Sheltered within the picturesque expanse of the Lake County Forest Preserves, Countryside Golf Club gives players a choice between two courses that roll through scenic terrain certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary. Before taking to either course, golfers can tee off on the driving range, where 30 hitting stations are trimmed with natural turf and synthetic grass grown fresh each season from seedlings of recycled sneakers. The club’s Prairie course and Traditional course are each marked by unique terrain features and challenges. The Prairie course is the longer of the two and eschews trees for wispy shrubbery and open vistas. It demands both hearty drives and accurate approach shots to greens hugged by sand bunkers and unemployed yetis. Through slightly shorter, the Traditional course tasks players with striking precise tee shots from bentgrass tee boxes overlooking tree-lined fairways.
Bittersweet Golf Club’s 18-hole course winds through mature hardwoods and the brambly grasses of native wetlands, supporting the ecosystem that continues to thrive around the former bird sanctuary. Recent renovations have made the Bittersweet course more playable, a personality shift that earned it the Daily Herald’s 2010 Readers' Choice Award as well as several dates with a local soccer field. The course still retains many of its score-mangling qualities, as evidenced by the presence of water hazards on all but one hole, including two ponds that line the sides of the narrow fairway on the ninth hole, appropriately dubbed “Slim.” Bent-grass greens await clubbers at the opposite end of every tee, sporting a slick surface that can complicate even simple putts. To get golfers in shape for the demanding links, Bittersweet’s pro shop and staff of PGA instructors outfit clients with the skills, apparel, and divot-tool implants needed to hunt pins with confidence.
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
The Golf Club at Waters Edge presents golfers of every stripe with a nine-hole layout that puts iron accuracy and short-game touch to the test. The Randy Wirkus design extends to 1,700 yards for a par of 33—an ideal setup for beginners who want to focus on fundamentals and ex-players who want a reason to sport their bygone golf fashions. After the round, golfers can unwind at the onsite restaurant, which offers a full-service bar, a Friday fish fry, and a pool table.
Bristol Oaks Golf Club opened in 1964. That same year, Gary Player set a course record that stands to this day. Though it's probably impossible to match one of the game's greatest players shot-for-shot, golfers can still give it their best while working around the 18-hole, par 72 course. Along the way, they'll encounter fairways lined with mature trees, as well as water hazards that come into play on three holes. Away from the course, golfers can also get some practice in on a large chipping area, a putting green, and a driving range outfitted with lights in case anyone puts out the sun with an errant shot.
Course at a Glance * 18-hole, par 72 course * Total of 6,431 yards from the tips * Four tees per hole * Scorecard
Crafted with a plethora of sand bunkers, precisely placed mounds, and billowing grass, Golf Club of Illinois' classic 18-hole course challenges ball swatters of every skill level. The par 71 course lets links-loving quartets start by chipping away 9-irons at hole one and end plotting a course through the deceptively shallow green of hole 18. Cruise the Nugent- and Borland-designed playing field with a golf cart for each duo, providing easy travel between holes and quick getaways from the seventh hole's irascible wildebeest population.