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.
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.
Like a massive white bubble hovering over the earth, the domed roof of the Highland Park Field House covers 52,000 square feet of field turf that hosts soccer games, lacrosse drills, and golf strokes. The facility is a privately funded not-for-profit aimed at serving local high schools and other organizations who can use the space for recreational leagues and practice.
Open soccer pickup games occur five nights a week, and the field transforms into an indoor golf range on weekdays. Whether it’s used for instructional lessons or invisible boomerang throwing practice, the range gives a place for sports enthusiasts to practice year-round regardless of the weather outside.
• For $40, you get 18 holes of golf and cart rental for two Monday–Friday before 3:30 p.m. (up to an $80 value), plus 10% off food and drink at the restaurant and lounge. • For $50, you 18 holes of golf and cart rental for two Saturday–Sunday after 1 p.m. (up to a $96 value), plus 10% off food and drink at the restaurant and lounge.
Some consider golf a slow sport, perhaps even antiquated. But Golf Nation brings the traditional pastime into the modern age with the most contemporary technology and tools, including true-roll indoor putting and chipping greens and virtual golf simulators. The simulator transports golfers to more than 50 legendary courses, including Pebble Beach Golf Links and the Old Course at St. Andrews. Golfers can also read up on the latest golf-training materials, perfect their game at true-roll indoor putting greens and multiple chipping short game areas; an indoor bunker area made of real sand ideal for green and fairway side shots; or they can venture outside for driving-range practice from heated bays.
With 25,000 square feet of space, Golf Nation also houses a fitness club stocked with quality cardio equipment and extra space for group yoga and spin classes. A café and lounge claims the remainder of the space, brimming with the aromas of healthy food and sound of convivial chatter.
Bent-grass fairways and pristine greens connect across 6,484 yards to form Sunset Valley Golf Course’s 18-hole, par-72 course. A stream runs diagonally throughout much of the course, which is made navigable by a series of bridges golfers can cross on foot, astride a peppy golf cart, or on the backs of caddies training to be models for rugby shorts. Golfers must give their clubs a pep talk for occasional high-pressure shots, as water hazards come into play on nine holes and bunkers loom throughout the layout. A staff of PGA professionals presides over the pro shop, ready to schedule lessons to remedy chronic slices and manage the delicate egos of short irons.Course at a Glance: