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:
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:
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:
Designed by famed golf-course architect Joseph L. Lee, Plum Tree National Golf Club delights par pursuers with a picturesque, 18-hole course intertwined with more than 200 acres of unspoiled McHenry County forestland. Host to numerous Illinois PGA events and national qualifying events, the verdant fairways challenge club swingers with 105 sand traps, demanding water obstacles, and distractingly seductive grass. More than 4,000 trees stand perched along the rolling terrain, and players can rely on well-kept fairways and greens thanks to a recently completed maintenance-and-drainage program that required no less than 17 hedge trimmers and one very large wet/dry vacuum cleaner.