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.
Golf with friends is the best kind of bonding. There's nothing like being out in the open air, hearing the wind blow through the beautiful old trees lining the fairways, and refusing to grant your compadres a mulligan. The satisfaction of a well-played hole is amplified by the amusement you get from your partner's three-shot spectacle in the woodsy rough. Today's Groupon gets you and a friend 18 holes with cart at River Oaks Golf Course for $40 (up to a $88 value, depending on the day you go). Your Groupon is good for any time Monday through Friday and after noon on weekends.
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.
Golfsmith's online and in-store showrooms house an almost endless list of golf gear for men, women, and children alike. Clubs, balls, and accessories from brands such as TaylorMade, MacGregor, and Callaway give players precise control over their game, and polos and long-sleeved shirts from Nike and Snake Eyes garb players in course-appropriate attire now that tuxedo T-shirts no longer qualify. Along with the extensive collection of equipment and golf bags, Golfsmith also carries GPS systems to give players a high-tech edge.
Glowing monkeys scamper toward a neon waterfall, and a knight bearing a radiant yellow lance rides past a bright orange octopus emerging from the ocean. What appears to be a time-traveling session gone awry is really the evolving environment within Putting Edge’s indoor black-lit mini-golf course, which whisks players to deep seas, Aztec jungles, and medieval times. Since opening its original location in Canada, Putting Edge has now expanded to 17 North American locations, all of which invite guests onto its challenging 18-hole courses to seek victory over opponents and the forces that keep their teeth from not glowing as brightly as they could. Elsewhere, the facility houses private party rooms, concessions, and an arcade filled with gamer favorites such as air hockey.
Kids rev up their imaginations inside Exploritorium, transforming into little inventors, climbers, or stars of the stage. Tykes caper through a slew of different interactive spaces, including a two-and-half story play structure chock full of tunnels and slides. A waterfall provides kids with a space to play with water toys, and includes a space for toddlers to sit and play in. Visual creations illuminate a giant light brite, and an engineering station crinkles new folds into little scientifically-minded brains. Nearby, a dress-up area wardrobes kids for stints as princesses and heros, readying them to act out adventures on the nearby stage.
More formal performances occur the third Tuesday of every month. On those days, a storyteller takes over the stage and spins exciting, family-friendly tales. Holidays usher in even more events, such as a Halloween party and an Itty Bitty New Year for families.