Updated on April 21st, 2023 at 08:47 am
Chicago has a rich golf history. It’s credited for a significant portion of the expansion and growth of the sport. For over 130 years, numerous public and private courses have been built. Unfortunately, getting to some of these courses can be hectic given traffic snarl-ups, plus some are men-only (a status that has stirred a lot of controversies).
But it’s not all bad. Here are some popular public golf courses anyone can enjoy in Chicago.
Top 10 public golf courses in Chicago
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club is located in the southwest suburb of Lemont, about 30 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. While it is not within the city limits of Chicago, it is still considered part of the Chicagoland area and is easily accessible from the city.
Cog Hill Golf & Country Club is a public golf course offering four championship courses, each with unique challenges and rewards. Of the four courses, many golfers love the No. 4 course dubbed ‘Dubsdread’. Renowned golf course architect Joe Lee and Dick Wilson designed and built the courses in 1964.
Later renovations were done by Rees Jones and Greg Muirhead in 2008. Over the years, the courses have hosted several high-profile tournaments, including the BMW Championship (2007), which is part of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs.
In addition to its exceptional golfing facilities, Cog Hill Golf & Country Club offers a range of amenities, including a pro shop, practice facilities, and a restaurant and bar for locals and visitors to enjoy.
Through Golf Advisor, the leading Golf magazine, Cog Hill Golf & Country Club was named one of Illinois’s top courses in 2017 – 2020. In 2017, they came in 5th for the ‘Top 25 Most Improved U.S Golf Courses’.
The Glen Club
The Glen Club is a semi-private golf course in the Chicagoland area. Between its scenic beauty and amenities, it’s easy to see why it’s considered one of the best.
The Glen Club stretching over 7,100 yards, is a work of art by a renowned golf course architect Tom Fazio. Tom Fazio transformed the former Glenview Naval Air Station into the course you can enjoy today by moving 2.5 million cubic yards of dirt! Although not all elevation changes were possible, you can only imagine how much work and commitment it took to make the course a reality.
One of the highlights for most is par 3, which faces four different directions changing play depending on the direction the wind blows from the lake.
The amenities are a big reason why most golfers love The Glen Club. At the top of that list are GPS displays that give you all the information you need on the green. The carts measure distances from the flag and not just the middle of the green and also show you the location of other carts so you know where other groups are. They also have a snack shack between tee boxes 7 and 15.
Harborside International Golf Center
Harborside International Golf Center is located on the south side of Chicago. This facility offers two 18-hole courses, Port and Starboard, designed by Dick Nugent and CE Golf Design in 1995. Unfortunately, it opens on 4/01 and closes on 10/31.
Harborside International Golf Center is known for its challenging layouts and beautiful scenery. The courses feature rolling fairways, strategically placed bunkers, and water hazards that will test the skills of even the most experienced golfers. In addition, the courses offer views of Lake Michigan and the Chicago skyline, providing a truly memorable golfing experience.
In 2017, Harborside got a $1.7 million renovation, improving its natural beauty. Following this, the courses were re-rated and consistently featured in Golfweek’s Top 50 Best Municipal Courses in the U.S. and Top 15 courses in Illinois.
Aside from its beauty, the course sports a stocked pro shop, conference rooms, locker rooms equipped with showers, and huge dining rooms for banquets. The practice facilities include a putting green, a grass range, and a short gaming area laden with sand bunkers. Beginners can also get private lessons to improve their game.
Mistwood Golf Club
Mistwood Golf Club is a golf course about 44 minutes from the city. It’s located in Romeoville, Illinois, and offers a memorable golfing experience for players of all levels.
The course was first designed and built in 1998 by Ray Hearn. Leading to 2015, Jim McWethy, the owner, wanted to build new entertainment and excitement and hit new levels of excellence. With a multi-million budget, he called in Ray Hearn to realize his vision. And boy, did it pay off.
After the renovation, the course was sweeping awards, including ‘Renovation of the Year’ by Golf Magazine, the ‘Best New Course’ by Golf Digest, and also made it to the ‘Top Public Ranges’ list by Golf Range Magazine.
Finally, the course has four tees from 5332 yards to 7005 yards with slopes between 130 to 144. The course amenities include dining facilities, a practice dome, a school academy, and access to teaching professionals.
Stonewall Orchard Golf Club
Stonewall Orchard Golf Club is a public golf course in Grayslake, Illinois. Arthur Hills is a talented golf course architect and was ranked #2 designer by Golf World Magazine in 1998. Through his talent, he allowed the landscape to shine through the 18-hole Lake County design.
It’s open from April to September and has six tee sets silver, gold, combo, white, white (w), and turquoise (w). Silver is the longest at 7124 yards, and turquoise is the shortest at 5375 yards, with a slope of 150 and 132, respectively.
The most challenging hole is the par-4 14th hole. It’s 419 yards from the back tee and needs accuracy to approach the green properly. Off the tee, golfers must navigate a narrow fairway guarded by trees on either side.
Arrowhead Golf Club
Arrowhead Golf Club is a beautiful 27-hole golf course in Wheaton, an hour from Downtown Chicago. The original course, the Antlers Club, was constructed by Ralph Weimer in the 1920s with horse-drawn plows. Towards the end of the decade, the course was renamed Arrowhead Golf Club because of the numerous artifacts they found on-site during construction.
Fast forward to 1967, the course was reconstructed to a 27-hole course as it is today. In subsequent renovations, the course was expanded, and some tees were reshaped to make the course more playable and enjoyable for amateur and pro golfers.
Note: It’s worth mentioning Arrowhead is walker friendly with small distances from the green to the tee box.
On your first visit, you might be tempted to think it’s a private course – but it’s not. In fact, the west suburban Living Magazine dubbed this course the ‘Best of the West’ in 2017.
Bolingbrook Golf Club
Bolingbrook Golf Club is a course built in 2002 by Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest & Associates. The 18-hole 72-par semi-private golf course spans 7104 yards with an average slope of 139. Semi-private means that a private entity owns the course and allows some public access. This means that while the club is primarily designed for members and their guests, non-members can also play the course by paying a fee or booking a tee time.
As you make your way around the course, you’ll be treated to great views of the countryside. The course has a range of holes, from short and narrow par 3s to long and challenging par 5s. Water hazards and bunkers come into play on several holes, making for a fun and challenging round of golf.
After your round, stop by the clubhouse for a bite and a drink at the bar. The restaurant offers a range of delicious options, from classic sandwiches and salads to more upscale entrees. The staff is friendly and welcoming, making for a great post-round experience.
The practice facilities at Bolingbrook Golf Club are also top-notch. For instance, the driving range is spacious and features grass and mat-hitting areas. There is also a large putting green and a short game practice area with a bunker.
Cantigny Golf Course
Cantigny Golf Course sits on a 500-acre estate in Wheaton belonging to McCormick Foundation, a public charity formed to honor Colonel Robert McCormick. The course is one of the best public courses in the area. There’s also a museum, picnic and camping sites, and 40 acres of a beautiful formal garden in addition to the 27-hole course.
The course has two lakes and three nines named Woodside, hillside, and Lakeside. Together they provide unique 18-hole combinations. For instance, the Lakeside/Woodside course is tight since you have to play through trees. It also has lots of water hazards and accuracy demands. Over the years, it’s been honored to host the Illinois Amateur Championship and other USGA qualifiers.
Thunderhawk Golf Club
ThunderHawk Golf Club is a must-play for any golf enthusiast looking for a challenging and memorable golfing experience in the Chicagoland area. Located in the scenic town of Zion, Illinois, ThunderHawk Golf Club offers a stunning 18-hole championship course designed by renowned golf course architect Robert Trent Jones Jr.
The course features a range of obstacles that will test the skills of golfers of all levels. The greens and fairways are well-maintained, providing golfers an exceptional playing surface.
It’s worth noting Robert Trent Jones Jr. made a deliberate effort to preserve the natural terrain. As such, the course is covered in prairie, marshland, and mature forests. For this, plus amenities and customer service, the course has been ranked as the top municipal golf course in the state and the U.S. severally.
Blackstone Golf Club
Blackstone Golf Club is a hidden gem in the Chicagoland area with the most natural designs because 26 acres are protected as a wetland. Close to half the course is a dense forest of hickory trees and forest oaks; the other half is covered in lush meadows. The wetland has 13 holes, and the rest of the course has irregularly shaped bunkers to add to the challenge.
This 18-hole golf course was designed and built by Bob Lohmann and Todd Quitno in 2006. Although it’s one of the youngest on the list, it has many accolades as some of the oldest courses. From Golf Advisor, it has been among the top courses in Illinois since 2015!
Overall, Blackstone Golf Club is a must-play for anyone looking for a challenging and rewarding round of golf in the Chicagoland area. With its exceptional facilities, stunning scenery, and commitment to providing a top-notch golfing experience, it’s no wonder this course has earned a reputation as one of the best public golf courses in the region.
Golfing in Chicago
Chicago is home to many excellent public golf courses that offer challenging and rewarding golfing experiences for players of all levels. From ThunderHawk Golf Club to Blackstone Golf Club, each course has unique features and amenities worth checking out.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor to the area, be sure to make time to hit the links and enjoy some of the best golfing that the Chicagoland area has to offer.
Please be sure to check out some of AEC Info’s other popular golf destinations that we have recently reviewed: