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.
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
Koshkonong Mounds Country Club traces its history back to 1870, when it opened as a resort for sportsmen to hunt duck and fish around the game-fertile shores of Lake Koshkonong. In 1922, they began constructing an 18-hole golf course, using the undulating shoreline and effigy mounds to sculpt a rolling, scenic course that spans 6,485 yards in its present-day form.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 71/72 course * Length of 6,485 yards from the tips * Greens maintain an average stimp speed of 10 * Fairway height maintains an average height of 3/4-inch * Four tee options * Scorecard
The course at Glen Erin Golf Club harkens back to the earliest days of golf with a links-style layout inspired by traditional courses in Ireland. Though it opened in 2003, the course pays homage to yesteryear with rolling fairways, oversize greens, and deep pot bunkers. Native fescues ensnare wayward shots that venture outside the first cut of rough, forcing players to chop through dense grasses with scythe clubs just to get the ball back onto shorter grass. The back nine is bookended by par 5s on holes 10 and 18, each more than 575 yards in length and unreachable in two strokes for all but the longest hitters or golfers who have wired their golf ball with hummingbird wings.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 71 course * Total length of 6,849 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 72.4 from the back tees * Course slope of 126 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole
Since 1975, golfers have sent tee shots soaring over the flat, open expanse of the Oak Ridge Golf Course. Though oak trees dot the landscape, foliage is relatively sparse around the 18-hole layout, boosting confidence when players reach for their drivers or choose to drive their golf carts blindfolded. Trees are just as scarce at Bonny Meade Links?a nine-hole, Scottish style links course located just across the street from Oak Ridge.
Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 70 course * Total length of 5,949 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 68.3 from the back tees * Course slope of 112 from the back tees * Two sets of tees per hole
As the former host to the U.S. Open Sectional Qualifying tournament and numerous Illinois PGA events, the course at Plum Tree National Golf Club welcomes amateurs of all stripes to its 200-acre compound with a professional-worthy pedigree. Since the first swing in 1968, groups have been taking special care to avoid the course’s 105 sand traps, each strategically placed during architect Joe Lee’s attempts at building an ocean. While crossing the picturesque passage, players witness more than 4,000 trees of assorted species rooted firmly in the rolling hills of rural McHenry County. Before each round, golfers can hone their swings at the practice area’s all-grass hitting stations to prepare for difficult shots, such as the tee-to-green first shot on the 173-yard par 3 fourth hole and the long, narrow fairway leading to a contoured green on the par 5 12th hole. Course at a Glance: * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total length of 6,695 yards from the back tees * Course rating of 72.6 from the back tees * Course slope of 133 from the back tees * Four sets of tees per hole