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A fabulous foursome of public golf courses in Chicago

glen club no 4
The par-3 fourth hole at The Glen Club in Glenview, Ill.

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CHICAGO – When the seasons change from summer to autumn, Chicago golf goes from good to great. And while the window of opportunity closes fast – most courses close by Thanksgiving – fall is widely considered the best time of the year to enjoy some of  the Second City’s second-to-none public courses. Here are four courses you'll want to play as part of your autumn golf experience in Sweet Home Chicago.

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club
It’s not often you’ll find a public-access PGA Tour venue with “country club” in its title, but such is the case at Cog Hill. In fact, four courses – including the recently redesigned Dubsdread course – make Cog Hill the largest and most popular collection of public golf courses in the Chicago area.

Cog Hill G&CC
Lemont, Ill.
Southwest Chicago
Web site

Getting there: 30 minutes from Midway Airport, 40 minutes from downtown Chicago

Price: Course 1 & 3 - $61, Course 2 - $73, Dubsdread - $150

Did you know: Cog Hill is the only course to host a U.S. Amateur (1997) and a U.S. Amateur Public Links (1970, 1989)

Of the four courses at Cog Hill, the 1,000-pound gorilla is Dubsdread, which hosts this year's BMW Championship for the second time in three years (it was home to the PGA Tour's Western Open from 1991 through 2006). But with the advancement of golf technology through the years, Dubsdread has become more like a 1,000-pound teddy bear: Since 2001, the average winning score in each PGA Tour event has been 17 under par. To give it more bite, course owner Frank Jemsek hired Rees Jones, aka the U.S. Open Doctor, to redesign the course with the hope that the U.S. Golf Association will select it for a future U.S. Open. Bunkers were deepened, greens rebuilt, and tee boxes extended.

What do the changes mean for the average golfer? A golf course with a rating of 75.4 just got a lot tougher. Granted, five different tees allow amateurs to play the proper length, but the greens are severe no matter who's playing. The green at No. 3, for example, was made much smaller and more boldly contoured. Precision is a must, whether you're Tiger Woods or Joe Golfer.

The other three courses – known simply as Nos. 1, 2 and 3 – aren’t nearly as memorable, but hold their own nonetheless. No. 2 hosted qualifying for the 1997 U.S. Amateur, which was at Dubsdread that year, and is regarded as one of America’s best courses under $100. Nos. 1 and 3 you can play for $20 on a weekday after 3 p.m.

Cantigny Golf Club
Due west of downtown Chicago sits Cantigny Golf Club, a 27-hole facility that’s only been open since 1989 but has already hosted a U.S. Amateur Public Links and three Illinois State Amateurs.

Cantigny Golf Club
Wheaton, Ill.
West Chicago
Web site

Getting there: 40 minutes from O'Hare Airport, 45 minutes from downtown Chicago

Price: $90 (cart extra)

Did you know: One nine is reserved for nine-hole play, where the rate is an affordable $30.
The experience at Cantigny is special from the moment you pull into the parking lot and head down the tree-lined driveway that’s every bit as visually stunning as Augusta National's Magnolia Lane. As guests pull up to the bag drop they’re greeted by employees dressed in knickers.

Each nine at Cantigny is distinctly named – Woodside, Hillside, Lakeside – and while each emphasizes characteristics indicative of its namesake, the entire property features diverse numbers of indigenous oak, ash and hardwood trees. When the leaves begin to turn, Cantigny is simply one of the most breathtaking golf courses in America.  

The newly-constructed practice facility at Cantigny features a covered and heated hitting area that’s designed to allow Chicago golfers the opportunity to practice all year round (No small feat, considering wintertime temperatures rarely get above freezing.). Private indoor instruction areas also enhance Cantigny’s instructional offering, and an adjacent short game area is frequented by PGA Tour up-and-comer Kevin Streelman, who grew up in the area.

The Glen Club
On the north side of town is The Glen Club, Chicago’s most impressive golf resort. Situated near a flourishing new residential and shopping district, this Fazio-designed track maintains an isolated, private feeling with holes that offer views of nothing but native rolling terrain. The $10 million clubhouse is replete with all the amenities of a private club, and also has luxurious guest rooms named after various Chicago golf landmarks.

The Glen Club
Glenview, Ill.
North Chicago
Web site

Getting there: 20 minutes from O'Hare Airport, 35-40 minutes from downtown Chicago

Price: $177 (cart extra)

Did you know: Stay-and-play packages start at $250. Check their website for details.
Opened in 2001, The Glen Club has championship pedigree at a young age – it hosted the Nationwide Tour's LaSalle Bank Open from 2002-2008. Several golf publications have it tabbed as one of the top-5 public courses in Illinois, and it was regarded as one of America's best new public courses when it opened.

As you stroll the perfectly manicured fairways you’ll notice elevation changes that are vintage Fazio, including the downhill fourth, the signature hole at The Glen Club. Wind can make club selection at this short par 3 difficult, but for players who study the wind and commit to club selection, this can be a birdie opportunity on a nine that’s otherwise very difficult.  

The back nine at The Glen Club plays at least two shots easier than the front, with two reachable par 5s and a two short par 4s. The 18th is a demanding risk-reward par 5, which has made for plenty of exciting finishes on the Nationwide Tour.

Bolingbrook Golf Club
Shining like a beacon atop the corn fields of the southwest Chicago suburbs is Bolingbrook Golf Club and its 76,000-square-foot clubhouse. And while the clubhouse is indeed a sight to behold – it’s the second-largest clubhouse in America next to TPC Sawgrass – the golf course is just as splendid.

Bolingbrook Golf Club
Bolinngbrook, Ill.
Southwest Chicago
Web site

Getting there: 40 minutes from Midway Airport, 50 minutes from downtown Chicago

Price: $90

Did you know: Plans for a second course, designed by John Daly, are in the works.

The vision of Bolingbrook mayor, Roger Claar, this Arthur Hills and Steve Forrest design is links golf in its truest form. You won’t find many trees on this exposed layout, but you better bring your knockdown shot, as several holes play into a steady 20-25 mph breeze.

Two holes will bring you to your knees, but for different reasons. First, the par-5 fifth is a 600-yard juggernaut that plays into the prevailing wind. If you can imagine hitting driver, 3-wood, 3-wood and still ending up short, that’s what you might find at No. 5.

The signature hole at Bolingbrook is No. 15, a devilish little par 3 that plays to an island green. Think No. 17 at TPC Sawgrass but a little longer and with a little more wind. Good luck!

Whether you’re visiting the north, south or west side of Chicago, there’s great public golf within a short distance. But get there while the weather boasts its best temperatures and the foliage flaunts its most vivid colors. Autumn is truly the season to experience golf in the Midwest.
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<b>Price</b>: $44
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