Chicago’s Best Public Courses

By Ryan Watson


The Windy City is an area known for its sporting excellence and exciting golf courses. Chicago's pedigree is shown in the fact that the city has hosted the BMW Championship since 2007, a tournament which serves as one of the tour ending FedEx Cup Playoffs tournament. While private courses like Medinah Country Club, Conway Farms Golf Club, and Olympia Fields Country Club are deservedly lauded, the Chicago area is also full of wonderful courses open to the public. The following is GolfLink’s list of Chicago’s Best Public Courses. 


ThunderHawk Golf Club

39700 Lewis Ave, Beach Park, IL 60099

The rather comically named ThunderHawk Golf Club nonetheless provides a serious challenge for golfers in the Chicago area. The course was designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and features a variety of hazards, notably water along with fairway and greenside bunkers. One common feature is deceptively wide fairways bordered by very long rough. The course is kept in great condition and provides a private club experience to all golfers. The course is also idyllic, and was the first public course to be Audubon certified in Illinois. 


Jackson Park Golf Course

6401 S Richards Dr, Chicago, IL 60649

Jackson Park Golf Club is one of the oldest courses in Illinois, dating back all the way to 1899 when course designers Tom Bendelow and Bob Lohmann finished their modest track. It is now widely considered to be Chicago’s most-loved muni. The court is kept in good condition and only shows its age in its length, coming in at only 5,500 yards. Smart routing and copious amounts of water still make the course challenging and should be enough for a fun outing for golfers of all levels.  


Ravisloe Country Club

18231 Park Ave, Homewood, IL 60430

Ravisloe Country Club is sometimes overlooked for flashier courses, but for locals, the Donald Ross-designed course remains a favorite. Originally a private club, Ravisloe became public after over 100 years in existence in 2009. The course is classic parkland golf, featuring a variety of tree lined holes and water hazards to keep it interesting. One of the strengths of the course is that it remains challenging enough for scratch golfers while being forgiving enough for higher handicappers. 


Harborside International Golf Center

11001 South Doty Avenue East, Chicago, IL 60628

Harborside International Golf Center provides 2 champion caliber courses right in the heart of Chicago. The older Port Course was designed by Dick Nugent in 1995 to provide a links-style course that would challenge the best in Britain. The course has been compared to Muirfield by none other than Ben Crenshaw, and that should be enough for most golfers to get excited. The other layout, named the Starboard Course, is another links-style course that uses smart bunkering and inventive routing to create a memorable golf experience, all while viewing the iconic Chicago skyline. 


Orchard Valley Golf Course

2411 W Illinois Ave, Aurora, IL 60506

Orchard Valley Golf Club is an excellent example of planning a golf course that feels as if it is a natural part of the landscape. The course features plenty of water in both waterfalls, wetlands, and lakes and also has over 40 bunkers. The course is therefore challenging, though its length allows it to still be enjoyed by multiple skill levels. The beautiful terrain is also a welcome change to the bustle of Chicago and offers golfers a chance to relax in the bucolic surroundings. 


Pine Meadow Golf Course

1 Pine Meadow Ln, Mundelein, IL 60060 

Pine Meadows Golf Course is one for the purists: a no-frills challenge to all comers who know that an expansive drink cart menu doesn’t mean a great course. The course features tree-lined holes but generally wide fairways, and elevation changes provide some of the most challenging and memorable moments on the course. The course remains in good conditions, with deceptively fast greens that will challenge any golfer. This is a course best enjoyed by locals and those who have seen some of Chicago’s more flashier clubs, and decided they want a less uppercrust experience without sacrificing the quality of the course. 


Glen Club

2901 W Lake Ave, Glenview, IL 60026

The Glen Club’s Tom Fazio designed masterpiece is one of the best courses in all of Illinois. Boasting amenities and a practice facility that feels like a private club, Glen Club provides a consistently excellent product. The course is full of variety, and golfers should expect to use all the clubs in their bag to deal with elevation changes, wind, water, and near constant high risk/reward shot opportunities. Considered one of Chicagoland's must-play courses. 


Cog Hill Golf & Country Club 

12294 Archer Ave, Lemont, IL 60439

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club is best known as host to the now defunct Western Open and the BMW Championship from 2009-2011. The championship Dubsdread course is the draw here, a course originally designed by Dick Wilson in 1964 before being renovated by Rees Jones in 2008. This course is notoriously difficult and provides a test of any golfer’s mettle. The course is fairly straightforward with no gimmicks: you see the obstacles and it’s up to you to prove you can hang with the big boys. 


Cantigny Golf Club

27W270 Mack Rd, Wheaton, IL 60189 

Cartigny Golf Club offers golfers a chance to choose their own adventure as a collection of three 9-hole layouts can be mixed and matched into an unforgettable 18 holes. The 3 tracks are all designed by the underrated Roger Packerd and provide a chance to test your skills at strategic golf. The course requires accuracy, as tree-filled wastes, 12 lakes, 2 creeks and over 70 sand bunkers stand ready to gobble up errant shots. The course features great amenities and also has a 9-hole juniors course that allows children a place to play without being frustrated by the longer holes that are beyond their driving abilities. 



About The Author

Ryan Watson is a freelance sportswriter and history professor. He has been an avid fan of golf since his father signed him up for golf camp as a young child. Ryan enjoys following the professional game and learning about new equipment and gadgets.


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