Although there are 26 other greens, one parcel of bentgrass stands out at Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort’s golf complex. It is a true island green that is approachable only by bridge or conveniently placed hovercraft. This is one of many spectacular course details that populate Blackhawk Trace Golf Club’s three 9-hole courses, each of which comes in at more than 3,400 yards and challenges golfers to a par 36. Renowned golf-course architect Rick Jacobson extensively renovated the links in 2002, and rather than cover blades of grass in mascara and call it a makeover, he decided to transform the 1960s-era bunkers into dramatically sloping sand traps and install four tee options at nearly every hole. Jacobson also switched the greens, tees, and fairways to bentgrass and incorporated fescue grasses to add texture and flavor for grazing golf carts.
Before conquering the courses, players can stretch out swings at the club’s extensive practice facilities, which include 46 all-grass hitting stations, two large putting greens, and practice bunkers. Golfers looking for guidance or a professional friend can employ the talents of onsite PGA instructors for lessons. After a long day of strutting after putts, players can head to the Masters Clubhouse to refuel with sandwiches and flatbreads.
Course at a Glance:
Slice-prone swings and inconsistent putting strokes meet their demise at Green Valley Golf Range, where guests crush golf balls at an 80-station driving range and sends putts through a tricky mini-golf course. The range boasts towering lights and 20 covered, heated hitting stalls to furnish practice at night, during inclement weather, and through the eternal ice age of the future. The practice facility—which also encompasses a putting green, chipping area, and sand trap—replaces its golf balls every year, ensuring quality equipment for players' enjoyment. The practice facility also houses a virtual golf entertainment experience that allows golfers to play I-tee golf games in which they can compete on courses around the world.
A lighthouse, a pint-sized car, and other old-fashioned obstacles await players at the mini-golf course, a circuit best conquered with laser-like focus attained with the help of Green Valley's complimentary coffee. Clubbers can replenish energy stores zapped after a long day of practice or bench-pressing their driver with a soft-serve ice-cream cone, a slice of Rosati's pizza, or a hot dog, all of which are sold in the Green Valley Ice Cream Shoppe.
In the winter, it looks as though an alien spacecraft has touched down at Links & Tees Golf Facility. Within this futuristic structure—actually an inflatable golf dome whose three layers trap heat—PGA professionals teach lessons and golfers practice their snow-clearing swings. This impressive indoor facility—along with an outdoor driving range that boasts more than 50 hitting stations, a 10,000-square foot putting green, and a 5,000-square foot chipping green—has repeatedly landed Links & Tees among Golf Range Magazine's Top 100 Golf Practice Facilities.
After warming up at the range, golfers can take to the tees and bentgrass fairways of a nine-hole executive course, where three ponds snatch up balls and a smattering of sand bunkers tempt hungry golfers to stop and dig for clams. They can also head for Putter’s Peak, an 18-hole miniature-golf course where tiki statues line fairways, the rumble of a Lilliputian waterfall fills the air, and putters must venture into the dark depths of a cave. After either a miniature or executive round of golf, visitors can pull off the plate armor that protects against mis-aimed balls, put down their clubs, and pick up a hot dog or pizza at the 4,000-square-foot clubhouse.
Course at a Glance:
Mature timbers and ponds surround the emerald corridors of Salt Creek Golf Club's executive course as the layout weaves across 3,985 yards of well-maintained terrain. Throughout the par 63 layout, nine par 3s nurture players' relationships with their mid- and short-irons, and nine par 4s—including a 381-yarder that measures as the course's longest hole—ensure that drivers and 3-woods don't file negligence suits. The course presents memorable shots in its scaled-down layout, such as the harrowing approach into an island green that awaits at the Blue Course's eighth hole. After the round, duffers can retire to the Grill Room, where waiters serve savory sandwiches, burgers, and salads and pour sudsy libations. Guests can recap their rounds in the Grill Room's indoor diner with seven TVs, enjoy breezes on the open-air patio, or attempt to turn their golf bags into makeshift sleeping bags.
Since 1976, Riedy's Tee Time Golf Range's PGA professional instructors have helped people shave strokes from their games on an outdoor driving range. Ultramodern mats anchor golfers as they grace Riedy’s well-manicured grass tees with golf balls plucked from a bucket or the throat pouch of a pelican. Always onsite, Reidy’s instructors can aid players in achieving the ideal arch for their swing or understanding the basics of swing mechanics during personalized lessons.
Breezes drift east off the Fox River and through the tree lines of Pottawatomie Golf Course, a spectacular layout recognized by Golf World as the No. 15 nine-hole course in America in 2010. The course traces its roots back to 1939, when legendary course architect Robert Trent Jones Sr. capitalized on the area's natural splendor to design a course that originally charged golfers a quarter to play and was best conquered by clubs made from stale baguettes.
Recently, the par 35 course has been the subject of a vigorous renovation, including efforts to reshape greens and preserve native habitats for the deer, foxes, and egrets that populate the grounds. These conservation efforts were rewarded in 1997, when Pottawatomie Golf Course became the first nine-hole course recognized as a fully certified sanctuary by Audubon International.
The course's picturesque conditions are on full display at the par-four third hole, where a curving fairway vanishes into the river and golfers must launch approach shots onto a water-surrounded green. After a day of fore-hollering fun, golfers can peruse the pro shop for the latest gear and clubs to replace irons that ran away to chase dreams of one day growing into a cell-phone tower.
Course at a Glance:
McCollum Park Miniature Golf & Concession blends natural beauty with a manmade play-land. Packing this range of scenery into a small area, the 18-hole course winds through whimsically designed greens landscaped with rocks and logs, as well as a waterfall, a waterwheel, and an old mining cart affixed to a track. Visitors can also use basketballs and volleyballs on the court or for proportionally skewed games of golf.