If the sun is shining, then the Hickory Hills Golf Club's greens are open. The club welcomes players 365 days a year to drive through the more than 7,400 total yards of fairways that make up their 18-hole championship and 9-hole executive courses. Golfers drive carts along a chain of manicured links that date back to 1915, the year the seedlings from Woodrow Wilson's "Plant-a-Golf Course" program began sprouting flagpoles.
Courses at a Glance
Championship Course * 18-hole, par 71 course * Total length of 5,928 yards * Course rating of 67.9 from the back tees * Course slope of 116 from the back tees
Executive Course * 9-hole, par 30 course * Total length of 1,560 yards from the back tees
The 26-acre facility just 20 minutes from downtown encompasses a sprawling driving range with 60 total hitting stations including 30 mats, 17 covered and heated hitting bays, a 3,500 square foot putting green, two short game areas, and seven target greens. Adjacent to the range, golfers can hone their game around the green at the short game range, which will soon include a bunker to build sandcastle memorials to all of the golf balls lost in battle to course hazards. The entire complex is open year-round and lighted for after-hours practice.
Though golfers can find ample opportunities to improve their skills at the facility through solo practice, the Chicago Players Club can make practice sessions even more effective with advice from a staff of veteran PGA Teaching Professionals. The staff includes decorated PGA pros Mike Mandakas, the owner who has been a golf professional at the elite Olympia Fields, Desert Mountain, and Medinah Country Clubs, Mike Harrigan, who played in eight Western Open PGA Tournaments and was the Illinois PGA Pro and Teacher of the Year in 1995, Jim "Doc" Suttie, the number one ranked teaching professional in Illinois, and Brian Vaisnoras, who has worked a variety of Professional instructor positions on the east coast. The staff offers lessons for players of all ages and abilities, as well as club-fitting services to ensure golfers and their equipment are emotionally compatible.
At each of several one-day festivals held throughout the country, thousands of revelers unite in an epic clash of pulp, beer, and live music. Armed with a cache of 300,000 tomatoes, participants don protective bathing suits and goggles and hurl the fruit at one another during a two-hour battle. Throughout the afternoon, live music and costume contests offer an entertaining respite from the front lines, as bartenders dispense drafts of beer to attendees older than 21, refueling soldiers' morale before they resign to writing goodbye letters to their produce vendors back home. All tomatoes used during the event are past ripe and already fated for disposal, making the battle an efficient means of tossing them before their cursed transformation into singing Muppets.
Team USA vs. The World may sound like the title of Shaquille O'Neal's autobiography, but it is in fact a mixed martial arts competition that pits 12 of this country's finest mixed martial arts athletes against teams of fighters from Australia, Ireland, and Poland. Stuff your pockets with miniature American flags and gird your thrillcitement nodes for an evening of leg tussles, arm bars, and rear naked chokes. With ground-floor seats, you'll be close enough to see the beads of sweat on the fighters' brows and smell the adrenaline puffs as they condense into clouds shaped like clenched fists in the air above the ring. Fighters scheduled to battle for Team USA include John Hansen (205 lbs.), the 2008 USA National Champion in the LHW Division, Alex White (155 lbs.), who won in the 2009 Ringside World Boxing Championships, and Eric Daigle (155 lbs.), who obtained the lightweight title during the ISCF National Tournament in 2009.
Instructor Chris Spalla imparts hard-won golf wisdom drawn from a four-year teaching career, including spending the last three years coaching apprentice aces at David Leadbetter Golf Academy’s world headquarters. On the artificial turf of Bridgeview Sports Dome’s 90,000-square-foot facility, pupils can hone their golf game with help from Chris’s encyclopedic knowledge of swing mechanics, golf strategy, and grass recipes. A set of three sessions allows club-flailing clientele to focus each lesson on a different skill set—the dome facilitates swings of varying fullness as well as chipping and putting—or revisit past concepts as they continue to be integrated into course management. The indoor facility fosters clubbing sessions year-round, offering a convenient respite from winter’s harrowing blizzards or summer’s unpredictable cheese-curd hailstorms.
Motivating, highly trained staff and spacious facilities complement Charter Fitness's battalion of cardio machines and strength-training equipment. Huge flat-screen TVs motivate gym-goers as they lift weights, stationary bikes, and their reflections in large mirrors. Seasoned personal trainers who all hold certifications or four-year degrees in their specialty guide members through an initial personal-training session, introducing clients to the best equipment for their fitness goals. After workouts, private showers or public water fountains sluice away sweat.