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.
Formerly known as the Frank Govern Memorial Golf Course, Canal Shores awakens the competitive spirit of golfers of all abilities with an 18-hole, par 60 executive layout. With a total distance of 4,000 yards, the fairway chain invites players to attack each hole from the tee box, as the bulk of the course's difficulty awaits in the form of challenging greens and scorecards that hypnotize anyone who attempts to read them. Trees also loom on the edges of most holes as the layout winds along the edge of the North Shore Channel. Requiring a considerably shorter playing time than its full-length counterparts, Canal Shores' abridged links cater to workers squeezing in a quick, after-hours round or 9-irons trying to get in 18 before their date with a dashing pool cue.
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.
The minds behind Chicago Sailboat Charters share their passion for the sailing experience by making waterborne adventuring accessible to the general public with group sailing charters. Fostering the atmosphere of a private charter, the captains ferry passengers out onto Lake Michigan for stunning views of Chicago's skyline. The crew encourages its guests to make the most of the trip by providing a bathroom, bottled water, ice for drinks, and plenty of cooler and storage space, while encouraging guests to bring their own, snacks, drinks, and an inflatable blanket for a picnic out on the lake.
Golf in Motion's fairway guru shares gameplay strategy and evaluates swing mechanics from the well-stocked confines of Chicago Style Golf. There, a team of avid golfers invites players of all stripes into its pro shop to check out the industry's newest equipment or have a broken club repaired. The shop buys old equipment from customers ready to upgrade their driver or trade in their putter after that black cat crossed their putting line. If patrons cannot find the specific club or specs they need, the staff can custom fit and order what they are looking for. Customers also can search for the right putter on the shop's synthetic putting green and test out clubs in one of their three hitting bays, complete with a launch monitor that assists with in-house swing lessons.
Class A PGA member Gabe Rios understands that the more someone wants to succeed at golf, the harder it is to concentrate on making incremental but essential improvements. By fostering a relaxed atmosphere within his indoor golf studio, he helps his students work out their goals while keeping the game stress-free and fun. Players take their cuts inside a hitting bay fitted with a Foresight launch monitor, V1 Golf video analysis technology, and two televisions. This tech arsenal allows them to watch replays of their swing mechanics in real time and receive feedback on ball flight statistics. Meanwhile, Gabe—himself an avid golfer since the age of six with a degree in professional golf management—looks on from his director’s chair, doling out constructive criticism and inventing playing scenarios, such as a plugged ball or a putter face covered in honey.