Sanderson Farms Championship

The Country Club of Jackson


Places To Play

Courses

The best courses you can play in Illinois

August 30, 2022

All avid golfers know St. Andrews, along Scotland’s east coast, is The Home of Golf, where the game was first played centuries ago. How about the first 18-hole course in the United States? That distinction goes to Chicago Golf Club, which opened in the early 1890s at an earlier location than its current-day Wheaton, Ill., location—over in Downers Grove. Further cementing Illinois in our country’s golfing history is the fact the club was one of the five founding members of the USGA.

There should be no surprise that some of America’s finest private clubs, like Chicago G.C., are situated in and around our nation’s third-most populous city. As for public golf in the Prairie State? This collection of the best public courses in Illinois includes current and former tour stops, past and present members of our 100 Greatest Public list and both parkland and prairie-links layouts, which highlight the versatility of Midwestern golf.

Though Illinois might not be atop your bucket list for an upcoming buddies’ trip, the quality public golf options around the Windy City and in the western part of the state are must-plays for both travelers and locals.

Scroll on to read more about each of these public golf courses in Illinois. And we hope you enjoy exploring our new Places to Play hub.

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club: # 4 - Dubsdread
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.
View Course
TPC Deere Run
Public
TPC Deere Run
Silvis, IL
38 Panelists
The John Deere Classic began in 1971 as the Quad Cities Open (named for the four cities—Davenport, Bettendorf, Rock Island and Moline—that border the Iowa and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River, respectively). It moved to its current home, TPC Deere Run, in 2000, a layout designed at that time by former PGA Tour player D.A. Weibring and design partner Steve Wolfard. The architecture is befitting of a course that came off the desk of a tour pro and was calibrated to host a professional event: Though the strength of the field is typically diluted given the tournament’s traditional place on the schedule the week before the Open Championship, it’s a venue the players who participate in the John Deere Classic love. The routing constantly switches directions as it winds through a wooded property near Rock River, and most holes have some degree of left-to-right or right-to-left movement caused by doglegs and bunkers. At just over 7,200 yards and yielding winning scores around 20-under, it’s an attractive test for shorter players who like to work the ball as well as for those in dire need of seeing plenty of birdies on their card. --Derek Duncan
View Course
The Glen Club
Public
The Glen Club
Glenview, IL
42 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.
View Course
Stonewall Orchard Golf Club
Public
Stonewall Orchard Golf Club
Grayslake, IL
Stonewall Orchard is a relatively flat Arthur Hills design with water in play on 12 of the 18 holes. The course built alongside several small lakes which give it a serene feel. There are numerous forced carries to fairways and into greens, requiring solid ball striking.
View Course
Cantigny Golf: Woodside/Lakeside/Hillside/Youth Links
Panelists
Former PGA Tour player and current on-course TV commentator Colt Knost won the U.S. Amateur Public Links in 2007 when it was played at Cantigny. The win was part of a torrid summer on the amateur circuit for Knost, who also won the U.S. Amateur and was a part of a winning Walker Cup team. Cantigny is a 36-hole facility with three distinct nines best described by their names: Woodside, Lakeside and Hillside. A fourth nine, Youth Links, is reserved for juniors ages 8-15.
View Course
Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa: The General
A previous member of our 100 Greatest Public list, The General course at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa is a scenic northwestern Illinois track with a 289-foot elevation change from the first to the 18th hole. The course winds up and down the hilly terrain, especially at the par-4 fifth, which has 180 feet of elevation change from tee to green. The resort also offers two other 18-hole layouts and a nine-hole course.
View Course
Mistwood Golf Club
Public
Mistwood Golf Club
Romeoville, IL
A recent two-year, multi-million dollar renovation has revitalized this links-style layout about an hour southwest of downtown Chicago. There are 20 sod-faced pot bunkers that enhance the links feel of the course and punish wayward shots. The fairways have plenty of contours and are guarded by numerous water hazards.
View Course
WeaverRidge Golf Club
Public
WeaverRidge Golf Club
Peoria, IL
This central Illinois layout was ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list for six years in the mid-2000s, reaching as high as No. 37 in 2005-2006. The tree-lined track has plenty of elevation changes, creating some scenic downhill tee shots and tricky uphill approaches.
View Course
ThunderHawk Golf Course
Public
ThunderHawk Golf Course
Beach Park, IL
Situated between Chicago and Milwaukee in northeastern Illinois, ThunderHawk is a Robert Trent Jones Jr. design with generous fairways guarded by numerous bunkers and tall fescue. Wind can be a significant factor on this picturesque course that plays more open than a typical Midwestern parkland layout.
View Course
Fyre Lake Golf Club
Public
Fyre Lake Golf Club
Sherrard, IL
This challenging western Illinois public course sits just south of the Quad Cities and was designed by the Nicklaus Design firm. Many holes play along the scenic Fyre Lake and others play up on the hillside overlooking the lake. With plenty of elevation change, the course can be a strenuous walk.
View Course
Chalet Hills Golf Club
Public
Chalet Hills Golf Club
Cary, IL
About an hour northwest of downtown Chicago, Chalet Hills is a public course with a blend of traditional parkland holes and others that play around a scenic lake. Many of the greens are wide but not deep, placing an emphasis on distance control. The affordable course is just $40 walking on Monday-Thursday.
View Course
Mt. Prospect Golf Club
Public
Mt. Prospect Golf Club
Mount Prospect, IL
Following a $9 million renovation project that was completed in 2015, this classic design (dating back to 1929) offers public golfers a chance to enjoy old-school design elements like canted fairways and multi-level greens at a heck of a bargain.
View Course
Pine Meadow Golf Club
Public
Pine Meadow Golf Club
Mundelein, IL
Back in 1986 when it opened, Pine Meadow won our Best New Public Course award. Today, this northern Illinois layout continues to provide intriguing design variety at a reasonable rate. The well-bunkered track (there are 86 in total) opens with a playable front nine followed by a more challenging back nine with water and elevation changes. The course was formerly ranked on our 100 Greatest Public list, reaching as high as No. 28 in 2003-2004.
View Course
The Preserve at Oak Meadows
Public
The Preserve at Oak Meadows
Addison, IL
A couple of miles from Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, The Preserve at Oak Meadows is a relatively flat layout bisected by Salt Creek, which comes into play on many holes. The creek and surrounding marshlands require numerous forced carries. After the round, grab a bite to eat and a drink in the modern clubhouse that recently opened.
View Course
The Highlands of Elgin
Public
The Highlands of Elgin
Elgin, IL
The Highlands of Elgin, about an hour west of downtown Chicago, has interesting topography, with many holes sitting 30 to 40 feet above a lake in the middle of the property. Several other lakes and ponds are in play, as well as tall fescue, which lines many holes.
View Course
Ravisloe Country Club
Public
Ravisloe Country Club
Homewood, IL
About 25 miles south of downtown Chicago, Ravisloe is a public Donald Ross design that was formerly a private country club. At just 6,300 yards, the course is short but penalizing bunkers and undulating Ross greens provide ample challenge. Our panelists note that the course is often in good condition.
View Course
Harborside International Golf Center: Starboard
One of two links-style courses at Harborside International, the Starboard course is an open, rugged layout just south of Chicago. Given how exposed the property is, wind can often play a factor. The course has a strong finishing three-hole stretch that plays along Lake Calumet, highlighted by the signature par-3 17th, where water lurks short and right of the hourglass-shaped green.
View Course
Prairie Landing Golf Club
Public
Prairie Landing Golf Club
West Chicago, IL
Situated just west of Chicago, Prairie Landing is a links-style layout with rolling fairways, meandering creeks and large, undulating greens. With water in play on many holes, the course can be challenging off the tee.
View Course