Top Chicago Golf Courses: A Beginner’s Guide
Chicago gives America’s most famous cities – New York, San Francisco, Miami, etc. – a run for their money when it comes to every aspect of urban life; the restaurants, nightlife, entertainment, culture and professional sports. One could argue that Chicago golf courses rank among the best of the best worldwide.
Winters are fierce in the “Windy City,” but its summers are glorious, filled with festivals, Cubs games at Wrigley Field and countless opportunities to get outdoors. Shoppers can walk Michigan Avenue’s “Magnificent Mile;” families flock to Lincoln Park Zoo, Shedd Aquarium and Navy Pier. The museums – the Art Institute Chicago, the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum of Natural History and more – are all world class, just as Chicago golf courses are regarded.
Chicago golf courses are spread throughout a large metro area, with some golf courses exceptionally close to the city and others ringing the downtown loop or nearby in the suburbs. Most Chicago public golf courses worth playing can be found outside downtown.
There may be no better big city in America when it comes to the best private country clubs. The top golf courses in Chicago are located in affluent suburbs, most notably the Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Shoreacres in Lake Bluff and Butler National Golf Club in Oak Brook. The fairways and greens are immaculate at these exclusive country clubs in Illinois, and they offer outstanding golf conditions throughout the season.
Plus, many of the private golf courses around Chicago have opened their doors to host major tournaments and championship events, so everyday golfers will recognize the names of other top Chicagoland clubs. Medinah Country Club (2012 Ryder Cup, three U.S. Opens, two PGA Championships), Olympia Fields Country Club (2003 U.S. Open, 2017 Women’s PGA Championship), Rich Harvest Farms Golf Club in Sugar Grove (2009 Solheim Cup), Conway Farms Golf Club in Lake Forest (2013-15-17 BMW Championship) and Kemper Lakes Golf Club, a Dick Nugent design in Kildeer (1989 PGA Championship), are among the many terrific tracks in and around Chicago.
The best public golf courses in Chicago are no slouches, either. The largest and most popular spot for public tee times in the Chicago area is Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont. Its legendary No. 4 course, Dubsdread—host of the PGA TOUR 19 times—is considered one of golf’s toughest tracks. If your game isn’t up to snuff, there are three other layouts to choose from onsite. In Glenview, The Glen Club, a Top-100 public course by Tom Fazio, serves as the home course of Northbrook-based KemperSports, one of golf’s premier management companies. Closer to downtown is the 36-hole Harborside International, where former U.S. President Bill Clinton once made an ace. After extensive renovations in 2015, Glenview Park Golf Club (pictured above) offers another great option for as well.
All three of these courses, along with Cantigny Golf, an outstanding 27-hole facility in Wheaton, offer players the option of taking caddies. Junior caddie programs at Harborside, Cantigy and Cog Hill are a direct result of the Evans Scholars Foundation run by Chicago-based Western Golf Association, which has been sending teenage caddies to college on scholarships since 1930.
Beyond the big city, every suburb has its own favorite playground for golfers. West of the city, the Orchard Valley Golf Club in Aurora, the Highlands of Elgin Golf Course and Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville are fine selections. Thunderhawk Golf Club in Beach Park, Stonewall Orchard Golf Club in Grayslake and Pine Meadow Golf Club in Mundelein headline the northern suburbs, while Ravisloe Golf Club in Homewood anchors the south side.
With two major international airports, Midway (MDW) and O’Hare (ORD), getting to Chicago is not a problem. Fighting off traffic to get around and find the best Chicago golf courses is another story. Once you get a taste of this vibrant city, though, golfing Chicagoland one fairway at a time will feel more than worthwhile.