Nowadays you can use golf as an excuse to get away from family game nights, family meetings, or family golf getaways. Escape excruciating moments with today's Groupon: for $96, you get a round of golf with golf cart rental at six Chicago Park District Golf courses (a $191 value). The courses include Robert A. Black, Sydney R. Marovitz, Columbus Park, Jackson Park, Marquette Park, and South Shore.
Using James Pugliese's 20-year-tested six-step program, The Better Golf Academy deploys mobile putting pedagogues to educate aspiring child and adult golfers in the basics of club swinging at the driving range of their choice. During private, 30-minute golf lessons, instructors dismantle students' swings into separate parts—including grip, setup, backswing, downswing, and impact—before reconstructing them into fluid ball-smacking strokes. In addition to teaching basic rules and etiquette, lessons focus on the putting, pitching, and chipping required of successful short games, which are played by people with shorter necks. The Better Golf Academy supplies all necessary equipment, including range balls and clubs, so that students don't needlessly sprain a set of salad tongs.
Play Golf and Tennis's instructors help students hone forehands and chips throughout the year. Aspirant tennis players and golfers improve their game at the Diversey Driving Range and the Hamlin Park tennis courts in the summer, and on Mars in the event of a planetary evacuation. Players learn either sport under the direction of renowned golf and tennis professional Ron Carroll, or work on executing perfect turns in a nonfunctioning golf cart with instructor-supplied engine noises.
Staffed by experienced golfing professionals and computers who’ve sworn allegiance to the three laws of golfing robotics, GolfTEC’s motion sensors and high-speed cameras monitor swings and break down each individual’s form on a high-definition video display. Sensors chirp with approval whenever they detect the perfect stroke or an especially witty golfing joke. GolfTEC’s certified personal coaches will point out flaws and strengths while providing golfers with tips on how to permanently improve their game from tee to green.
Several years ago, during a filming of WTTW's Wild Chicago, Novelty Golf & Games owner Craig's brother stood next to a 10-foot fiberglass chicken and lamented, “This is the world’s loneliest chicken.” Its match had recently been stolen, and every fiberglass fox in the city had a solid alibi.
Shortly after the taping, a viewer called in with a tip: he’d seen the missing hen roosting in a backyard, clearly visible from the window of the Brown Line train. Boarding the "L" himself, Craig confirmed the spotting, and soon enough, the Loneliest Chicken's counterpart was on its way back home in the bed of a pickup truck.
Thus reunited, the two chickens stand proudly today over the 36 mini-golf holes at Novelty Golf & Games, along with the full menagerie of bears, elephants, mermaids, circus seals, and dinosaurs that the course has accumulated over the years. Some of the attractions are as old as the course itself, including a 15-foot fiberglass shoe hand-built over a chicken-wire frame. While the statues are often replicated, Craig and his staff continue to design new obstacles the only way they know how, often sharing margaritas as they sketch their designs on cocktail napkins. “We change things,” they say, “but not for the sake of change.”
The course—celebrating its 65th anniversary—has always been a place of innovation. In the 1960s, Craig's mother opened an onsite restaurant and promoted the rabbit statue on the 14th hole to head doorman, earning the eatery its perennial nickname, “Bunny Hutch.” Throughout the years, the family has also acquired popular games, including four pinball machines, Dance Dance Revolution, an authentic photo booth, and a 1950s metal-stamping machine. Though they welcome each new addition, they strive to maintain the course’s classic appeal, insisting that “you can’t improve on perfection.”
On the same token, you can't just sit idly by when perfection flies the coop.