Hilldale Golf Club is among the many golf courses around the world designed by Robert Trent Jones, Sr., one of the most famous and prolific course designers to ever wield a drafting pencil. But while Hilldale is one of hundreds bearing the Jones imprint, it's one of very few in the state of Illinois. Finished in 1970, the 18-hole par 71 layout sprawls across country that once belonged to famous retailer Marshall Field, whose ghost still roams the erstwhile hunting grounds and mischievously kicks balls into the rough. The layout slinks around water hazards that come into play on 13 holes, making shot shaping and club selection the primary concerns for golfers hoping to post a personal-best score.
Staffed by experienced golfing professionals and computers who’ve sworn allegiance to the three laws of golfing robotics, GolfTEC’s motion sensors and high-speed cameras monitor swings and break down each individual’s form on a high-definition video display. Sensors chirp with approval whenever they detect the perfect stroke or an especially witty golfing joke. GolfTEC’s certified personal coaches will point out flaws and strengths while providing golfers with tips on how to permanently improve their game from tee to green.
Golfsmith's online and in-store showrooms house an almost endless list of golf gear for men, women, and children alike. Clubs, balls, and accessories from brands such as TaylorMade, MacGregor, and Callaway give players precise control over their game, and polos and long-sleeved shirts from Nike and Snake Eyes garb players in course-appropriate attire now that tuxedo T-shirts no longer qualify. Along with the extensive collection of equipment and golf bags, Golfsmith also carries GPS systems to give players a high-tech edge.
Slice-prone swings and inconsistent putting strokes meet their demise at Green Valley Golf Range, where guests crush golf balls at an 80-station driving range and sends putts through a tricky mini-golf course. The range boasts towering lights and 20 covered, heated hitting stalls to furnish practice at night, during inclement weather, and through the eternal ice age of the future. The practice facility?which also encompasses a putting green, chipping area, and sand trap?replaces its golf balls every year, ensuring quality equipment for players' enjoyment. The practice facility also houses a virtual golf entertainment experience that allows golfers to play I-tee golf games in which they can compete on courses around the world.
A lighthouse, a pint-sized car, and other old-fashioned obstacles await players at the mini-golf course, a circuit best conquered with laser-like focus attained with the help of Green Valley's complimentary coffee. Clubbers can replenish energy stores zapped after a long day of practice or bench-pressing their driver with a soft-serve ice-cream cone, a slice of Rosati's pizza, or a hot dog, all of which are sold in the Green Valley Ice Cream Shoppe. Adult libations including beer and wine are also available while big-screen TVs broadcast the latest sporting events.
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. 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 caf? and lounge claims the remainder of the space, brimming with the aromas of healthy food and sound of convivial chatter.
Although there are 26 other greens, one parcel of bentgrass stands out at Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort’s golf complex. It is a true island green that is approachable only by bridge or conveniently placed hovercraft. This is one of many spectacular course details that populate Blackhawk Trace Golf Club’s three 9-hole courses, each of which comes in at more than 3,400 yards and challenges golfers to a par 36. Renowned golf-course architect Rick Jacobson extensively renovated the links in 2002, and rather than cover blades of grass in mascara and call it a makeover, he decided to transform the 1960s-era bunkers into dramatically sloping sand traps and install four tee options at nearly every hole. Jacobson also switched the greens, tees, and fairways to bentgrass and incorporated fescue grasses to add texture and flavor for grazing golf carts.
Before conquering the courses, players can stretch out swings at the club’s extensive practice facilities, which include 46 all-grass hitting stations, two large putting greens, and practice bunkers. Golfers looking for guidance or a professional friend can employ the talents of onsite PGA instructors for lessons. After a long day of strutting after putts, players can head to the Masters Clubhouse to refuel with sandwiches and flatbreads.
Course at a Glance:
Highland/Woodland course: course rating of 73.4, slope rating of 137 Island/Highland course: course rating of 72.5, slope rating of 131 Island/Woodland course: course rating of 72.5, slope rating of 133