Chicagoland Overview: There's Always a Good Place to Play

By Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

Chicago is a nice place in the summer, but when it comes to playing golf, it is awfully crowded. Many of the well known courses near the city are quickly filling up their tee times, especially when it comes to the big holidays such as Fourth of July and Memorial Day.

So, if you find yourself in a pinch this summer and dying to play, one alternative is to take a drive and hit some courses a bit out of the way or lesser known. With the great mix of brand new courses and well-established venues that Chicagoland has to offer year after year, there is always a good place to play.

Instead of trying to get on Pine Meadow Golf Course, a traditional, well-known facility in Mundelein about half an hour north of the city, call to reserve a tee time at White Deer Run right down the street in Vernon Hills.

White Deer Run is a Dick Nugent design lying on 240 acres and is one of the finest golfing facilities in the area. The holes don't seem to touch the natural habitant that surrounds the 7,100 yard (from the tips) course. Banquet services and a teaching academy round out a great golfing experience at White Deer Run.

Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont is a golfers dream but if players don't have a thick pocket book and reservations, it might be a little tough to play. One alternative heading west of the city is Heritage Bluffs Public Golf Course in Channahon. One hour from the city proper, Heritage Bluffs is a new 6,000 yard course built by Nugent.

Heritage Bluffs is a hybrid of many different types of courses. From a traditional layout with tree-lined fairways and big greens, to wide open links style holes, the course gives the player's eye a lot to enjoy and experience even during a sub-par round. The course does not have housing on or near it and roads are not seen from any of the holes, making it a fine place to lose yourself in a round of golf.

The finishing hole at Heritage Bluffs is one of the best finishing holes in the area. The hole asks players to put the drive between 220 and 250 yards in the middle of the fairway. Anything short of the mark has a dramatic uphill stance; anything long meets the extremely narrow bend. This hole is special because of the demand for accuracy from tee to green.

Just south of the city, golfers will find two tremendous, but very busy links-style courses at Harborside International. A great alternative is Cinder Ridge Golf Links in Wilmington, located 45 minutes southwest of downtown. This course features one of the most memorable holes in the area. The 16th is a 135 yard par-3 completely over water.

With eight bunkers and huge trees overhanging the green, the only place to put the ball is on the putting surface. While this hole alone makes Cinder Ridge a must play this summer, the rest of the course is breath taking. Fairways, which descend and ascend throughout the hilly terrain, never share the same rough. This feature makes it impossible not to get lost in the great game at Cinder Ridge.

A new course that will open this season is the Glen Club in Glenview. Set to tee off in the middle of the summer, this much-anticipated course was designed by Tom Fazio. The facility will include the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame and be home to the Illinois Open beginning in 2002. Corporate memberships will be sold at this semi-private championship course which is dedicated to the best the game has to offer.

TCP at Deer Run, the host of this year's John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois, is also set to open its tees at the beginning of the summer. Deer Run, designed by D.A. Weibring, is located about two and half hours west of the downtown and is worth every moment on the road. This course is the real deal, asking players to bring all of their shots to the course during the round.

If you want to see where the big guns will play this summer, head to Whisper Creek in Huntley. Located an hour northwest of the city, this championship course is the home of plenty of tournaments this season, including the Illinois Open qualifier and Illinois PGA Pro-Senior Championship.

The competitors will have their hands full on this Billy Casper/Billy Nash designed layout. The course was built on 240 beautiful acres of dangerous wetlands and dense forests. Don't be intimidated; Whisper Creek has tee boxes for every level of golfer along with the best practice facility in the area.

Besides playing golf, the game's best will once again hit the town throughout the year. Tiger Woods will be on display at the Advil Western Open during the weekend of July 5th through the 8th. The LPGA doesn't have a tournament close to the city but does play in Springfield as the State Farm Rail Classic is played the first weekend of September. The Senior Tour plays the SBC Senior Open at Kemper Lakes in Long Grove July 20th through the 22nd.

While this is a great time for golf in the Chicagoland, just wait. At least 25 more courses are on the books to open within the metro area. Arthur Hills (Bolingbrook Golf Club in Bolingbrook), Tim Nugent (Foxford Hills in Cary) and Roy Case (Mill Creek in Geneva) all plan to amaze golfers within the next two seasons.

Brendan O'Brien, Contributor

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