Destination: Chicago's top 10 public golf courses

Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Cog Hill has hosted the PGA TOUR's best for years -- and its a course that anyone can walk up and play.
September 08, 2010
PGA TOUR staff

Chicago is Capone and the Cubs, the Monsters of the Midway and the Sears Tower. It is the Windy City, the City of the Big Shoulders, Chi-town, Second City. (Perhaps it really should be the city of nicknames.)


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Chicago is also the public-golf capital of the United States, with more quality courses that anyone can play than any other city. Fittingly, BMW Championship host Cog Hill is the only public host of the FedExCup. It also tops the list of the 10 best public courses in the greater Chicago area.

WHERE TO PLAY 1. Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (Dubsdread): Joe Jemsek wanted to give public golfers a private-club experience, and he succeeded with this longtime Tour course, which is better than ever after a recent renovation by Rees Jones.

2. Glen Club: Tom Fazio laid out a challenging oasis in the middle of a busy suburban area. The natural-looking features and elevation changes are all the more remarkable considering that the site of the course used to be an air naval station.

3. Cantigny Golf (Woodside/Lakeside): The 27-hole facility just west of the city is part of a 500-acre park established by the McCormick Foundation. Since its opening in 1989, the course has hosted numerous big events, including several Illinois Amateurs and the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links Championship.

4. ThunderHawk Golf Club: Located 45 minutes north of the Loop and the showcase of the Lake County Forest Preserves, this 7,031-yard layout is a muni in name only. Routed through forest, prairie and marshland, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout was Illinois' first Audubon Signature-certified public course.

4. ThunderHawk Golf Club: Located 45 minutes north of the Loop and the showcase of the Lake County Forest Preserves, this 7,031-yard layout is a muni in name only. Routed through forest, prairie and marshland, the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed layout was Illinois' first Audubon Signature-certified public course.

5. Pine Meadow Golf Course: Also owned by the Jemsek family, the 7,238-yard layout is a difficult test, but players perhaps can benefit from some divine intervention. In an agreement with the archdiocese of Chicago, the course leases the land from the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.

6. Stonewall Orchard Golf Club: Also owned by the Jemsek family, the 7,238-yard layout is a difficult test, but players perhaps can benefit from some divine intervention. In an agreement with the archdiocese of Chicago, the course leases the land from the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary.

7. (Tie) Harborside International Golf Center (Starboard): Located just minutes from the Loop, this ambitious project is a model of urban renewal. On a former landfill, Dick Nugent built a pair of open layouts that are exposed to the winds whipping off Lake Michigan.

7. (Tie) Harborside International Golf Center (Port): The two courses at Harborside are comparable in quality, and the most visually interesting hole of the 36 just may be the Port's 216-yard 13th. There is an anchor-shaped island of grass in the grass fronting the comma-shaped green.

9. Orchard Valley Golf Course: Hazards -- in the form of large waste areas and water -- play a big role in the strategy of playing this 6,745-yard layout designed by Ken Kavanaugh. No hole is more strategic than the 345-yard 15th, where golfers can play safe or hit a driver over the water toward the green.

10. Ravisloe Country Club: The latest entrant to Chicagoland's considerable public golf scene is a former private club bought by Dr. Claude Gendreau, a veterinary surgeon who re-opened the course as a public facility, allowing more golfers to enjoy the distinctive Theodore Moreau-James Foulis design that saw renovations by Donald Ross.