Flying into Windy City gives golfers first-class options

By William K. Wolfrum, Contributor

For the golfing traveler, a short stopover in Chicago can be torture. You know there are more than 200 public golf courses in the Chicagoland area, but you have a day or less in the Windy City before you're back on a plane to your next destination.

O'Hare International Airport
Travelers arriving at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport have many nearby golf courses to choose from.
O'Hare International Airport Dubsdread CourseThe Orchard Valley Golf Course
If you go

Luckily for travelers, business or otherwise, several of the top public courses in Chicago are a quick drive from one of the city's airports.

O'Hare long ago replaced Midway as the city's largest and most-used airport but the older facility has stuck around and is a popular hub for low-fare carriers. Most of the course options can be accessed from either airport via Chicago's freeway system. To the west of the two international hubs is regional DuPage Airport.

First class

Cog Hill Golf and Country Club in Lemont is close to Midway and an hour or so from O'Hare, and would be worth visiting at twice the drive, according to its many fans.

"Cog Hill is kind of central, so that's usually the most logical way to go," said Charles Klees, owner of Charles J. Klees Golf Shop in Chicago. "It's kind of a no-brainer. It's the best in the area and they have four courses."

Led by the nationally recognized Dubsdread course, which hosts the PGA Tour's Western Open - Cog Hill is considered by many to be the Chicago's true can't-miss golf destination. Also including the Blue, Red and Ravine courses and the Cog Hill Learning Center, this is a complex that caters to golf lovers.

"Cog Hill is pure golf without the fancy amenities that sometimes get in the way of the game itself. Golf is first at Dubsdread and all the Cog Hill courses," Dave Berner wrote for GolfIllinois.com.

Business class

The Glen Club sits closer to O'Hare and is a stunning transformation of the former Glenview Naval Air Station. Tom Fazio worked wonders with some uninspiring terrain, creating a course of rolling fairways, lakes and creeks. It'll run more than a $100 for a round, but it's truly one of Fazio's great works.

Roughly an hour northwest of O'Hare in Mundelein, Pine Meadow Golf Club is a tough course to get on, as both locals and visitors line up to take their swings on this Joe Lee/Rocky Roquemore design.

Bunkers are numerous on this course, which does a fine job of protecting par with a slope rating of 138 from the forward tees. They accept reservations up to 120 days in advance, and calling ahead of time is generally a good idea at this popular public run.

Robert Trent Jones Sr.-designed Hilldale Golf Club in Huffman Estates is another popular public course. Water comes in to play on more than a dozen holes, giving some heft to its 130 slope rating. The course, which has been used for the qualifying rounds of the Western Open, will give serious golfers the challenge they're after.

Flying coach

Prarie Landing Golf Club is another Bobby Jones design that will have golfers battling.

Located right next to DuPage and 40 minutes by car from either international airport, Prairie Landing plays to an intense slope rating of 136. While the service can be spotty considering the green fees (in the $100 range), it remains a draw as one of only three RTJ courses in Illinois.

Further west in Aurora, Orchard Valley Golf Course is as classy as muni golf gets. Designed by Ken Kavanaugh and playable for $60 or less, Orchard Valley brings to mind Arizona with its outcropppings and waste bunkers, but the trees and water coming into play remind you this is the Midwest.

Fast fact

In February 2006, 69-year-old Midway airport security worker Donald Wojtowicz found $320,000 sitting on the tarmac. The retired police officer returned the cash - brand-new bills were somehow mislaid en route from Washington to Chicago's Federal Reserve Bank - saying, "The city pays me a very good salary."

William K. WolfrumWilliam K. Wolfrum, Contributor

William K. Wolfrum keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation. You can follow him on Twitter @Wolfrum.


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