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
Blackhawk Trace Golf Club's 27-hole layout can accommodate players of almost any handicap—nearly every hole has four separate tee boxes. But it's also challenged some of the world's best golfers as the host course of three NGA Hooters Tours events and qualifiers for the LaSalle Bank Open, a Nationwide Tour Event. Anyone who plays the course from the tips will get a taste of true Tour golf without having to lick the fairways at Augusta National.
The complex is divided into three nines called the Island, Woodland, and Highland Courses. At the second tee box of the Island Golf Course, golfers will stare down a 611-yard par-five that ends in an elevated green. It makes the mammoth hole even longer than its billing in the scorecard. But the layout doesn't just test a golfer's ability to grip-and-rip: the course's signature attraction might be its 155-yard par three with a true island green, which will challenge golfers' confidence with the shorter sticks. As a part of the Club's massive renovation 10 years ago, all tees, greens, and fairways are comprised of slick bent-grass. Dashes of fescue grass provide an eye-catching texture to the terrain but become less appealing when they get entangled with your irons.
Before taking to the course, feel free to warm up at the Club's practice facility, anchored by a 46-station driving range with four multi-tiered target greens. The facility also encompasses two large putting greens and sandtraps for practicing both greenside and fairway sand shots.
Golfer’s Paradise’s friendly golfing confines foster year-round golfing within the indoor hitting stalls of their AboutGolf simulators. Using real clubs, players pulverize orbs into an immense screen that utilizes 3-D graphics to vividly emulate the immaculate greenery, calculated topography, and yellow-brick cart paths of some of the world’s most famous courses. Golfers can trace powerful drives into the windswept, simulated stratosphere of St. Andrews Old Course or evade the treacherous water hazards at Michigan’s Robert Trent Jones–designed course, The Heather. Along with technology that ensures each shot travels in a realistic manner, the simulators boast advanced swing-tracking sensors that collect data and even offer advice to correct unsound swings.
A staff of PGA-certified instructors oversees Golfer's Paradise's two executive-style lounges, offering expert advice to help transform swing imbalances into trustworthy motions. Pupils benefit from the instructors' hard-won wisdom combined with the computer-generated feedback of the simulators, which reveals detailed results of the position of one's clubface at impact and the effects of sweaty-palm syndrome.
PGA Class A instructor Mike Erwin has a resumé that sparkles with such gems as time spent working with PGA professionals, as well as a quarter century spent teaching the fundamentals of golf. During each of his lessons, Erwin focuses on the three core components of the swing: grip, posture, and impact position, drilling students in basic skills to build consistent, top-notch performance on the course. Lessons infuse old-school fundamentals with sophisticated technology, recording sessions with 3-D K-Vest apparatuses or digital V1 swing analysis that allows pupils to monitor their posture and correct common mistakes such as improper positions that cause loss of power instead of hitting it with the club. In addition to mentoring players one-on-one, Erwin fosters early development of fair play and concentration with junior golf classes and hones driving distances with winter golf skill seminars.
At his two gyms in Bloomingdale and Rockford, Elite Defense Systems' chief instructor Matt Numrich leads practical, defense-oriented classes focused on jeet kune do, the hybrid martial art and philosophical system developed in 1965 by Bruce Lee. Jeet kune do focuses on efficiency and personal development, guiding students through a mixture of more than two dozen arts.
Though Elite Defense Systems offers one-on-one training, group lessons for men, women, and children are recommended for their sense of community, their varied sparring partners, and their chances for students to combine into a five-piece battle robot. Including Matt, the gyms have a staff of only three instructors and three assistants, allowing for a closer student-teacher relationship.
At Comprido Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Academy, larger opponents aren't automatically awarded the upper hand. That's because Brazilian jujitsu (BJJ) levels the playing field by taking physical altercations to the ground. Taught by multiple-time world champion Rodrigo "Comprido" Medeiros, BJJ's grappling techniques work to disable attackers regardless of their size. Children's BJJ classes prepare kids to physically defend themselves from bullies, and promote peaceful resolution first and foremost.