11 Best Public Chicago Golf Courses Worth Discovering

By Todd Mrowice

PGA Tour at Cog Hill Country Club

When it comes to golf history in the United States, Chicago is one of the most important cities to credit for the growth and expansion of the game. Golf has had a place in Chicago for 130 years and over that time some of the best public courses you can play have been created. Here are 11 of those courses so you know where to tee it up when you’re in the Windy City.

ThunderHawk Golf Club (Beach Park, IL)

ThunderHawk Golf Club 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, fairway, and greenside bunkers.

Thunderhawk Golf Club

One common feature is deceptively wide fairways bordered by very long rough. ThunderHawk Golf Club is kept in great condition and provides a private-club-like experience to all golfers. The course is also idyllic and was the first public course to be Audubon certified in Illinois.

Ravisloe Country Club (Homewood, IL)

Originally a private club, Ravisloe Country Club became public after over 100 years of 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. Its location in the city of Homewood can sometimes deter Chicago golfers from making the drive, but locals do a great job of filling the tee sheet at this gem.

Harborside International Golf Center (Chicago)

Harborside International Golf Center provides 2 championship-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.

Harborside International Chicago Golf Center

The other layout, 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.

The Glen Club (Glenview, IL)

The Glen Club is a Tom Fazio-designed masterpiece and is one of the best courses in all of Illinois. The property used to be a Naval Air Base, which you’ll find tributes to throughout, even in the logo.

The Glen Club course

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 every club in their bag to deal with elevation changes, wind, water, and near-constant high risk/reward shot opportunities. The Glen Club is considered one of Chicagoland's must-play courses.

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club (Lemont, IL)

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club is best known as the host course of the Western Open from 1991-2006, when the event dissolved. It also hosted the BMW Championship from 2009-11.

Cog Hill Country Club

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. Players who have won on Dubdread include Tiger Woods (five times), Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price (twice), and Jim Furyk. That should be reason enough for Cog Hill to be on your must-play list in Chicago.

Cantigny Golf Club (Wheaton, IL)

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 three tracks and the Hillside Golf Course, Lakeside Golf Course and Woodside Golf Course, and are all designed by Roger Packard and provide a chance to test your skills at strategic golf.

The course requires accuracy, as tree-filled wastes, 12 lakes, two 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 dubbed the Youth Links Course, that allows children a place to play without being frustrated by the longer holes that are beyond their driving abilities.

Highlands of Elgin (Elgin, IL)

The Highlands of Elgin is a truly underrated public course that Chicagoland golfers enjoy showing off to out-of-town guests. Keith Foster rehabbed this 1970s design from Larry Packard and used the dramatic landforms left behind by a stone quarry to shape what is now a championship layout.

There’s a ton of room on this course and where wide-open fairways appear, blustery winds are allowed in. The rolling terrain and strategic approach shots you’ll encounter make this course a fun first venture that leaves you with a desire to return.

Bowes Creek Country Club (Elgin, IL)

The sister course to Highlands of Elgin, Bowes Creek Country Club gives the city of Elgin a strong one-two punch when it comes to public golf.

Bowes Creek Country Club

This course says public, but everything about it feels exclusive and private. From the sprawling clubhouse to the practice facilities, you’re a VIP. The Rick Jacobson design incorporates wetlands, woods, farmland, and Bowes Creek. It can play nearly 7,000 yards and has fescue along with deep bunkers to protect itself. Take advantage of the member for a day option which gives you unlimited golf and facility access for the entire day you’re there.

Schaumburg Golf Club (Schaumburg, IL)

Schaumburg Golf Club is one of the busiest public courses that you’ll find in Chicagoland, but you’d never know it. The course conditions and pace of play are second to none in the area. Taken over in 1989 by the Schaumburg Park District, the course has 27 holes that have all been recently renovated by Bob Lohmann.

Schaumburg Golf Club

Whether your round consists of nine or 18 holes, the Players Course, Tournament Course, and the Baer Course are all challenging to advanced players and fair to high handicaps. Consistently among the best in the area, Schaumburg Golf Club is a spot you don’t want to skip.

Stonewall Orchard Golf Club (Grayslake, IL)

Arthur Hills put his golf architect stamp on Illinois with authority when he designed Stonewall Orchard Golf Club in the far north suburb of Grayslake. Just about every major local event, and some regional, have been held at Stonewall Orchard, and for good reason.

Certain areas of this course will fool you into thinking you're playing in the Carolinas with tranquil wetlands and over 65,000 mature pine and oak trees on the property. You would never guess that the course is less than 30 years old. If you find yourself visiting Chicago or southern Wisconsin, Stonewall Orchard is a must-play course.

The Preserve at Oak Meadows (Addison, IL)

The Preserve at Oak Meadows is one of the oldest clubs in the Chicago area, located in Addison which is only a few minutes from O’Hare Airport. The course underwent a complete renovation and reopened in 2017 to national applause.

The Preserve at Oak Meadows

The Preserve has won awards for not only the renovated course that is now a tournament-caliber layout, but also for habitat resource and preservation of local natural landscapes. The clubhouse opened in 2021 and completed the experience of a memorable day at The Preserve.

About the Author

Todd Mrowice is a Staff Writer for GolfLink. He has been writing about golf for over 10 years including a long tenure at GOLFChicago Magazine. Todd has covered all aspects of the game including travel, products, business, and professional tours.