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
More than a century after it blossomed into a circus headquarters and hosted dozens of acts, including P.T. Barnum's legendary Greatest Show on Earth, the town of Delavan proudly exhibits its distinctive past. Big-top tributes can be seen at Tower Park, where statues of circus animals such as a giraffe and an elephant savor their amnesty from mini-golf courses. Delavan's early days live on through Greek Revival architecture that dates back to the mid-1800s, including the Allyn Mansion and the Israel Stowell Temperance House, originally an alcohol-free safe haven that eventually served as a government meeting center.Delavan's quaint downtown district, lined with old-fashioned lampposts and brick-paved walkways, boasts an assortment of antique stores and small cafés. Throughout the rest of the town, well-manicured parks and 13 miles of forested shoreline along Delavan Lake create a scenic backdrop for horseback rides, hiking, water recreation, and composing haikus on the ground with leaves.
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
Golf shots soar high over the grounds of Raymond Heights Family Golf Center, looking down upon a beginner-friendly complex that encompasses a nine-hole, par-3 course, a driving range, and a miniature golf course. With five holes measuring in at 100 yards or shorter, the lilliputian links help beginners find their swings and give aces a chance to flaunt their short-game prowess without having to aim chip shots at next-door neighbors' mailboxes.
Open as early as 8 a.m., the 30-stall driving range—equipped with both artificial and natural-grass hitting areas—enables late-night practice sessions with lights that activate after sundown. Glowing balls trace the night sky or roll across turf runways during moonlight play, which Raymond Heights hosts at both the par-3 course and its 18-hole mini golf course, made possible by shimmering flagsticks and caddies that locate hazards using echolocation. After a day on the links, vintage vinyl barstools offer a respite for spiky-soled shoes at the Center's full-service restaurant and bar.
Framed by dense wooded tracts and thickets of knee-high grass, Deer Haven’s 18-hole executive course spans 3,473 yards on a par 60 track comprised entirely of par-3s and par-4s. Though the course favors precision off of the tee over power, the 15th hole—the longest on the course at 363 yards—invites players to unsheathe their driver or conveniently holstered war hammer to drive the ball deep into the fairway.
At the driving range, golfers can prepare swings for wrapping high fades or power draws around the course’s multiple curving fairways and occasional water hazards. Inside the rustic, wood-paneled exterior of Deer Haven’s clubhouse, golfers can raise a glass from the full-service bar to toast the retirement of their 3-wood’s loyal head cover, which will be replaced by the sweaty embrace of a fresh-off-the-foot tube sock.
Course at a Glance:
18-hole, par 60 course
Length of 3,473 yards from the farthest tees
Two tee options
The Preserve at Deer Creek invites golfers to swing through nine bucolic fairways from a choice of three tees. The course?s creeks sneak across no fewer than seven of the nine fairways, demanding precision from each swing. Before whipping out their scorecards and pencils, players can practice aim without numerical reprimand at the practice putting green or practice-chipping area. After games, they can stroll over to the clubhouse and tell lovelorn tales of the golf ball that got away in between sips of beer.
Course at a Glance: * Nine-hole, par-36 course * Length of 3,210 yards * Slope rating of 128 * Three tee options * See the scorecard