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Where can you play golf near Chicago? The best public access courses

Where can you play golf near Chicago? The best public access courses

Anyone in a window seat on a flight into Chicago can see there are plenty of golf courses in the area. Particularly on the private side, there are dozens of courses that could land on any player’s bucket list.

But what about public-access courses? Where should you begin?

Thanks to Golfweek’s Best annual rankings of top public-access courses in each state, we can break out the highest-ranked layouts in the Chicago area. For the purpose of this exercise, we limited driving time to about 90 minutes. from downtown Chicago. (We used Google Maps for its drive times, keying in downtown Chicago on a mid-afternoon – take all drive times around Chicago with a grain of salt, of course.)

Golfweek’s Best ranks 15 public-access courses in all of Illinois on our state-by-state ranking, and 12 of those fit the bill of being within 90 minutes of Chicago. Keep scrolling to see how they stack up, and check out the accompanying map to get a handle on roughly where everything is located.

A little background: The hundreds of members of our course-ratings panel continually evaluate courses and rate them on 10 criteria on a points basis of 1 through 10. They also file a single, overall rating on each course. Those overall ratings are averaged to produce all our Golfweek’s Best course rankings.

The courses on this list allow public access in some fashion, be it standard daily green fees, through a resort or by staying at an affiliated hotel. If there’s a will, there’s a tee time – no membership required.

(Google Earth/Golfweek)

The 13th hole at Blackstone Golf Club offers a scenic drive through the Everglades on the S-curved cart path between the tee and fairway. (Photo: Rockford Register-Star)

Where: Marengo
State ranking 2023: No. 15 public-access in Illinois
Designer: Bob Lohmann
Distance: About an hour and 15 minutes northwest of Chicago

Where: West Chicago
State ranking 2023: No. 14 public-access in Illinois
Designer: Robert Trent Jones Jr.
Distance: About an hour west of Chicago

The Woodside nine at Cantigny Golf Club in Illinois (Courtesy of Cantigny Golf Club)

Where: Wheaton
State ranking 2023: No. 13 public-access in Illinois
Designer: Roger Packard
Distance: About 45 minutes west of downtown Chicago

Where: Romeoville
State ranking 2023: No. 12 public-access in Illinois
Designer: Ray Hearn
Distance: About 50 minutes southwest of downtown…


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