Bristol Oaks Golf Club opened in 1964. That same year, Gary Player set a course record that stands to this day. Though it's probably impossible to match one of the game's greatest players shot-for-shot, golfers can still give it their best while working around the 18-hole, par 72 course. Along the way, they'll encounter fairways lined with mature trees, as well as water hazards that come into play on three holes. Away from the course, golfers can also get some practice in on a large chipping area, a putting green, and a driving range outfitted with lights in case anyone puts out the sun with an errant shot.
Course at a Glance * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total of 6,431 yards from the tips * Four tees per hole * Scorecard
Bittersweet Golf Club’s 18-hole course winds through mature hardwoods and the brambly grasses of native wetlands, supporting the ecosystem that continues to thrive around the former bird sanctuary. Recent renovations have made the Bittersweet course more playable, a personality shift that earned it the Daily Herald’s 2010 Readers' Choice Award as well as several dates with a local soccer field. The course still retains many of its score-mangling qualities, as evidenced by the presence of water hazards on all but one hole, including two ponds that line the sides of the narrow fairway on the ninth hole, appropriately dubbed “Slim.” Bent-grass greens await clubbers at the opposite end of every tee, sporting a slick surface that can complicate even simple putts. To get golfers in shape for the demanding links, Bittersweet’s pro shop and staff of PGA instructors outfit clients with the skills, apparel, and divot-tool implants needed to hunt pins with confidence.
Sheltered within the picturesque expanse of the Lake County Forest Preserves, Countryside Golf Club gives players a choice between two courses that roll through scenic terrain certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Before taking to either course, golfers can tee off on the driving range, where 30 hitting stations are trimmed with natural turf and synthetic grass grown fresh each season from seedlings of recycled sneakers. The club’s Prairie course and Traditional course are each marked by unique terrain features and challenges. The Prairie course is the longer of the two and eschews trees for wispy shrubbery and open vistas. It demands both hearty drives and accurate approach shots to greens hugged by sand bunkers and unemployed yetis. Through slightly shorter, the Traditional course tasks players with striking precise tee shots from bentgrass tee boxes overlooking tree-lined fairways.
Having opened in 1974, Foss Park Golf Club embarks on its fifth decade of challenging golfers to demonstrate long drives and precise approaches on its 18-hole course. The layout arcs across a grassy patch dotted with ponds, a stream, and clusters of trees, all of which aim to keep golfers as far away from the par of 72 as possible. Rather than lifting weights in an effort blast shots directly through tree trunks, golfers can learn to work shots around obstacles with some time on the lighted grass-tee driving range or a lesson with PGA head pro Gabe Monroe.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,839 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 71.9 from the back tees * Course slope of 126 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole
Painted the distinctive international orange of the Golden Gate Bridge, to which it bears more than a passing resemblance, the signature bridge at Browns Lake Golf Course crosses the Fox River in style. Players walk over this sleek structure after they’ve made their play off the tee on the par 3 12th hole. Thankfully, they need not fly the San Francisco Bay or lay up on Alcatraz to reach the green in regulation: a 150-yard strike with enough loft ought to do the trick.
Players have been attempting this feat with varying degrees of success since 1921, when the course opened. Wedged between the river to the west and Browns Lake to the east, it's designed to challenge golfers of all handicaps. A round here represents a 6,449-yard loop from the back tees, filled with enough elevated greens to make players reconsider both their club selections and their reluctance to ask their caddies for a piggy-back ride. Though they may want to steer their golf balls clear of it, visitors can admire a bunker in the shape of comic-strip character Andy Gump on the par 3 fourth hole, which was designed to pay homage to local native Sidney Smith, his creator.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,443 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 70.8 from the back tees * Course slope of 124 from the back tees
As the former host to the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying tournament and numerous Illinois PGA events, the course at Plum Tree National Golf Club welcomes amateurs of all stripes to its 200-acre compound with a professional-worthy pedigree. Since the first swing in 1968, groups have been taking special care to avoid the course’s 105 sand traps, each strategically placed during architect Joe Lee’s attempts at building an ocean. While crossing the picturesque passage, players witness more than 4,000 trees of assorted species rooted firmly in the rolling hills of rural McHenry County. Before each round, golfers can hone their swings at the practice area’s all-grass hitting stations to prepare for difficult shots, such as the tee-to-green first shot on the 173-yard par 3 fourth hole and the long, narrow fairway leading to a contoured green on the par 5 12th hole. Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,695 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 72.6 from the back tees * Course slope of 133 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole