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The best courses in the Chicago area

Often overlooked in the debate about our country’s best regions for golf is the Chicago area, and that’s unfair. Many of the best Golden Age architects—from C.B. Macdonald and Seth Raynor to Donald Ross and Tom Bendelow—delivered timeless designs around the city. Seven Chicago-area courses (defined as being within an hour of the city) earn a ranking inside our ranking of America’s 100 Greatest or Second 100 Greatest courses, but the depth of fantastic golf extends beyond the top-ranked venues.

Chicago's private club scene runs deep—when we ranked the best regions for golf, Chicago landed at third on our list based on the breadth of very, very good golf. Chicago's golf courses don't get enough respect, and we’re here to shine a proper spotlight on all the great golf to be found around the Windy City.

Below you'll find the Best Courses in the Chicago area, based on the rankings by our 1,900 course panelists who evaluate courses based on six scoring criteria for our annual America's 100 Greatest and Best in State rankings.

We urge you to click through to each individual course page for bonus photography, drone footage and reviews from our course panelists. Plus, you can now leave your own ratings on the courses you’ve played … to make your case why your favorite should be ranked higher.

The Best Golf Courses in the Chicago area:

1. Chicago Golf Club
David Cannon
Private
1. Chicago Golf Club
Wheaton, IL
4.8
163 Panelists
Chicago Golf Club opened the country’s first 18-hole course in 1893, built by C.B. Macdonald, the preeminent golf expert in the U.S. at the time. Two years later Macdonald built the club a different course after the membership moved to a new location in Wheaton, Ill.: “a really first-class 18-hole course of 6,200 yards,” he wrote. Members played that course until 1923 when Seth Raynor, who began his architectural career as Macdonald’s surveyor and engineer, redesigned it using the “ideal hole” concepts his old boss had developed 15 years earlier (he kept Macdonald’s routing, which placed all the O.B. on the left—C.B. sliced the ball). For reasons of history and practicality, no major remodels have occurred since then, allowing the club to merely burnish the architecture by occasionally upgrading worn parts, adjusting grassing lines and, recently, reestablishing a number of lost bunkers that had been filled in over time.
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2. Shoreacres Golf Club
Brian Palmer/Courtesy of Shoreacres
Private
2. Shoreacres Golf Club
Lake Bluff, IL, United States
4.5
211 Panelists
Shoreacres possesses perhaps the most fascinating topography upon which Seth Raynor ever created a golf course, with his usual collection of suspects, including No. 3 (Leven), No. 6 (Biarritz), No. 7 (Double Plateau), No. 8 (Eden), No. 10 (Road) and No. 14 (Redan) all playing along plateaus and over ravines that feed into Lake Michigan. The stretch of 11, 12 and 13, playing across a ravine, down into it and back out of it, are as unique a stretch of holes as can be found anywhere on a 100 Greatest course.
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3. Butler National Golf Club
Private
3. Butler National Golf Club
Oak Brook, IL, United States
4.3
222 Panelists
Butler National was former tour player George Fazio’s ideal of a championship course, with 10 forced-carries over water in 18 holes. Even before it opened, it was signed to eventually serve as permanent site of the Western Open. Problem was, when it opened, it was the last cool-weather venue on the PGA Tour to utilize bluegrass rather than bent-grass for its fairway, and several prominent golfers declined to play Butler National because of potential flyer-lies from those fairways. Eventually the turf was converted, but then the Shoal Creek scandal occurred. Rather than change its restricted men-only policy, the club relinquished its role of Western Open host after the 1990 event. So why include a club on America’s 100 Greatest that won’t allow female panelists a chance to evaluate it? Because we rank golf courses, not club policies.
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4. Medinah Country Club: No. 3
Stephen Szurlej
Private
4. Medinah Country Club: No. 3
Medinah, IL, United States
4.4
159 Panelists

Medinah No. 3 is Exhibit A for the notion that great golf courses aren’t created, but evolve. A major tournament site since 1949, it has undergone a succession of remodelings and has improved with every session. Its par-3 17th is the most prominent example. It was shifted to a new location in 1986, to precede a whole new 18th hole. (The original 17th is now the 13th.) Ten years later, the 17th green was moved away from a lakefront to a spot atop a hill, but after Tiger Woods’ first (of two) PGA Championship victories on the course, the green was moved back down to water’s edge, where it remains today. Time will tell if that trend continues: after falling from No. 11 in the rankings in 2007 to its 2023-'24 position of 93, the No. 3 course will undergo a major revamping once again by the Australian firm of Ogilvy, Cocking and Mead in 2023 in preparation for the 2026 Presidents Cup.

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5. Olympia Fields Country Club: North
Courtesy of Gary Kellner
Private
5. Olympia Fields Country Club: North
Olympia Fields, IL, United States
4.4
191 Panelists
To prepare Olympia Fields North for the 1961 PGA Championship (won by Jerry Barber in a playoff over Don January), the club didn’t hire a golf architect. Instead, superintendent Warren Bidwell relocated 32 greenside and 13 fairway bunkers and added new tees to lengthen the course by 320 yards. Forty years later, golf architect Mark Mungeam supervised extensive changes before the North hosted the 2003 U.S. Open and made more changes again before Olympia Fields North and newly remodeled South (redone by architect Steve Smyers) co-hosted the 2015 U.S. Amateur. In 2017, Olympia Fields North was the site of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, and the course hosted the 2020 and 2023 BMW Championship.
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6. Rich Harvest Farms
Private
6. Rich Harvest Farms
Sugar Grove, IL, United States
Rich Harvest Farms began as a six-hole backyard course for computer billionaire Jerry Rich, was then expanded into a nine-fairway, 11-green layout that could be played multiple ways, and finally evolved into a conventional 18-hole layout strong enough to host the 2009 Solheim Cup and the 2017 NCAA Championship. With its polish and landscaping, some call Rich Harvest Farms the “Augusta of the Midwest,” but even Augusta National doesn’t have Rich Harvest’s flexibility, where every hole can play differently every day, some even from different angles and par.
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7. Old Elm Club
Drew Rogers
Private
7. Old Elm Club
Highland Park, IL, United States
Old Elm, a male-only club on Chicago’s north side, has one of the country’s most unique design pedigrees. British architect Harry S. Colt laid out the course in 1913 on one of his few visits to the U.S., collaborating on-site with Donald Ross, who to that point had designed courses in the Northeast and at Pinehurst but was not nationally known. After Colt departed, Ross, consulting Colt’s drawings and design notes, oversaw the construction of the holes. Over the last decade architect Drew Rogers has helped reclaim the property’s original spaciousness by removing hundreds of trees that had begun to clog the holes and expand fairways and greens. He also, with the help of designer/shaper Dave Zinkand, recreated the rough and rugged bunker edging that Colt was known for in his best U.K. designs. Their work has reestablished Old Elm as one of the top courses in the greater Chicago market.
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8. Skokie Country Club
Courtesy of the club
Private
8. Skokie Country Club
Glencoe, IL, United States
4.2
142 Panelists
Skokie Country Club is a classic championship venue that boasts a strong history and a unique combination of contributions from Tom Bendelow, William Langford, Theodore Moreau and Donald Ross. It has withstood the test of time with a strong collection of short and long par 4s, offering a great variety of risk-and-reward opportunities. The course is fair, balanced and promotes accuracy and requires a moderate level of precision. The challenge is presented through bunkering, tree-lined fairways and large contoured greens. With wider fairways and run-up options to many greens the course is very playable for gofers of all ability and presents a very enjoyable experience.
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9. Conway Farms Golf Club
Courtesy of the club
Private
9. Conway Farms Golf Club
Lake Forest, IL, United States
4.4
89 Panelists
Conway Farms reopened in 2023 after substantial remodeling by Tim Jackson and David Kahn, who each worked under Tom Fazio on many of his western U.S. projects before joining together in 2009. The 1991 layout has been one of the premiere championship venues in the Chicago-area, having hosted multiple BMW Championships, NCAA national championships and other big-time amateur events. The remodel, conducted over 2021 and 2022, included the overhaul of the irrigation system, removal of trees and the rebuilding of multiple green complexes as well as a creek that comes into play on several holes. Significantly, Jackson and Kahn reoriented the course’s bunkering strategies, adjusting their sizes and locations, adding new ones where needed and upgrading their appearance to a more modern aesthetic. The essential qualities of the holes haven’t changed—par 4s like the fourth with a cross-hazard drive, the long 10th and the par-5 18th with a creek slicing into the green’s front are still beasts—but some of the shorter holes like the first, now bisected with a ravine short of the green that’s been shifted to the right, the drivable seventh presenting more options to place tee shots, and the lakeside 15th with a 75-yard deep serpentine green running along the water, are much more interesting.
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10. Beverly Country Club
Private
10. Beverly Country Club
Chicago, IL, United States
4.1
68 Panelists
Beverly Country Club is a classic Midwest championship golf course on the South Side of Chicago. Donald Ross expertly utilized a prehistoric glacial ridgeline on the front nine, where the ridge influences all but two holes (the fourth and ninth). The holes with the greatest impact are the second and sixth, with a huge elevation changes moving from tee to green, and the fifth and seventh, which both march up the ridge, plus the greens at the first and eighth holes. To have utilized the ridge on almost the entirety of the front nine was genius. The rolling terrain on the back nine, across 87th Street, is also stunning—exemplified by a significant tree removal program by Tyler Rae—allowing the property’s landforms to shine like it was intended.
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11. Olympia Fields Country Club: South
Private
11. Olympia Fields Country Club: South
Olympia Fields, IL, United States
4.3
117 Panelists
Early in its history, Olympia Fields had four golf courses. Today the country club, located in the quiet suburbs south of Chicago (downtown members used to take a train to the courses, as the line lies right along the property line), boasts two layouts, the North and the South. The North is well-established as a major tournament course as host of two PGA Championships, two U.S. Opens, a U.S. Amateur and several Western Opens. The South, originally designed by Tom Bendelow, serves as a wonderful everyday alternative. It's been many things over the years, having undergone several remodels. Steve Smyers tapped into its early 20th century heritage during a 2007 renovation creating chocolate-drop mounds and other sharp features, and Andy Staples recently completed a revision. How the recent work impacts its ranking both nationally (it made our Second 100 Greatest from 2013 through 2018) and regionally remains to be seen.
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12. Black Sheep Golf Club: 1st/2nd Nines
Private
12. Black Sheep Golf Club: 1st/2nd Nines
Sugar Grove, IL, United States
4.2
45 Panelists
Designed with the goal of rivaling the greatest inland links courses of the U.S., Black Sheep Golf Club is truly unique in the Illinois golf landscape. With incredibly large fairways, Black Sheep offers risk/reward shots on nearly every hole of the property. The more players wish to take on the risk of bunkers, water, fescue and prairie, they’re rewarded with better angles, a shorter shot and better visibility for their approaches. The excitement doesn’t stop once they reach the green. The complexes have great variety in size, shape and undulation, meaning golfers must be mindful of where they place their ball on every shot. Lastly, Black Sheep throws one more obstacle at the golfer, the wind. Due to being completely unprotected from trees or development, the wind howls daily. It is incredibly unpredictable as well meaning the course plays differently every day. Black Sheep has been consistently ranked in Illinois’ best in state for good reason, as it is truly an incredibly challenging, yet enjoyable round of golf.
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13. Cog Hill Golf & Country Club: # 4 - Dubsdread
Public
13. Cog Hill Golf & Country Club: # 4 - Dubsdread
Lemont, IL, United States
Some tour pros were critical of Rees Jones's remodeling of Cog Hill No. 4, insisting it's too hard for high handicappers. What did they expect? Its nickname is, after all, Dubsdread. And there are three easier courses at Cog Hill for high handicappers. Original owner Joe Jemsek wanted a ball-busting championship course when it was built back in the mid-1960s. Jones's renovation was true to the philosophy of original architect Dick Wilson, who liked to pinch fairways with bunkers and surround greens with more bunkers, all of them deep.
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14. Medinah Country Club: No. 1
Evan Schiller/Medinah Country Club
Private
14. Medinah Country Club: No. 1
Medinah, IL, United States
3.8
101 Panelists
Tom Doak and his Renaissance Design team completed a substantial two-year transformation of Medinah Country Club’s Course No. 1 in 2014. Doak removed almost 800 trees to open up new playing corridors and improve drainage, while also infusing his diabolic philosophy to putting surfaces. The result is a great companion to the championship No. 3 course, which is being renovated by Geoff Ogilvy and his team, and the No. 2 course, which was also renovated in the 2010s.
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16. Bob O'Link Golf Club
Private
16. Bob O'Link Golf Club
Highland Park, IL, United States
4.4
52 Panelists
Bob O’Link was originally designed by Donald Ross in 1916 on a tight 125-acre site. In 1923, the club acquired an extra 36 acres and hired C.H. Allison to redesign a layout that opened in 1925. The course long suffered issues with drainage as it was located on the floodplain of the Skokie River. In 2014 when all 18 greens were damaged in a cold winter, some up to 80 percent turf loss, the club hired Jim Urbina, who co-designed Old Macdonald with Tom Doak and had recently renovated both Pasatiempo and Yeamans Hall. Urbina removed 700 trees and transplanted 40, improved drainage and irrigation, and replaced the Poa grass with bent. What remains is a golf course more inline with Allison’s original intent and more strategic and enjoyable than ever before.
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17. Chicago Highlands Club
Private
17. Chicago Highlands Club
Westchester, IL
3.9
46 Panelists
A dozen years ago, Joe Hills, a son of architect Arthur Hills, had a desire to follow his dad into the business, so he was given responsibility for Chicago Highlands, a private club built on a garbage dump across the interstate from Butler National. Joe did the routing and grading plans, supervised its construction and even shaped some holes on a dozer. Because the entire landfill had to be covered with soil, Joe had some of it piled into a dome 40 feet high on which he would carve out the ninth, a hole brilliant in its simplicity and named by Golf Digest one of the 18 best holes built in the U.S. since 2000. A reachable par 4 from all six tee boxes, it’s basically a volcano with a flag at the top. The slopes surrounding the small hilltop green drop off in every direction and are mowed tight, so errant shots will often roll to the base of the slope some 50 yards or more away. From there, recoveries can be like pingpong if one gets sloppy. A few years back, the slope beyond the green was filled in a bit, in an act of mercy for shots swept long by prevailing winds, but the other slopes, particularly the left one, are still long and steep.
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18. North Shore Country Club
Private
18. North Shore Country Club
Glenview, IL, United States
4.1
80 Panelists
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19. Flossmoor Golf Club
Private
19. Flossmoor Golf Club
Flossmoor, IL, United States
3.8
63 Panelists
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20. Knollwood Club
Private
20. Knollwood Club
Lake Forest, IL
3.9
57 Panelists
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21. Exmoor Country Club
Charles Cherney Photography/Courtesy of the club
Private
21. Exmoor Country Club
Highland Park, IL, United States
4
66 Panelists
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22. The Merit Club
Private
22. The Merit Club
Libertyville, IL, United States
3.6
52 Panelists
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24. Kemper Lakes Golf Club
Private
24. Kemper Lakes Golf Club
Kildeer, IL
3.8
58 Panelists
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25. The Glen Club
NICK ULIVIERI
Public
25. The Glen Club
Glenview, IL
3.6
48 Panelists
The Glen Club, just north of Chicago, is a Tom Fazio design built on land that for over 70 years was a Naval Air Base. Fazio transformed the once flat land into a rolling layout with undulating greens and an abundance of natural vegetation. The scenic course features vistas of the Chicago skyline in the distance.
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