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Making the Shot

Jan 24, 2017 Outdoors & Regional

Landscape of gold field


Eagle Ridge Resort And Spa

The gentle hills and thick woodlands along Lake Galena cradle one of Illinois’ best concentrations of high-end golf. Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, outside Galena in northwest Illinois, spreads 63 holes over its four courses. The resort’s signature course— The General—features spectacular elevation changes, often coming into play with tee boxes elevated far above fairways. (Hole 14 has a 180-foot-drop from tee to green.) Streams, ponds, generous bunkers and shot-bending doglegs make for unforgettable rounds.

Off the course, the resort fills a day with an indoor pool, tennis courts, 20 miles of cycling and hiking trails, a fitness center, and six restaurants. And the historical town of Galena is a short drive away with its boutique shops, galleries and restaurants. For more weekend getaways built around a great day on the links, read more for a guide to each region’s courses. 

Overview of golf course and trees Golf course in shape of an anchor
Photo cred: John Noltner / Nick Ulivieri

Harborside International Golf Center, Chicago

Two courses feature links-style golf with the Chicago skyline as a close backdrop. In 2014, Golfweek awarded the Starboard Course the 13th spot in its Best Municipal Courses in the nation. Port’s signature 15th hole features an anchorshaped sand trap.

Aldeen Golf Club, Rockford

Golf magazine named Aldeen one of its Thrifty Fifty courses to play (top 50 courses for under $50). Golfers navigate Dick Nugent-designed beach bunkers and an island green with a replica of the Swilcan Bridge at St. Andrews.

Cantigny Golf, Wheaton

Three courses add up to a day of golf. Golfers who play all 27 holes take shots through dense woods and greens surrounded by water. The two-tiered seventh green on the Hillside course demands a sharp shot and a smart club choice.

Golf course surrounded by water Landscape view of golf course
Photo cred: Cantigny Golf / Brian Walters

Cog Hill Golf And Country Club, Lemont

Duffers beware: Accuracy is key at Course No. 4 (Dubshead), the most challenging of Cog Hill’s four courses. Rees Jones recently renovated the Dubshead, rebuilding its greens with tight landings and repositioned hazards and bunkers.

Mistwood Golf Club, Romeoville

Find a bit of Scotland in Chicagoland, with 20 St. Andrews-style sod-wall bunkers at Mistwood. A two-year renovation earned the course a spot on Golf Digest’s Best New Courses of 2013. The new Performance Center offers custom club fitting, equipment repairs and lessons.  

Fly In - Land On The Green

It costs some green ($1,200–$3,000), but it’s worth it to arrive in style. Chicago Helicopter Experience delivers golfers to more than 50 Midwest courses, including Cog Hill.

Golf course with trees and water

Land Of Lincoln

The Den At Fox Creek, Bloomington

This Arnold Palmer-designed 18-hole course offers wide, bent grass fairways with wild prairie grasses that flourish in the rough. A ball-gobbling 131 bunkers flank this postcard-perfect Scottish links-style course, with water hazards in play on half the holes.

The Rail Golf Course, Springfield

Eighty-two sand bunkers plus five lakes at this dairy farm-turned-golf course make The Rail a challenging and beautiful play. Golf Digest gives the course designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr. a 4-star rating.  

A building and a golf course in front of it

Trails of Adventure

Governors Run, Carlyle

Located near Lake Carlyle, the course’s front nine holes have an open style of play, with prairie textures and lakes. The back nine holes take golfers through woodlands and over creeks, and require shot-making accuracy. Golfers enjoy postgame food and bragging rights at Governors Run Bar and Grill.

Hickory Ridge Golf Course, Carbondale

Gently rolling fairways of zoysia grass are framed by a forest of hickory trees, challenging bunkers with pampas grass and water hazards. Several doglegs off the tee (starting with the first hole) make the course a fair test for skilled golfers.

The Links At Kokopelli, Marion

The Links set the standard in Southern Illinois for a great golf experience with family-friendly green fees. Kokopelli is the perfect walking course—just make sure you don’t have to stroll through too many of the bunkers that guard the fairways and greens.

Rend Lake Golf Course, Whittington

Overlooking 18,000-acre Rend Lake, this 27-hole course is part of a recreation complex that includes dining and lodging options. Five sets of tees make this course extremely playable for all levels.

Red Tail Run Golf Club, Decatur

PGA Hall of Famer Raymond Floyd made his mark on the PGA tour and this signature 18-hole course. The generous fairways gently undulate throughout the course among native prairie grasses. Plenty of tee options mean golfers of all skill levels can have an enjoyable round.

Stone Creek Golf Club, Urbana

Tim and Dick Nugent designed Stone Creek with pampered bent grass fairways molded into subtle, smooth hills that frame the true-rolling greens. This 18-hole course has hosted the Big 10 Golf Championships for both men and women, and is home to the Fighting Illini golf teams.

Weibring Golf Club, Illinois State University, Normal

PGA Champions Tour player and Illinois State alum D.A. Weibring supervised extensive improvements to fairways, greens and hazards at this course, which opened in 1962. Home to the Illinois State Redbirds, this par-71 course hosts numerous high school and college competitions. 

People standing sideline watching golf

Great Rivers Country

Annbriar Golf Course, Waterloo

This family-friendly, farm-turned-golf course welcomes players of every handicap. The 18 scenic holes were carved through mature forests. Guests top off their experience by relaxing at Annbriar’s Smokehouse Restaurant.

Arsenal Island Golf Course, Rock Island

Enjoy 120 years of history and 18 holes of golf on the Mississippi River. The golf club got its start in 1897, and its classically designed course offers great views of the Mississippi and some of the truest greens you’ll play.

Harry Mussatto Golf Course, Macomb

The Lamoine River Valley near the Western Illinois University campus provides elevation changes and scenery for two nine-hole courses. Water hazards and bunkers mix with tree-lined fairways at this course named after a beloved WIU alum and coach.

Spencer T. Olin Golf Course, Alton

Its wide fairways tempt, and the many doglegs taunt. Play safe or cut a corner to the green? These decisions make for an entertaining day of golf. Four sets of tees on each hole make a fair contest for every member of the foursome.

TPC Deere Run, Silvis

The Rock River anchors this course, which meanders past oak trees, deep ravines and ponds. Part of the TPC network and licensed by the PGA Tour, Deere Run is a risk-reward layout that includes five sets of tees that cater to all skill levels.

A casino on water edge The exterior of a large building People watching dice roll on game table

Seeing Green Beyond The Course

Even if you don’t feel all that lucky on the golf course, you still might cash in at these eight casinos.

Argosy Casino, Alton

The state’s first riverboat casino features more than 1,000 slots. Dine at Journey restaurant while savoring views of the Clark Bridge.

Casino Queen, East St. Louis

Claiming to have the loosest slots around, this casino also features the Market Street Buffet with international cuisine.

Grand Victoria Casino, Elgin

Play baccarat or craps before rocking to live music at the GVC Show Bar aboard this riverboat.

Harrah’s, Joliet And Metropolis

Take advantage of discounted digs with stay-and-play packages. Joliet’s premium double-queen rooms contain chocolates and bathrobes, while Metropolis offers pet-friendly amenities.

Hollywood Casino, Aurora And Joliet

Multicolor marquees greet visitors, who try their luck at slots, poker, roulette and more.

Jumer’s Casino And Hotel, Rock Island

Don’t be fooled by the retro Art Deco decor. Jumer’s features the latest slot innovations and a hotel with a luxurious day spa.

Par-A-Dice Hotel And Casino, East Peoria

Unwind in suites with whirlpool tubs after hitting the 1,000-plus slots and two dozen table games.

Rivers Casino, Des Plaines

Beyond the vast gaming floor, choose from seven bars and restaurants, including upscale Hugo’s Frog Bar and Chop House.

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