The Jemsek family has been in the golf business since 1926.  The first Jemsek family course was St. Andrews located in West Chicago in west suburban DuPage County.  Today, St. Andrews remains in the family and is managed by Marianne Jemsek Hinckley. In 2023, the National Golf Foundation announced that St. Andrews is the oldest known continuously family owned/operated course in Illinois, having remained in the same family since 1926.

Joe Jemsek, was a pioneer in golf.  Born in 1913, he grew up near the Chicago rail yards and was introduced to golf as a caddie at Cog Hill Golf & Country Club located in Palos Park.  After becoming the caddie master and a golf professional, Joe competed and won the World Long Drive Championship at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, with a drive of 595 yards – at that time he was the world record holder for distance in hitting a golf ball.  In 1936, Joe took his new success and fame to become the head golf professional and manager at St. Andrews. Frank Hough (father of Grace and Alice) had built the 36-hole course starting in 1926 to rival top clubs such as Chicago Golf and others.  With the depression and Frank’s death, sisters Grace and Alice ran the business. Joe later married Grace (They had two children- Frank and Marianne.) and they became sole owners of the 36-hole course. At St. Andrews, Joe set about to make many improvements and bring private club

quality to the public golfer.  He improved course conditions which suffered with the Great Depression.  Joe was the first in many ways at St. Andrews – including offering golfers:

  • First Public Course to offer USGA Handicaps
  • First Course to allow golf spikes inside the clubhouse
  • First Course to offer permanent tee times
  • First Public Course to host a US Open qualifier

As Joe’s skills brought about more success at St. Andrews, he was able to purchase 3 more golf properties in Chicagoland – Fresh Meadow, Glen Woodie, and his beloved Cog Hill where he once had been a caddie and golf professional.

Based out of St. Andrews, Joe’s vision to improve the game for “regular” everyday golfers continued into the 1940’s and 50’s where he had more firsts in the sport – such as:

  • Launched First Local Chicago Golf Show for TV – Pars, Birdies & Eagles
  • Launched First Nationally Syndicated Televised Golf Match Events – All Star Golf which became Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf
  • Launched National Golf Day
  • Hired Patty Berg (LPGA Founder, US Open Winner) as Head Golf Professional

Joe is credited with inventing or coining the phrase “Country Club for a Day” by establishing high quality service levels at public courses.  For years working at St. Andrews, Joe heard players wish they could play Medina or other fancy clubs just once in their life. As Chicago grew, he saw his chance to build a superior quality course in Dubsdread at Cog Hill.  When done, it was seen as a turning point for golf as players from around the country flocked to play the great course for a greens fee.  This example launched a trend where today, public golf courses are often seen as being on “par” with private clubs in most markets. 

The National Golf Course Owners Association was started by a group of golf owners (including Joe Jemsek) that saw the need for owners to have representation with trade groups and local governments.  The founding of the NGCOA has helped owners and operators to find resources and information to help improve operations and inform the general public about the benefits that family-owned golf courses can bring to a community (offer recreation, pay taxes, create jobs, etc). For the many contributions made by Joe Jemsek, the NGCOA’s course award for excellence is named after Joe Jemsek and each year, a top public course is recognized for excellence with the organization’s Jemsek Award.

Jemsek National Course of the Year Award Application

This award recognizes a golf course that epitomizes exceptional course quality and management excellence, while making important contributions to their communities and the game. Award recipients will be honored at NGCOA's annual Golf Business Conference 2024, being held January 22-24, 2024 in Orlando, Florida. For a list of past National Course of the Year Award winners, click here.

Jemsek National Course of the Year Award

The Jemsek National Course of the Year Award honors a member demonstrating four criteria: exceptional quality of the course, exceptional quality of ownership and management, outstanding contribution to its community, and significant contribution to the game. These winners come from the NGCOA’s core membership, which make an outstanding contribution to the game of golf in their markets, and are model operations to their peers.

2024 Northampton Country Club, Leeds, MA
2023 Straits Course at Whistling Straits, Sheboygan, WI
2022 Sweetgrass Golf Club at Island Resort & Casino, Harris, MI

Jemsek Award for Golf Course Excellence – Prior Winners

The Jemsek Award honored the world’s top golf courses, which were widely known for superior quality, having hosted major amateur and professional tournaments and for being venues to which golfers travel from far and wide. Jemsek Award winners were industry greats that represent to the golfing and non-golfing public the pinnacle of achievement as outstanding venues. Please note: this award category was merged with the Jemsek National Course of the Year Award starting in 2021.

  • 2020 Spyglass Hill Golf Course, Pebble Beach, CA
  • 2019 East Lake Golf Club, Atlanta, GA
  • 2018 Erin Hills, Hartford, WI
  • 2017 Augusta National, Augusta, GA
  • 2016 TPC Boston, Boston, MA
  • 2015 Seaside Course, Sea Island, GA
  • 2014 Troon North Golf Club
  • 2013 The Homestead Resort, Cascades Course
  • 2012 Monterey Peninsula
  • 2011 Congressional Country Club
  • 2010 Firestone Country Club, Akron, OH
  • 2009 TPC Sawgrass
  • 2008 Muirfield Village
  • 2007 Kapalua Resort, Lahaina, Hawaii
  • 2006 Bandon Dunes in Bandon, OR
  • 2005 Harbour Town Golf Links
  • 2004 Pasatiempo
  • 2003 Whistling Straits
  • 2002 Bay Hill Club and Lodge
  • 2001 Pine Needles Lodge and Golf Club
  • 2000 The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island
  • 1999 Pebble Beach Golf Links
  • 1998 Willow Glen at Singing Hills
  • 1997 Pinehurst #2
  • 1996 Cog Hill #4 (Dubsdread)

St. Andrews Golf & Country Club

2241 Route 59 West Chicago, IL 60185
(630)231-3100 x139

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Western DuPage Chamber of Commerce
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West Chicago, IL 60185
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