Chicago has always been in love with golf.
After all, the historic Chicago Golf Club was America's first golf club, opening in 1893.Dozens of world-class country clubs surround the Chicago Loop: Medinah Country Club, host of the 2012 Ryder Cup, and Rich Harvest Farms, home of the 2009 Solheim Cup, and Skokie Country Club.
Chicago, in my humble opinion, is the best city in America. It doesn't have the intimidating edge of New York. The magnificent skyscrapers stand tall juxtaposed against the beaches along Lake Michigan's shores. For a huge city, Chicago is fairly user friendly, too, with the 'El' (elevated train), and the lakeshore Museum Campus, home to Soldier Field, Shedd Aquarium, Field Museum and Adler Planetarium.
There's much more to love: the Willis Tower Skydeck, a free zoo in Lincoln Park, the touristy Navy Pier, Wrigley Field and of course, great public golf.When the PGA Tour comes to many cities, it snuggles up to a private club. Not in democratic Chicago, where Cog Hill's famous Dubsdread -- called simply the No. 4 course at Cog Hill -- plays host to the BMW Championship.
Chicago's public course scene doesn't deliver the all-world course that Jacksonville (Players Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass), Milwaukee (Straits Course at Whistling Straits) and San Francisco (Pebble Beach Golf Links) use to attract players from around the world. Instead, Chicago's public scene is deeper and more varied. Dubsdread, in Lemont, 30 minutes south of downtown, is a classic course with deep pit bunkers redesigned by Rees Jones.
Another Lemont course worth exploring is Ruffled Feathers, a Pete and P.B. Dye design.In Wheaton, the 27-hole Cantigny Golf Club, designed by Robert Packard in 1989, boasts an active youth academy that has groomed thousands of future players. The course's claim to fame is a bit weird -- a bunker in the middle of the ninth fairway of Cantigny's Lakeside Course looks like comic strip crime fighter Dick Tracy -- but it's an excellent test of golf that hosted the 2007 U.S. Amateur Public Links championship.
Tom Fazio transformed the old flat runways of the Glenview Naval Air Station into rolling fairways at The Glen Club in 2001. Juicy rough and plenty of water define the 195-acre site. The massive clubhouse houses the Illinois Golf Hall of Fame.Closer to downtown, the renowned Port Course and Starboard Course make up Harborside International. Ben Crenshaw, visiting during a 2002 Champions Tour event, compared the linksy Harborside courses to Muirfield in Scotland.
A fine compliment, yes, but Chicago's public golf scene can stand on its own merits. That will be evident when Dubsdread hosts the best players in the world for the BMW.