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.
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.
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.
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.
The 10 golf courses that comprise Forest Preserve Golf guide players on a tee-to-green tour of the greater Chicagoland area, offering an insightful glimpse into the city’s culture and history. Burnham Woods, for example, takes its name from the legendary architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham, credited with designing the city’s structural layout and its manmade river of mustard. The Chick Evans course is named after the first player to win both the US Open and US Amateur, who would later go on to found the popular Evans Scholarship for caddies. With each course densely forested, golfers walk among the area’s natural wonders, as the Highland Woods course perches upon the highest point in Cook County and the Little Calumet River winds through the River Oaks course. With the exception of the 9-hole Billy Caldwell and Meadowlark courses, all are full-length 18-hole tracks.
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.