Like an international soccer star, Medinah is known by a single name.
This differs from 2019 major venues Augusta National, Bethpage Black, Pebble Beach and Royal Portrush and Chicago-area tournament clubs Cog Hill, Conway Farms and Olympia Fields. Medinah stands out for the brevity of its name, the grandeur of its 120,000-square-foot clubhouse and its dramatic par-3s over water.
The PGA Tour's top 70 players will experience all of it this week at the BMW Championship, a FedEx Cup playoff event. The club's No. 3 course returns to the spotlight after serving as site of the 2012 Ryder Cup, three U.S. Opens (1949, 1975 and 1990), two PGA Championships (1999 and 2006) and three Western Opens (1939, 1962 and 1966).
Something else that sets Medinah apart is the willingness of the club to dip into its coffers to evolve, upgrade and improve. It's not content to live off its reputation as a top-100 course – 53rd in the latest Golf Digest rankings.
Medinah No. 1 was the site of the Ryder Cup opening and closing ceremonies. Within hours of Europe's wild Sunday comeback ("The Ryder Cup was a great two days," Medinah President Bruce D'Angelo joked), the course was torn up. A $6.5 million renovation by architect Tom Doak transformed it into a worthy little brother to No. 3.
Next came a $3.6 million restoration of Medinah No. 2, the shorter and more forgiving "family" course. Green complexes were restored to Tom Bendelow's original design and putting surfaces were enlarged.
All of that came on the heels of a $3 million restoration of the championship course, No. 3. Rees Jones lopped off nearly 100 yards and added a pond to the 15th hole, transforming it into a risk-reward short par-4 for the Ryder Cup.
Jones' work also resulted in the removal of about 800 trees, allowing for more sunlight and air circulation (net result: higher turf quality) and improved views.
Hit a decent drive on the first hole, and Lake Kadijah is visible before your next swing.
"The great thing about Medinah," said Vince Pellegrino, senior vice president of the Western Golf Association, which helps run the BMW Championship, "is that it continues to invest. They understand that putting dollars back into the club and making the membership experience the best it can be is what attracts people to Medinah."
The Medinah 2020 Club Improvement Strategy created a racquet center, golf performance center (with three simulators and a hitting bay for fitting) and outdoor patio that overlooks holes on Courses 1 and 2. The club also renovated its locker room and showers.
Evolve. Upgrade. Improve.
That's also the goal of the BMW Championship, which returns to Chicago after a stop at Aronimink outside Philadelphia. Keegan Bradley won the weather-marred event in a Monday finish and finds himself 58th on the FedEx Cup points list after the Wyndham Championship.
Bradley went 3-1 during the 2012 Ryder Cup and called the experience "probably the most fun time I've ever had playing golf."
"Every single second was exciting," he said. "I've always loved that 17th hole, the par-3. It's the perfect yardage (about 190) and a lot can happen there, especially at the end of the tournament."
With BMW's contract with the PGA Tour and WGA expiring after the final putt drops, the tournament will have a new title sponsor when it moves to Olympia Fields in 2020.
Until that reveal, the focus is on this event. And there are two solid reasons to believe it could be the best BMW Championship in the lot – even if Tiger Woods isn't able to play after withdrawing from the Northern Trust on Friday with a strained oblique muscle.
– It is now one of three FedEx Cup events, rather than four, so players will arrive more rested and less cranky.
– And the event moved from mid-September to mid-August. Most kids are out of school, and those 16 and under can attend for free when accompanied by an adult. The tournament will host a junior clinic Tuesday featuring free food from Portillo's. Evans Scholars will caddie for the likes of Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy during Wednesday's pro-am.
If he plays, Woods might not need much clubbing advice. He won the last two majors at Medinah: the 1999 and 2006 PGA Championships.
The move to August also means no conflict with football. Tee times will not have to be moved up to accommodate NBC's coverage of Notre Dame football, as they were in 2011. No scoreboard watching for Phil Mickelson.
Remember when a chunk of Chicagoans planned their July 4 holiday around the Western Open at Cog Hill? WGA officials say they want to "own" August.
A visit to the one and only Medinah will help that cause.