Spring is in bloom, and if you’re a golfer, that means you’ve likely been nose-to-the-window for months, awaiting the opportunity to start swinging. Northern Illinois has some of the most beautiful landscapes for golf in the Midwest. This season, expand your weekly routine with a trip to one of these courses, as beautiful to view as they are worthwhile to play.
Mistwood Golf Club
Mistwood underwent a multi-million dollar renovation on the heels of the 2016 golf season, seeing adjustments that included bolstering the facility to feature nearly 30,000 square feet of restaurant and event space. The course itself is no less ornate, with designer Ray Hearn aiming to transform players back to the sport's roots in Scotland. Twenty sod-wall bunkers fashioned after those found at one of golf's most iconic courses, St. Andrews, dot the course, bringing challenges to augment the beauty. The par 72 course offers five tee placements for each hole, with rounds set to the longest tees – the Tournament, or gray tees – playing in excess of 7,000 yards. Even the red tees provide 5,332 yards of golf. A video flyover course tour is available on the Mistwood website. It runs about 12 minutes and includes voiceover narration that gets players thinking of hole-by-hole strategy. All rates include golf cart rental and range balls. Collared shirts and other suitable golf attire are required for all players. Location: 1700 W. Renwick Road, Romeoville. Call (815) 254-3333 or visit www.mistwoodgc.com
Orchard Valley Golf Course
Orchard Valley has amassed several accolades from various regional and national golf publications since its opening. Golf Digest assigned it the 4-star rating, impressed, no doubt, by the diversity of challenges golfers face across the course's 6,800-yard layout. There are wetlands, lakes, roughs, water hazards, bunkers, hollows and waterfalls. In addition, golfers interested in such things can enjoy the opportunity to show their stuff to passing motorists, as a portion of the course runs adjacent to the bustling west side of Aurora. Players can choose from four tee boxes that stretch the course from 5,162 to 6,745 yards. In addition, tech-savvy golfers can benefit from a free mobile app that provides "everything you need to have the best experience on and off the course," the course website states. Offerings include: GS yardage, interactive scorecard, track scoring states, tee time booking, last-minute specials, live leaderboards, Facebook sharing and round history. Rates vary for Aurora residents and non-residents, as well as for weekdays and weekends. Location: 2411 W. Illinois Ave., Aurora. Call (630) 907-0500 or visit www.orchardvalleygolf.com
Harborside International Golf Center
The Chicago Loop sits just a few minutes from Harborside's two renowned courses, Port and Starboard, but let the bells, whistles, restaurants and shops wait for awhile. The pair of links courses, designed in nod to the Scottish, English and Irish landscapes of golf's genesis, are beckoning as a unique experience to savor in The Second City. Both courses offer views of the Chicago skyline amid the regular challenges familiar to golfers, but you'll find the names of the holes have more to do with Europe or geography than Chicago. The signature hole on the course is the Par 3 No. 15 on the Port Course, named "Anchor" for the nautical shape of greenery inside a large pit of sand. The course finishes with three holes that border harbor waters. The Starboard Course features another well-known Par 3 in which players must carry a lake with a middle iron. If you can find the green, you'll have earned it, as it is sneakily angled to the right, with three bunkers waiting on the left. Such tricks are littered elsewhere on the course, but Chicago golf enthusiasts agree playing either course at Harborside is a welcome treat. Location: 11001 S. Doty Ave. East, Chicago. Call (312) 782-7837 or visit www.harborsidegolf.com
ThunderHawk Golf Club
Even if your scorecard isn't teeming with birdies, chances are you'll spot a few either way during your round at this 228-acre course nestled near the North Shore. Opened in 1999, ThunderHawk is recognized by the Audubon Society as a signature sanctuary course, bringing a wildlife habitat and natural areas alongside the generous fairways and greens. Golfers will navigate meadows, wetlands and woodlands along the way, adding breathtaking views to the pursuit of a low score on the Par 72, 7,031-yardcourse. Rates vary between weekdays, weekends and holidays, with specials for players ages 62 and over, as well as the opportunity to play just nine holes. Outings packages also are available, and include multiple dining options, golf with cart, bag drop service, driving range use, 30-minute group golf clinic, setup and scoring, staff assistance and tee gifts. As with many courses in this Neighborhood Tourist list, it also hosts weddings and events. Location: 39700 Lewis Ave., Beach Park. Call (847) 968-4295 or visit www.thunderhawkgolfclub.org
The Glen Club
Should you happen to connect on a particularly booming drive at The Glen Club, take care to practice proper golf etiquette and refrain from admiring it for too long. That could be more challenging here than other courses, considering that watching flying objects is in the local fabric; the Glen Club is located at the former site of the Glenview Naval Air Station. The layout has taken shape through the years, to be sure. Although the iconic Chicago skyline looms in the distance, the course also boasts its share of lakes, streams and vistas, giving golfers plenty to glance at between holes other than their scorecards or mobile devices. Recognized prominently by Golf Magazine in 2017 as the No. 2 best course to play in Illinois and the No.90 course to play nationwide, The Glen Club – which opened in 2001 – meshes new amenities with the familiar traditions of a centuries-old sport. Check out the course website for a hole-by-hole analysis of the course, plus a video that provides an aerial approach to The Glen Club and its 195 acres.2901 W. Lake Ave., Glenview. Call (847) 724-7272 or visit www.theglenclub.com
Cog Hill Golf and Country Club
One of the nation's premier public golf destinations features four 18-hole courses, highlighted by the picturesque Dubsdread. The former host of the PGA's BMW Championship (born the Western Open) housed five of Tiger Woods' professional wins and an additional victory as an amateur. Also known as Course No. 4, Dubsdread was the vision of course patriarch Joe Jemsek to both "provide a country club experience and amenities to all golfers" and "test the world's greatest golfers," according to the course website. Ask professionals and amateurs who have played the course since its opening in 1964, and they aren't likely to dissent. To paraphrase a line from "Caddyshack," courses 1, 2 and 3 are no slouches themselves, each offering various challenges and unique nooks worthy of mastering over and again. Individual rates are available, adjusted for the day of the week and teetime. Cog Hill also provides numerous packages that allow players to enjoy each of its courses as well as accouterments such as hotel accommodations, gift cards, range balls and a custom engraved bag tags. Location: 12294 Archer Ave., Lemont. Call (630) 257-5872, ext. 301 or visit www.coghillgolf.com.
TPC Deere Run
Thousands of spectators flock to this course near the Quad Cities to see PGA stars up close during the John Deere Classic each July. Thousands more enjoy the course themselves on those weekends when the pros aren't already teeing it up in their stead. Considering the course is operated by the PGA Tour as a member of its network of Tournament Players Club courses, most find the commute – no matter how large or small – to be worth it. Many rates reflect the novelty of the TPC Deere Run experience, branded online as "Built for the pros. Experienced by you." Golfers can enjoy all-day specials, adjusted for the peak months of golfing season, among other offers throughout the spring, summer and early fall. Players will encounter familiar hazards and challenging elevation changes during the course of the round, with plenty of sights and sounds that capitalize on TPC Deere Run's proximity to the Rock River Valley. Before enjoying, nature, however, there's some picturesque technology to consult. Be sure to take full advantage of the website videos featuring pro tips on how to approach certain holes. How many other public courses have that luxury? Location: 3100 Heather Knoll, Silvis. Call (309) 796-6000 or visit www.tpc.com/deererun