Illinois is your typical midwest golfing state. It has between 400-500 golf courses, with the very best of the crop sprinkled throughout the national rankings. It has long, challenging courses with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan and sports perhaps the oldest 18 hole course in the country.
If you’re looking for the top courses in Illinois, here are five tracks you need to play.
Best Private Course: Chicago Golf Club (DuPage County)
Located in Wheaton, Illinois, about 20 miles west of downtown Chicago, the Chicago Golf Club is quite possible the oldest 18 hole golf course in the country. It was built in it scurrent location in 1894, has since be updated, and is now one of the most highly rated courses in the country and the top golf course in Illinois.
The course has its share of tricky shots and boasts some of the finest fairways you could ever hope to play. And the greens are lightning quick. It doesn’t play all that long at just over 6700 yards from the championship tees, but to be fair it is a par 70.
Though it is every golfer’s dream to play the Chicago Golf Club, it is a very rare opportunity indeed. The Club is the most exclusive golf venue in Chicago and one of the most exclusive anywhere in America. If you do get to play it, enjoy every moment.
Best Public Course: Thunderhawk Golf Club (Beach Park)
A course you have a much better chance of actually being able to play also happens to be the best public golf course in Illinois, Thunderhawk Golf Club. Thunderhawk is a relatively new course, designed by Robert Trent Jones III and opened in 1999, and is easily one of the most beautiful courses in the midwest. It has received nothing but stellar reviews since it opened and is routinely ranked nationally.
What makes the course so compelling is that it’s the perfect blend of long, sprawling fairways yet narrow approaches that require precision. Missing to the right or left is costly at Thunderhawk and will leave you searching in the woods or battling tall grass. It has the perfect balance of well placed water hazards and uniquely shaped bunkers. The course has a decent length at just north of 7000 yards from the tips and is a par 72.
Thunderhawk is a course you will want to play again and again. The good news is that, because the course is so affordable, you will be able to. Compared to most courses of this quality, Thunderhawk is a steal. During the week, 18 holes walking will only cost you $59.
Most Scenic Course: TPC Deer Run (Silvis)
Another course open to the public happens to be one of the most beautiful in the entire state of Illinois. TPC Deer Run was designed by Illinois native D. A. Weibring and has hosted an impressive list of PGA Tour tournaments and LPGA tournaments and is the permanent home of the John Deere Classic.
TPC Deer Run has a majestic layout that gives it an old time feel and boasts some of the best holes in the state. The course is covered with hardwood trees that make finding the fairway crucial in order to have a decent round. And with valleys, ravines, and elevation changes on nearly every hole, TPC Deer Run offers many spectacular views and a unique experience on every hole. The course measures just over 7000 yards and is a par 71.
TPC Deer Run also has the added benefit of being open to the public with a very reasonable rate for 18 holes of golf. During peak season the daytime rate is $69 for 18 walking. But if you’re willing to play after 4 pm, you can play the course for under $50. That kind of a deal for 18 holes of championship golf is one of the best in all of the midwest.
Most Challenging Course: Cog Hill (Lemont)
Cog Hill in Lemont, IL is one of the top 100 public courses in America—and one of the most challenging. Cog Hill is actually home to four separate 18 hole tracks and the fourth course, Dubsdread, is a monster. The name Dubsdread itself is meant to inspire a healthy fear in all those who choose to take on the daunting task of playing this championship level course.
The layout of Dubsdreaad requires expert shot making skills and narrow approaches to heavily guarded, contoured greens that make every shot count. There is plenty of water to worry about and long, alien shaped sand traps are like magnets for errant tee shots. If you don’t bring your best game and focus to Dubsdread, you will be in for a long day.
The course is also long. Really long. It plays 7554 yards deep from the blacks and is a par 72. It has a course rating of 78 and slope rating of 153.
While courses 1, 2, and 3 can be played for anywhere from $39-$59 for 18 walking depending on the time of day and season, it is Dubsdread your after and it is significantly pricier. Around at course 4 will cost you $159.
Best Value Course on a Budget: Pine Meadow Golf Club (Mundelein)
Located north of Chicago in Mundelein, IL, Pine Meadow is a picturesque golf course featuring towering pines, beautiful lakes, and long, sprawling fairway bunkers. At over 6900 yards deep, this par 72 offers golfers plenty of challenging shots and is a one of a kind venue.
The best part about Pine View, though, is that it doesn’t deplete your golf budget. While there are many unbelievable deals to be had in Illinois, Pine Meadow is hard to beat. The Twilight rate, starting at 3 pm, only costs $39 for 18 walking, and should give you plenty of time to finish your round.
Being able to play this beautiful course for under $40 is nothing short of miraculous and an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.
Like many other states in the midwest, Illinois offers golfers exceptional golf courses, and many of them at reasonable rates. If your looking for a place to go where you can play at some of the country’s premier public golf courses—at prices far less than the coasts or even its neighbor Wisconsin, then visit Illinois. And don’t forget to bring your clubs.