Forelinksters is a guide to the best rated public golf courses from Golf, Golf Digest, and Golfweek magazines. The website is supported by limited advertising, and our tee times reservation system with the Golf Channel’s GolfNow. If we help you in finding the best public golf course to in Chicago, please consider using our GolfNow tee times system to book a tee time, they’re the same rates you receive directly on GolfNow.
1. Cog Hill Dubsdread has to be the #1 course in Chicagoland. It’s been a PGA tour venture for years, and is a classic parkland style of layout on the south side of town. # 4 – or Dudsdread is Located just SW of Chicago along highway 171. There are 4-18 hole courses here, #’2 & 4 are the best tracts. It was originally designed by Dick Wilson and Joe Lee as a traditional parkland style course, and it matured into a classic layout over the years. It recently opened after a renovation by Rees Jones, who US Open’d it, installed some drainage for the greens, which is supposed to speed them up.
2. Cantigny 30 miles west of downtown Chicago in Cantigny Park in Wheaton. The park is very nice with has gardens, nature trails, and an art museum. The real attraction for me is the Roger Packard designed Cantigny Golf Club with the three nines, Lakeside, Woodside, and Hillside. It’s a classic parkland setting with rolling hills, lakes, and forests. with wonderful design features and challenges throughout. The course has been host to the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links, the 1998 and 2002 Illinois Amateur Championship and a number USGA qualifiers.
3. Pine Meadow is on the grounds of the University of St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in the far north suburb of Libertyville. The course plays to 7141 yards, 138 slope from the championship tees, and was designed by Joe Lee and Rocky Roquemore in 1985.
4. Thunder Hawk a Lake County Forest Preserve course, and was designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr. and plays to 7136 yards, 136 slope from the back tees. It’s located in Libertyville near the Wisconsin border off I-94, and is a great golf course. The layout is forgiving wide fairways with a few good solid risk/reward type holes through the forest, marsh and meadow design. Very well conditioned, nice tree lined fairways, Half the holes wander through open meadow while the other half are carved through the trees.
5. Glen Club was built on the former Glenview Naval Air Station in Glenview, the north side of Chicago, 30 minutes from O’Hare. It was designed by Tom Fazio in 2001, on a rather flat, motionless piece of ground. After Fazio got through with it, the course rolls with some hilly terrain, mounding, humps and hollows. It is a par 72, offering 4 different tee boxes, playing at the max of 7,149 yards with a 138 slope. It’s a parkland style course, but with some open holes with elevation changes of up to 35 feet throughout the course.
6. Heritage Bluffs a Dick Nugent championship design that plays to 7106 yards, 138 slope from way back. It’s located about 45 minutes south of Chicago near the intersection of I-55 and I-80. It’s a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary, and has good elevation change throughout. The layout is part open links style part parkland, with tree lined fairways.
7. Harborside One of the closest golf courses to downtown Chicago, maybe 20-30 minutes south of the Loop depending on traffic. A 36 hole complex here, built in the mid-1990′s with an entirely open links style design by Dick Nugent. It’s a muni, but far from a muni’s normal conditions, quality or service. The two courses, the Port and the Starboard, were built on industrial landfill and inorganic sludge near Lake Calumet on Chicago’s South Side. The entire course land was reclaimed and capped with clay, dirt, and sand, and provides great playing conditions, similar to what you’d find in classic links courses, windy conditions, tall fescue bordering the fairways, rolling and tumbling fairways and greens. and extremely fun to play, and the price is right. The two courses are nearly identical in terms of quality and experience.
8. Ruffled Feathers The course is located on the southwest side of Chicago, near the I-55 and I-355 interchange, and is regarded as one of the top public courses in Chicago. It was designed by Pete and P.B. Dye in 1991, and plays to 6,898 yards, 140 slope, par 72 from the tips, but has alternate tees.
9. Highlands of Elgin The Highlands of Elgin is a muni, owned and operated by the city. It’s west of the Fox River in Elgin. One of the better golf courses you’ll play in Chicagoland, it was redesigned and a new nine holes added by Keith Foster in 2003. Aside from all the play it gets making for slow play, it’s hard to be critical of anything. Good sized clubhouse, sits up high with nice views of the course and the rock quarry it was built around. Full driving range with areas to work on bunker play, chips, pitches, well marked with yardages. More links style than traditional with a few trees on the course, a good amount of water and sand.
10. Bowes Creek one of the newer courses on the west side of Chicago, it’s about an hour from the Loop out in Elgin in Kane County. It’s a Rick Jacobson design routed through an upscale residential development, and while built over former farmland, has a decent amount of elevation change. It’s a private club, but has “member for a day” rates, which are a little steep, but it’s a good quality layout, and well maintained. Nice mix of open links-style holes along with the traditional parkland holes with tree lined fairways.