Chicago Area Golf Courses
So my editor asked me many moons ago to write an article that discussed golfing in and around Chicago. I told her that it would be ready right away and would be regarded as the greatest golf article ever written by a 23-year-old named Ben who grew up in Chicago. So prepare yourself for the most “informative” and entertaining list of MY favorite golf courses around the Chicagoland area.
Disclaimer: I am not the next Adam Scott, (although I do get as many numbers as he does…) but I do occasionally get in the zone and shoot around the mid 80s, though I most likely have a 20 handicap. This article is meant to be for the golf enthusiast visiting or living in Chicago that wants to play a good course and have a fun afternoon. The courses listed are not exhaustive of all courses in and around Chicago and were chosen subjectively.
There are many things to do in the city limits of Chicago: shop, eat, drink, pick up chicks, but golfing is not one of them. Yes, there are golf courses with a Chicago address, but in my opinion none are worth the time or money. Those of you who disagree and think the driving time saved by playing 9 holes at Marovitz are not true patrons of the game. If you want to hack your way around a sandy fairway and a dirt filled bunker, feel free, but I would rather hit a bucket at the Diversey Driving Range if I didn’t have time to drive outside of the city. Golfing is as much a game as it is an experience. You take an early drive with your Dad (who has to arrive 40 minutes before your tee time so he doesn’t have to ‘rush’…), hit some balls on the range, putt until you’re dreadfully bored, and then take that first hack on the tee box before driving or walking off into a land of soft greens and luscious fairways. So call in sick, grab a six pack and visit one of the courses listed below for a glorious day of divots, cursing, and the occasional ‘greatest shot ever!’
West of Chicago:
Oakbrook Golf Club: This course is well maintained with fast greens that have lots of undulation. There are a lot of trees that line the fairways so bring a rake (I can never find my ball when there are leaves around).
Cantigny: When I asked my father for some information on this course he said (and I quote), “there are 3 nine-hole courses so the 18 you play one day is different the next time.” Besides the fact that my father’s logic holds true only if you play Cantigny 3 times, the experience is well worth the very high green fees. Also, feel free to bring the wife/girlfriend since this course is home to over 10,000 flowers!
Tamarack: There are a lot of hazards (water and sand) and the greens are reasonably fast so I never play from the Championship tees (call it ego-defense or whatever you want, but at least my 7-iron stays in one piece). One bonus is that you can usually find really good deals at golfnow.com for this course, which means that you can use the extra cash to buy a dozen new balls!
*Indian Boundary: I had to put this course on my list for the new golfers in Chicago. This is the flattest, shortest, most hazard free golf course I have ever played. It is a great course to play to gain some confidence at the beginning of the season or if you just want an ego boost in the midst of a golf slump. Just be sure to bring some bug spray.
North of Chicago:
Highland Park Country Club: Decent layout with good course conditions. It’s one of my Dad’s favorite courses around Chicago. Located just north of the city in Highland Park, this ex-private course is really well maintained. Also, fun fact, Dick Nugent redesigned this course in 1997 (supposedly a “world-renowned” architect, but great name nonetheless).
*Highland Woods: This is my favorite course to play when I’m home in Chicago and since it is a Forest Preserve course, I save $5 on 18 holes with my golf card (that shout out just saved me $20 on the golf card itself…). The course is always well-maintained and although it is challenging, low scores are definitely possible. One of my personal favorite golf shots I hit was on #12. After shanking a drive into some shrubbery I had to hit one of those cool left-handed upside down club shots. I honestly got the ball off the ground and it went, like, 30 yards!! How you like that Mickelson!?
Thunderhawk: Listed in the top 10 of Golfweek’s best municipal golf course’s in the US in 2009, the excellent course conditions, tough greens and beautiful landscape make this a must visit for Chicagoans (and I guess other people who visit Chicago… but mainly Chicagoans).
South of Chicago:
*George Dunne: This is the toughest of the Cook County Forest Preserve courses and some consider it to be the best (I’m still partial to Highland Woods). Eleven of the 18 holes have water that comes into play so bring A LOT of balls (and a dozen extra Callaways would be good too). The course is also very scenic, which means there is an abundance of bathrooms.
Cog Hill Course 2 (“The Ravines”): Even though Course 4 (“Dubsdread”) is probably the logical choice to put on a list of Chicagoland golf courses, I would rather not spend 4 hours hacking and cursing my way through an insanely hard course (not to mention the price you have to pay to get your ass kicked). “The Ravines” is as beautiful as “Dubsdread” (not to mention half the price) and it is still challenging, but with enough forgiveness that your golfing experience is still fun. The greens are not as fast as some of the other nice courses but the landscape and layout are fantastic. I also saw Mike Wilbon (from “Pardon the Interruption” on ESPN) at Cog Hill one time, so, yeah, that was cool.
*Joe Louis “The Champ”: I had to put this course on the list because it was where I learned to play the game. Although the Forest Preserve website considers it a “challenging” course because one of the par 5s is 614 yards, I always thought of it as a simple, flat course that makes for a nice happy day of low scoring and winning money from my Dad.
Final Note: I like to use websites like golfnow.com and ezlinks.com to find specials on tee times. Sometimes these rates are even lower than the ones you get from using the golf card at the Forest Preserve courses so I would check the websites before anything else.
*Cook County Forest Preserve Course (buying a Forest Preserve Golf Card saves you money on each round of golf you play at one of these courses).
UPchicago Guest Writer