Medinah Ryder Cup

Let’s face facts, Chicago isn’t blessed with the best weather for tennis and golf. Windy, cold, rainy, snowy, humid, hot and thunderstorms all accurately describe the area’s weather. When you can get in your leisure activities locally, you should act. And when you do, if you have access to some of the better locations – expect to be wowed especially on the golf front.

It is not uncommon for people that live in Chicago to have to travel a bit to get to the best courses much like those who live in The Big Apple – they have to get out of town a bit to get to the goodies. It doesn’t take long for the golf to get good for New Yorkers be it a small trip off of Manhattan to locales like Long Island, Westchester or Northern New Jersey will yield a strong concentration of Golf Digest, Golf Week and Golf Magazine Top 100 candidates. Chicago has a similar effect as the best courses are west and north of the city thus require some time on the freeway or in a train to get to the midwestern promised land.

Here is a list of the best golf courses in Chicago…

No. 1 – Chicago Golf
If I told you that there were only 125 members of Chicago Golf Club, you might think that I was crazy but it is true. This CB MacDonald and Seth Reynor (renovation albeit a LONG time ago) course is the true definition of a classic. Square greens, nothing behind the greens, vast open spaces and classic holes like “punch bowl” “redan” and “road hole” harken to classics in Scotland. They might not have a strong caddy program or a vibrant club house social life but the golf course is for many, at best, a once in a lifetime event. Never miss a chance to play Chicago Golf. Buy as many shirts with the Fair and Safe Logo as possible.

No. 2 – Shoreacres
Another effort by Seth Reynor to the north of the city, this is a tremendously fun golf course. While close to a Great Lake, the course doesn’t play by the water ironically. You might don a suit and tie to eat by the water after golf but don’t worry the links are super fun, challenging and without question classic. Critics suggest that the course “isn’t that long” but the longest holes have recently been elongated so expect a few 500 yard par fours if you go to the Black Tees. There are reachable par fives and cool, short par fours. Elevation changes are many leaving you wanting more like a good amusement park ride after it is over.

No. 3 – Medinah No. 3
Ian Poulter hosed America on our home turf and I am not OK with it. For Top 100 snobs, Medinah No. 3 gets a major beat down but it isn’t fair. Yes, it is a midwestern course thus tree lined but who cares. It is a fun track with lots of hard holes and good short hole opportunities. It is, generally, in fantastic condition and the amenities are pretty swank. I am going to erase the Ryder Cup memories from my mind and replace them with positive ones from playing there.

No. 4 – Olympia Fields
Tennis is strong at Olympia Fields but this country club has hosts a United States Open. While there are more than one course to play at Olympia Fields, the main attraction is the North Course which was the 2003 host for the world’s biggest golf event. The majority of the $6,000,000 purse went to Jim Furyk, the winner. The club has a big membership and unlike Butler, is friendly to women and kids. The course is a traditional midwestern course and can be very hard when setup that way but for members can play very fair.

No. 5 – Butler National
Sorry ladies, you aren’t invited to this stuck-in-a-time-warp 1970 George Fazio design. Phil Mickelson loves this brutally hard golf course as he isn’t one to shy away from a monied game. Long rough is a start. Unreachable par fives come next and forced carry water par threes are around the corner. You need to be a stick to be able to play Butler. Once done… the beer flows like wine (like in Aspen) and steaks are cooked to absolute perfection. The locker room is a “vintage” but the service is second to none. Compare with Garden City Men’s Club and leave your wife at home for this round. Clubs like Butler are why many in Chicago, much like in Philadelphia, have more than one country club membership.

Honorable Mentions
We like Old Elm, which is near Shoreacres. Great greens and a fun course at a very fair price to join.

Rich Harvest Farms is highly ranked on the Golf Digest Top 100 but is a lot of sizzle and not a lot of bacon. Their car collection is awesome but Jerry Rich didn’t redesign Augusta National WAY west of Chicago no matter how limited the membership is.