Plan a Chicago Golf Vacation:

I cannot count how many times I am asked the question:  Where should I play golf when I’m visiting Chicago?  My answer… well it changes from time to time, depends on who has a good deal, and what courses are in exceptionally great shape.  I wanted to give a more concrete answer, and to do so we really need to have a three pronged approach.  I call it the EAGLE, BIRDIE, and PAR packages.


The Eagle package is for those of you who can make it rain, money is no object, and you have never heard of  The Birdie Package is for the golfers out there that have saved a little spending money for a rainy day and this trip is that rainy day (metaphorically speaking, we really don’t want it to rain while you are in Chicago).  And finally the Par package: you are on a golf vacation but we are still clipping coupons, and make sure we stretch our vacation dollars.

All of the Eagle package courses are $100+, the courses that are mentioned below are always in great shape, the greens are fast hard and fun to play.  These are some of the top public courses (money wise as well as enjoyability) that Chicago has to offer:

  • Cog Hill Course #4 Dubs Dread
  • The Glen Club
  • Cantigny
  • Harbourside

Other Chicago stuff to do after your round of golf.  Since money is no object enjoy the best of Chicago’s restaurants.  Eat at places like Joe’s Stone Crab, The Chophouse, Alinea, Charlie Trotter’s, Moto (a must go for Top Chef lovers).  These are just a few of Chicago’s best and brightest restaurants, with the highest tabs.  Don’t worry about a reservation you’ve got money just slip the guy a hundie and you got yourself a seat for you and your golfing buddies.

Most of the birdie package golf courses are in the $50-$100 range. These courses are typically in very good shape, mabye a little rough around the edges, but all in all very good shape.  I am a big believer of good greens, and all of these courses typically have good greens.  When the greens are good I can deal with almost anything else. 

  • Seven Bridges
  • Bowes Creek
  • Willow Crest
  • Cog Hill Course #2
  • Prairie Landing
  • Pine Meadow
  • Ruffled Feathers
  • Thunder Hawk
  • Highlands of Elgin
  • Orchard Valley
  • George Dunn
  • Mistwood
  • Klein Creek
  • St. Andrews Golf Course
  • Blackberry Oaks

All of these courses are in the $50-$100 range, and all of them are on  So you can easily plan on short notice with any of these courses, and 9 times out of 10 have a great round with good greens and very good conditions.  Be prepared though that most of these places are going to be slow,  5+ hour rounds.  The birdie courses are going to have lots of play, and it could be a bit of a death march.  So bring something to do while waiting on each tee box: a book, a deck of cards, magazines, horseshoes, or possibly bags/cornhole whatever you call it.

DO NOT MISTAKE THESE COURSE’S AS THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL, they are anything but.  These are just courses that are inexpensive.  The conditions can vary throughout the summer, sometimes the greens are sweet, and other times they can be a little slow.  I would recommend these courses if you are adhering to a strict budget.  These are courses that are going to run you under the $50 range, and are also on (sometimes you can get a hot deal and pay next to nothing for these courses).  Plus with hot deals you can always find other players to play with, if you are on vacation with the family and want to sneak out to play golf.

  • Sydney Maravitz
  • Jackson Park
  • Carriage Greens
  • Fox Valley CC
  • Odyssey CC
  • Wedgewood
  • Innwood

What to do in Chicago after golf (when real money counts, meaning you actually look at the bills you get and have some kind of budget when on vacation).  Here is the Chicago Golf Guy’s top 5 things to do in Chicago that doesn’t involve golf:

  1. Go To Portillos.  If I had one meal left on earth, and I’m talking Death Row, Dead Man walking, I would get my last meal from Portillos.  Everything on the menu is great.  From Hot Dogs (yes they come Chicago style automatically), to Italian Beef, to Cheese Burgers, to the salads, to the pasta, and if you are there on Rib night then you might have just died and gone to heaven.  Portillos is the one restaurant that I would consider eating at every day for the rest of my life.  I do not know what more I can say besides that.  There are locations all over Chicago, so no matter where you are staying you can find a Portillos that is close.  Remember that in Chicago, we do not put Ketchup on our hot dogs. So when you get a Hot Dog, know that Chicago Style is: Neon Green Relish, Onions, a Dill Pickle, Tomato slices, yellow Mustard, Sport Peppers, Celery Salt, on a Poppy Seed bun.  There are no other ways to get a hot dog while in Chicago.  Wanna make sure everyone knows your a tourist… ask for Ketchup.
  2. Go to a Cubs game.  Wrigley Field is quintessential Chicago.  When someone says “hey Im from Chicago” the first thing people ask back is are you a Cubs fan?  The most beloved team in all of baseball, despite their record.  If you are in Chicago, and you are going to spend an afternoon not playing golf, this is the place to be.  Get an Old Style, sit in the bleachers, and drink among the greatest fans of baseball.  If Baseball is America’s past time, then Wrigley Field is Chicago’s most notorious tourist attraction.  Just be careful of any home runs hit by the other team, you are going to throw that ball back on the field… like it or not!
  3. Check out the Sears Tower:  No matter who owns the Sears Tower it will always be the Sears Tower to me.  For example.  Currently  Willis, owes the Sears Tower.  So if you are outside the building, it says Willis Tower.  Yes as in What cho talking bout Willis, Willis Tower.  Anyways, the Skydeck which is new for us Chicagoians (a few years old, but still really cool).  It is a glass elevator on the observatory deck at the Sears (Willis) Tower. What the heck is a glass elevator?  Well, you walk into a glass box, that is outside the 1300 foot tower with nothing below you but glass.  It is a Vertigo and a half feeling when you step out into nothingness.  Trust me, you will not mind the airport like security by the time you get to see Chicago’s best view from 1300+ feet.
  4. Check out the festival of the week:  Depending on the time of year, there is some kind of fest going on in Chicago, no matter what time of year it is.  If it is the Old Town Art Festival, or the Taste of Chicago, or the Gay Pride Parade (it doesn’t matter to me what your into), Chicago’s Jazz Fest,  or the countless other neighborhood festivals that run all summer long.  There is always something going on that will tickle your fancy.  Not to mention that there is great street food, and drinks to be had at every one of Chicago’s very own little street festivals.  I promise that you will have a good time at any of Chicago’s Street Fests.
  5. My favorite bars in Chicago: This was a tough one, to find a bar that every one likes is difficult to say the least.  Some like the down and dirty dives, some like the club experience, and others just like a good place to drink with no frills.  Here are my favorite bars to check out while in Chicago, the (—) indicates what neig:
    1. The Bedford (Wicker Park/Bucktown)
    2. John Barleycorn (Lakeview~the one on Clark by Wrigley)
    3. Hotel Cedar (Viagra Triangle???)
    4. but don’t trust me check out this link of Chicago’s best Bars…

These are some of my favorite things to do in Chicago, when I cannot play golf.  I hope that you enjoy them, and if you find something that you loved while in Chicago (or if you are a native) please send me an email, and you never  know your thing to do just might end up on my list of things to do in Chicago when on a Golf Vacation!

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