One of my favorite golfing pastimes is taking a day off from work in the height of the summer and playing 36 holes at two of the fine courses that populate the Windy City Golf landscape. Following are some of the best combinations of courses that won’t break your budget (under $90 total green fees, including cart) and within a 30 minute drive of one another (as per Google Maps calculation).
You may have to do a little advanced planning to secure the right tee times to get all the holes in before dark, but the courses listed start their discounted pm rates no later than 3 o’clock, which should allow you to finish during the majority of the summer. All the rates are as published or as online tee times on the course websites, so additional savings may be scored with coupons, internet hot deals, senior/junior discounts, etc. So leave your cares and the weekend crowds behind and tee it up at one of the following combo’s that include some of the best layouts the Windy City has to offer:
SOUTH / SOUTHWEST
Big Run (Lockport) / Cog Hill #2 (Lemont) – Big Run has a $45 all day rate on Mondays & Tuesdays (and a $49 Early Bird Special before 10 am the rest of the week), so get a tee time around 8 and play one of the biggest, baddest tracks in the Chicagoland area. Go have lunch at Three Corners Bar & Grill in Lemont, which offer discounts to golfers with a receipt from that day, then enjoy a round at Cog Hill #2 for $41 at 3 pm, a bargain for this pristine parkland layout.
Total Green Fees – $86 M-TU, $90 W-F Driving Distance / Time – 5.3 miles / 9 minutes
The Links at Carillon (Plainfield) / Bolingbrook – Weekday rates w/cart are commonly listed online as $39 at Carillon, and the Red/White combo is a good play at this 27 hole facility just a few minutes south of I-55 on Weber Road. The Arthur Hills design at Bolingbrook transformed a corn field into an upscale links experience, and the normally pricey greens fee drop to $50 at 3 pm. If you’re so inclined, there’s a Tilted Kilt halfway in between for lunch.
Total Green Fees – $89 Driving Distance / Time – 4.4 miles / 10 minutes
Cinder Ridge (Wilmington) / Heritage Bluffs (Channahon) – The quirky, owner designed Cinder Ridge costs $32 before 9 am and offers plenty of challenge as it stretches to near 7,000 yards from the tips over the elevation changes offered by the former strip mine. Head up I-55 for 10 miles to Heritage Bluffs and take advantage of the $36 “9 hole plus” bargain rate after 2 pm and enjoy this highly regarded Dick Nugent design.
Total Green Fees – $68 Driving Distance / Time – 10.3 miles / 14 minutes
The Odyssey (Tinley Park) / George Dunne (Oak Forest) – The Odyssey has a $38 early bird rate before 7:30, a good deal at this Curtis Strange design near the Harlem exit on I-80. Stop in downtown Tinley Park for lunch (I like Ed ‘n Joe’s for pizza or a sandwich), then cruise a few miles north for a twilight round at George Dunne, the thoroughbred in the Cook County Forest Preserve golf stable and one of the best tracks in the Windy City. The posted rate is $45, but make sure you check the online booking as rates are typically much less.
Total Green Fees – $83 Driving Distance / Time – 5 miles / 13 minutes
Tamarack (Naperville) / Naperbrook (Naperville) – The 73.7 rating / 136 slope at Tamarack is an accurate indicator of the challenge at this 6,900 yard, par 70 course as water lurks somewhere on almost every hole. Morning rate is a reasonable $44. You’ll have plenty of time to stop at the new Sharko’s Bar-B-Que at 111th St and Route 59, then go east a few miles to Naperbrook. The green fees at the prairie links style Naperville Park District course drop to $45 after Noon, and this is a solid layout that was in excellent condition on a recent visit. An easy walk, you can save $16 by skipping the cart.
Total Green Fees – $89 Driving Distance / Time – 3.3 miles / 7 minutes
Glenwoodie (Glenwood) / Coyote Run (Flossmoor) – The 16th hole at Glenwoodie is one of the hardest par 4’s in the Windy City area, and there are plenty of other good holes at this classic south suburban course. Get up early for a $33 weekday tee time before 8 am. Coyote Run is the remnant of the old Cherry Hills course, and the Greg Martin redesign is a typically fun, playable course that’s always in top shape. The $38 twilight rate starts at 2 pm.
Total Green Fees – $71 Driving Distance / Time – 5.9 miles / 16 minutes
Lincoln Oaks (Crete) / Balmoral Woods (Crete) – Start the day at Lincoln Oaks, the 6,200 yard, par 71 “neighborhood” course in Crete that’s loaded with old school charm and features beautiful bent grass fairways. The $34 rate includes range balls and breakfast or lunch, too. Head south down Route 394 and test your skill at the brawny Balmoral Woods, where the $35 fee after 2 pm is worth every penny at this top far south side track.
Total Green Fees – $69 Driving Distance / Time – 7 miles / 12 minutes
Sanctuary (New Lenox) / Old Oak (Homer Glen) – The $28 all day rate on Wednesday at The Sanctuary is a primo deal at this prairie links style course. Head north on Parker Road to play Old Oak at 3 for $36 and a totally different experience, as there are possibly more trees per acre than any course in Chicagoland at this much improved, parkland layout.
Total Green Fees – $64 Wednesday Driving Distance / Time – 8.5 miles / 16 minutes
Whitetail Ridge (Yorkville) / Wedgewood (Joliet) – Whitetail Ridge is one of the few new courses (opened in 2007) in the Windy City area, and the links style on the front transitions up and around the ridge for a completely different back 9. Take advantage of the $40 early bird before 9 am. One of the 3 Joliet Park District courses, Wedgewood is my favorite, a fair challenge and a very good layout. The 3 pm Twilight is $39.
Total Green Fees – $79 Driving Distance / Time – 11.6 miles / 16 minutes
Broken Arrow (Lockport) / Prairie Bluff (Lockport) – Extend your weekend and take advantage of the $32 all day rate on Mondays at Broken Arrow. The South and East courses are the normal 18 hole routing, and the North course is OK if you can get past the funky double pin, enormous greens, but whatever configuration you play, be ready for a stiff test. Prairie Bluff is a few miles west on Route 7, a vast prairie links course operated by the Lockport Park District with elevation change and seas of native grasses. The listed 3 pm rate is $42, but online rates are typically $36.
Total Green Fees – $74 Driving Distance / Time – 8.2 miles / 16 minutes
Tuckaway (Crete) / Minne Monesse (Grant Park) – This is a bargain basement deal at 2 pretty good courses at the far southern edge of metro Chicago. Tuckaway is a hilly layout with sloping greens that is $30 weekday mornings. Minne Monesse may have a bit more interesting, and the $25 greens fee after 1 pm makes for one of the least expensive double dips you’ll find anywhere.
Total Green Fees – $55 Driving Distance / Time – 11.9 miles / 20 minutes
Meadows (Blue Island) / Harborside (Chicago) – This duo features creative use of former landfills. The par 71 Meadows opened in 1994 and plays to 6,500 yards from the tips, and is a good warm-up for an afternoon round at Harborside. Both the Starboard and Port courses are highly regarded, but the last 3 holes along Lake Calumet are tough to beat for end of round drama. Neither course shows posted rates, but the on-line rate at The Meadows before 8 am is $34, and $56 after 3 pm at Harborside, just making the $90 limit.
Total Green Fees – $90 Driving Distance / Time – 9.4 miles / 18 minutes
NORTH / NORTHWEST
Thunderhawk (Beach Park) / Shepherd’s Crook (Zion) – Both of these courses in the shadow of the Wisconsin border have been rated nationally on Golf Week’s top 50 municipal course list, and grab 3 friends and take advantage of ThunderHawk’s $55 early bird special for foursomes, as this is one of the best courses I have played anywhere in the Chicagoland area. The $35 Twilight rate after 2 pm and 10 minute tee time intervals at Shepherd’s Crook are a great way to complete the day at this fine links style layout.
Total Green fees – $90 Driving Distance / Time – 4.5 miles / 9 minutes
Bittersweet (Gurnee) / Stonewall Orchard (Grayslake) – I’ve heard that Bittersweet is much improved since GolfVisions took over management a few years ago, and the $30 rate before 7:30 is worthy of a trip. That leaves plenty of time for lunch and just enough money left to experience Stonewall Orchard. The “pre-twilight” rate at one of the two Arthur Hills Windy City public course designs is $59 at 3 pm, a $30 discount.
Total Green Fees – $89 Driving Distance / Time – 11 miles / 20 minutes
Midlane (Wadsworth) / Bonnie Brook (Waukegan) – Weekday morning rates at Midlane are only $45, and the trio of par 5’s at this challenging par 71 “resort” course are among the best I’ve played in the area. Take a 5 minute detour for a burger at the Shanty on Route 41, then drive to Waukegan for an afternoon round at Bonnie Brook, a classic north shore parkland layout that dates back to the 1920’s. Rates drop to $35 after Noon at this Waukegan Park District facility.
Total Green Fees – $80 Driving Distance / Time – 3.8 miles / 8 minutes
Countryside (Mundelein) / Steeple Chase (Mundelein) – Choose from either the Prairie or Traditional courses at Countryside in Mundelein, a Lake County Forest Preserve facility. The rates are $39 before Noon. Stop at Emil’s Sports Bar for lunch (the pulled pork cooked in the onsite smoker is delicious), then complete the short drive to Steeple Chase. Play Monday thru Thursday for the appealing 3 pm twilight rate of $44 at this excellent layout.
Total Green Fees – $83 Driving Distance / Time – 1 mile / 3 minutes
RedTail (Village of Lakewood) / Golf Club of Illinois (Algonquin) – I played RedTail a few years ago and the double green island on the back nine is a unique feature at this good McHenry County course. $43 is the cost for a weekday morning round. The once fierce Golf Club of Illinois has been toned down over the years, but the 7,000 yard, par 71 layout still has plenty of native grasses to evade and some of the best greens I’ve played in the last few years. Weekday rate after 1 pm is only $35.
Total Green Fees – $78 Driving Distance / Time – 6.9 miles / 13 minutes
Marengo Ridge (Marengo) / Blackstone (Marengo) – Marengo is on the outer fringes of the Windy City area, but the two courses here are worth the trip. I’ve never played Marengo Ridge but I’ve been told that it’s a good layout, and a weekday rate before 11 am is $39. Make the short drive to the semi-private Blackstone, a highly regarded Bob Lohmann design and enjoy the afternoon round at 3 pm for $44.
Total Green Fees – $83 Driving Distance / Time – 2.1 miles / 4 minutes
Chevy Chase (Wheeling) / Deerfield (Riverwoods) – Chevy Chase was extensively renovated about a decade ago, and an early bird special rate of $37 before 7:30 am is a significant discount from the regular weekday rate. Deerfield boasts the “Best Public Greens on the North Shore” and is a qualifying site for the PGA Seniors Tour Event in Chicago. The $43 twilight rate starts at 2:30, with plenty of time in between to stop at the nearby Spears Bourbon, Burgers and Beer or Twin Peaks for lunch.
Total Green Fees – $80 Driving Distance / Time – 3.3 miles / 7 minutes
Pinecrest (Huntley) / Whisper Creek (Huntley) – 63 bunkers and 5 lakes provide the challenge at Pinecrest, a Huntley Park District course. Morning green fees are $42 Tuesday thru Friday, and only $32 on Mondays. Stay in Huntley and head over to Whisper Creek, which flows through the huge Sun City complex. It’s plenty long (7,100), Audubon Certified, and only $36 at 3 pm.
Total Green Fees – $68 Monday, $78 Tuesday-Friday, Driving Distance / Time – 4.2 miles / 8 minutes
Winnetka / Highland Park – It’s rare to find deals on the North Shore, but the rates at Winnetka are $49 before 8 am Monday thru Thursday, and this 6,500 yard, par 71 course has a history dating back near 100 years. Highland Park is celebrating its 50th Anniversary and has 50 sand traps and water on 13 holes over the par 71 layout. Posted rate after 2 pm is $40, but website fee is commonly $5 less.
Total Green Fees – $89 Driving Distance / Time – 8.4 miles / 13 minutes
Hilldale (Hoffman Estates) / Bridges of Poplar Creek (Hoffman Estates) – Start the day (Monday thru Thursday) at Hilldale, the only 18 hole course in Northern Illinois designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr., for $42. Poplar Creek had been plagued by flooding issues for years, but extensive work by Bob Lohmann, including the addition of several aesthetically pleasing wooden bridges, has made for a much improved experience. 3 pm rate is $38.
Total Green Fees – $80 Monday – Thursday Driving Distance / Time – 1.9 miles / 5 minutes
Fox Run (Elk Grove Village) / Schaumburg – Fox Run has specials on Monday ($35 all day) and Fridays ($30 before 8 am), and this par 70 course is much improved since a Greg Martin update in 2012. All three nines at Schaumburg are equally good, but the 6th hole on the Player course is the one you don’t want to miss. Twilight rate at 3 pm is $45.
Total Green Fees – $75 Friday, $80 Monday Driving Distance / Time – 2.6 miles / 5 minutes
WEST / FAR WEST
St. Andrews (West Chicago) / Bartlett Hills – The 2 courses at St. Andrews in West Chicago were built back in the late 1920’s and are worth playing for historical significance alone, and the $39.50 rate before 8:30 am is easy on the wallet. Bartlett Hills is straight up Route 59 and is a super solid course with an abundance of trees, hills and some excellent holes. The twilight rate at 3 pm is a very friendly $31.
Total Green Fees – $70.50 Driving Distance / Time – 6.2 miles / 11 minutes
Bloomingdale / Village Links of Glen Ellyn – The Village Links is one of my favorite courses in all the Windy City, and if you can gather a foursome, the Happy Hour special of $100 total plus $18 per person cart fee is one of the best deals you’ll find at a prime layout. The updated Bloomingdale Golf Club is the perfect complement. The first 2 hours are $33 and the twilight rate at 2 pm is $37, so this works perfectly with either the July (3-4 pm) or August (7-8 am) Happy Hours on Fridays.
Total Green Fees – $76 (Fridays in July), $80 (Fridays in August) Driving Distance / Time – 10.1 miles / 15 minutes
Hughes Creek (Elburn) / Tanna Farms (Geneva) – The bluegrass fairways at Hughes Creek may be a little on the rough side at times, but the big views of the surrounding Kane County countryside and the $34 price ($36 on Fridays) are worth an early morning trip. Don’t let the distance at Tanna Farms (6,500 yards) fool you, this par 71 course can be a butt kicker, especially if the wind is up. Plus I love the 6 par threes, including the island green to start the round. $35 after 2:30 makes this a super bargain 36 holes.
Total Green Fees – $69 Monday – Thursday, $71 Friday Driving Distance / Time – 3.9 miles / 6 minutes
Phillips Park (Aurora) / Orchard Valley (Aurora) – Greg Martin did wonders with the redesign of Phillips Park in Aurora to create a fun, playable and aesthetically pleasing layout. Only $44 is the regular weekday rate. Travel across Aurora to Orchard Valley, one of the best public layouts in Chicagoland. 3 pm twilight rate online is a super bargain at only $30.
Total Green Fees – $74 Driving Distance / Time – 9.9 miles / 15 minutes
Glendale Lakes (Glendale Heights) / Klein Creek (Winfield) – These Dick Nugent designs are uncomfortably tight to the homes in spots, and I wouldn’t include either among his best work, but they both feature several really good, memorable holes that are worth playing, and the price is right. Glendale Lakes is $39 weekday mornings, and the 3 pm discount is $35 Mondays & Tuesdays and $40 Wednesday – Friday at Klein Creek, and both courses are typically in good condition.
Total Green Fees – $74 Monday-Tuesday, $79 Wednesday-Friday Driving Distance / Time – 4.1 miles / 9 minutes
White Pines (Bensenville) / Maple Meadows (Wood Dale) – The par 70 East or par 72 West layouts at White Pines are tree-lined, traditional parkland tracks that offer excellent value. Weekday rates before 8 am are $40. Just west of Route 83 is Maple Meadows, a sneaky tough,links style course that offers a totally different look than White Pines. Twilight time changes throughout the summer, but the $36 rate is usually available after Noon.
Total Green Fees – $76 Driving Distance / Time – 3.2 miles / 9 minutes