiful (and) dangerous. The fairway bunkering comes into play on many holes, and the greens are well protected and spacious. The greens are also among the finest manicured putting surfaces you will find in all of the Midwest! Their speed is fair – but quick – and the many pin placement options will make you “think” on your approach shots.
Three sets of tees allow for all levels of players to enjoy the course – measuring from approx. 5,100 to 6,600+ yards. And, on the more than (100) acres of all bent grass tees, fairways, and greens, you will encounter multiple water hazards and beautiful, peaceful “natural” surroundings. And, although the rough is usually tightly mowed, it can present a challenge you can do without!
Among the holes that you will be talking about after your round are the difficult par (3) 13th, and most assuredly the par (5) 7th hole – play this one “station to station” – no heroes were ever crowned on this hole! The golf carts are in excellent shape, and include; windshields with covers (when necessary), seed/soil containers for divot repair, a booklet on each steering column with hole layouts/info, and a range finder gun for your convenience. The yardage markers are accurate and visible, the cart paths throughout the course ensure that the course will be open on all but the worst of days, the well stocked half-way house comes into play on several holes, and a driving range/practice area is available. Rates are reasonable, and many great golf discount packages are available – note the twilight & replay rates offered (7) days a week – for an even greater value.
Balmoral offers many outstanding outing packages, and a full menu at the “Country Table” restaurant located inside the clubhouse – which is open (7) days a week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – including fantastic catering options for outings, meetings of all types, etc. with room for (100) or more.
The golf shop is well stocked, and the professional staff has been recently awarded the 2011 Ping Golf “Clubfitter of the Year” title. (And) Balmoral Woods head professional Bill Abrams provides his “Golf Solutions Academy” on site. Note – Bill has been named as a USKids Golf Top 50 Master Teacher – Congratulations Bill – Also, you may run into well-known instructor Rick Thomas who also gives lessons here.
Balmoral Woods CC has hosted many prestigious golf events through the years – and has settled in as the home (since 1996) of the hotly contested Will County Amateur. This tournament has consistently attracted some of the finest amateur golfers from throughout the country – with arguably its most famous winner (2009) being Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. And this just in – the 2012 title goes to – Tom Kearfott of El Paso, Texas – who won in a playoff.
This writing would be incomplete, however, without giving credit where it is due. Fine golf facilities like Balmoral Woods CC do not happen by accident! Hard work, sacrifice, and a lot of TLC built this golf facility, and the people who made this happen are the Mortell family. Beginning with the love of golf acquired by Mr. Don Mortell as a caddy at Kankakee CC in Kankakee, Illinois, and continuing during and after his days at Purdue University, Don worked through many twists and turns to accomplish what you will find today when you visit Balmoral Woods CC. Right by his side (and many times probably out front!) has been his lovely and gracious wife Margi. The two met at Purdue and Don introduced Margi to the game – and through the years she has won a combined (10) club championships at Kankakee and Olympia Fields Country Clubs, been a great help to the facility, and raised (7) great kids. Don has won a few championships of his own, and both combined to instill a love of the game in their children and grandchildren (currently boasting a total of 22!). Their sons Mike and Dave’s golfing successes at Purdue (and Mike’s 1990 Illinois State Amateur Championship) are but a few of the further accomplishments supporting the “golf legacy” that these two created. Looking back, it was inspiring to watch the entire family - Mike, Dave, daughters Sue, Nancy, Debbie, Donna, and Judy pitch in when the facility was just getting going. And now word is Dave’s young son Sam, along with Mike’s son Jack, have caught the golfing bug – Bad! And I am sure other grandchildren will follow.
A lot changes in (35) years – but the high standards and quality of family values shown by this wonderful golfing family have been a constant. I learned a lot at Balmoral years ago, and I am thankful and proud to have been around such a fine family, and to have been associated with such a high quality facility.
Overall, Balmoral Woods CC is a “must play” facility – if you haven’t played it yet – add it to your list for this year. The great job of maintaining the course by superintendent Nick McGraw and his staff, the friendly professional way in which you will be treated by Dave Mortell and the shop staff, and the service & great food you will enjoy – provided by Aleta Lowe at the Country Table restaurant – will all add up to a very enjoyable golfing experience.
For further information concerning Balmoral Woods CC – call the course at (708)672-7448 -or- visit their website at www.balmoralwoods.com. Balmoral Wood GC is located at 26732 S. Balmoral Woods Dr. in Crete, IL 60417 – approx. 35 miles south of the loop in Chicago & a (20-30) minute drive from most anywhere in Lake County, IN.
Kyle Lundy was recently named the new director of golf operations at Sand Creek CC in Chesterton, IN. Good luck Kyle – Great course.
Bubba Watson wins the Masters! That makes (5) lefties who have won in the past ten years at Augusta – considering the number of lefties out there, that’s pretty amazing.
Congratulations on the fine job Golf Visions Management Group is doing with “The Brassie” in Chesterton -and with “River Pointe” in Hobart.
A lot of courses are still forming Men’s, Women’s, and Junior leagues - give your local course a call – and twilight rates are definitely underway on many facilities – take advantage.
Understand Joe Piatek and Bill Springer are available for lessons out at Wicker Park – give them a call at (219)838-9809 – these guys know what they are doing!
High School boys golf is heating up – with Valpo High Schools’ team consistently in the States’ Top Ten – Good luck to all.
Remember to listen to “Golf Talk” on WJOB 1230AM on Thursday May 10th – I will be joining Michael Stewart on his “Stew for Lunch” program. I go on at approx. 1:00PM. Give us a call at (219)845-1100 -or- you can view the show by logging on to www.wjob1230.com Note: “Stew” as well as other WJOB personalities appear every Thursday night at Freddy’s Steakhouse on 165th & Kennedy in Hammond, Indiana – starting at 6:00PM – lots of music, good food, and fun – Join in.
Mom Loves Golf – Take her out for Mother’s Day May 13th – or check out some of the new merchandise hitting every golf shop in the area right now. I know gift certificates from golf courses are always appreciated – and Happy Mom’s Day to all, including my wonderful mother, my lovely wife Mary, my sister Louise, and my sister-in-law Stella – Boy did I just save a fortune in greeting cards!
Check out the new Ping golf equipment Sunday May 27th at Balmoral Woods CC in Crete, IL – and then use it the next day – Monday May 28th as Balmoral hosts a two-player scramble. Call the course for info – (708)672-7448.
Sheriff John Buncich’s office is sponsoring the 1st annual 10k bicycle ride June 9th at 11:00AM in Griffith, IN (Oak Ridge Prairie Park) to benefit the Animal Control & Adoption Center – grab a bike – Good cause – Call (219)769-7016 for info.
More charity – come see some great wrestling at the Hammond Armory Saturday May 19th at 7:30PM – 173rd St. in Hammond (next to Purdue University Calumet) – good friend Nevada Slick will be in the house!
And earlier that same day, come join a huge group of “Friends of the Little Calumet River” for “River Fest” Saturday May 19th at 9:00AM – running until 4PM. Boat rentals available – food – entertainment, etc. Check online for details –www.lakecountyfishandgame.org/lilcalfest.html.
Looking for some more fun? Sunday May 27th “The Ultimate Memorial Weekend Bash” is being held at the Halls of St. George – in Schererville, IN - with musical groups: Latin, Satin, Soul – Together – Say Yes – Past Life – and featuring a special reunion performance by Timepeace – starts at 6:00PM – for info/tickets call (219)865-9411. Do not miss it – Timepeace “features” a fantastic female vocalist named Mary?!
Like beer? I knew that would get your attention! Crown Brewing of Crown Point, Indiana has organized the third annual “Illiana Mayfest”, a mirobrew festival featuring 25-30 breweries – to be held at the Lake County Fairgrounds Saturday May 26th from 2-6PM – for info log on to www.illianamayfest.com - a portion of the proceeds will assist local charities!
Special thanks this month: To the fine folks at Balmoral Woods – including: Brian, Cris & Dennis; Ed, Martin, Roger, Francisco & Julio working on the course, Clyde from the driving range, Tracie from the “Village Woods” – nice guys who were out playing like Ralph & his posse’ – and Scott Woods who was practicing for his 1st Will County Am – Chesterton & Purdue North Central grad – who ended up doing pretty well!
Finally: Do it this year! Do yourself a favor – take a few Springtime lessons – it will help you to enjoy those rounds a lot more – and focus on your short game – people rarely take short game lessons and this is where we can save the most strokes – Good luck.
As always, I appreciate any comments, suggestions, questions, stories, etc. Please contact me at our e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a voicemail at (219)947-4313, and to read past golf course reviews – or to just visit Golf Plus newspaper online – visit our website at golfplusonline.net.
Lastly: I just couldn’t write about Balmoral Woods without mentioning a man who taught me a great deal during my time there – and showed a lot of patience with a young, first time, golf professional – Herb Gerlach, who was the golf course superintendent at the time. I will always be thankful for his help.