The 15 best golf courses in Illinois (2022/2023)

chicago golf club green

Chicago GC in Wheaton, Ill.

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As part of GOLF’s course rating process for 2022-23, our fleet of 100-plus expert panelists identified the best golf courses in Illinois. Browse the links below to check out all of our course rankings, or scroll down to see the best courses in Illinois.

GOLF’s other course rankings: Top 100 Courses in the World | Top 100 Courses in the U.S. | Top 100 Courses You Can Play | Top 100 Value Courses in the U.S. | America’s Best Municipal Courses | The 100 Best Short Courses in the World

1 = Top 100 Course in the U.S.
P = Public/Resort Course
V = Top 100 Value Course in the U.S.
M = Top 30 Municipal Course in the U.S.

Ed. note: Some courses were omitted from our rankings because they did not receive enough votes.

The best golf courses in Illinois (2022/2023)

1. Chicago GC (Wheaton) [1]

One of the five founding members of the United States Golf Association in 1894, Chicago Golf was the site of the nation’s first 18-hole course; it also was the first course outside of the Northeast to play host to the U.S. Open. Seth Raynor retooled his mentor C.B. Macdonald’s course in 1923 and not much has changed since as its slew of exemplary template holes make it just as relevant today as it was in the hickory era. Holes 1 through 4, which include a Road and Biarritz template, represent one of the game’s most testing starts.

2. Shoreacres GC (Lake Bluff) [1]

Steep ravines affect play throughout Shoreacres’ famed stretch of holes from 10-15. The rest of the property features more modest topography but you are unlikely to notice that fact as the expansive greens offer such interesting targets. Ironic for an architect who built template holes but the best hole on this Seth Raynor design may well be the thoroughly original risk-reward 520-yard par-5 15th, which doglegs left, over and around a ravine.

3. Old Elm Club (Highland Park)

4. Olympia Fields CC – North (Olympia Fields)

5. The Beverly CC (Chicago)

6. Medinah CC – No. 3 (Medinah)

7. Skokie CC (Glencoe)

8. Butler National GC (Oak Brook)

Butler National GC in Oak Brook, Ill. Courtesy of Butler National GC

9. Medinah – No. 1 (Medinah)

10. Olympia Fields CC – South (Olympic Fields)

11. Black Sheep GC (Sugar Grove)

12. Cog Hill Golf & Country Club – No. 4 (Lemont)

13. Knollwood Club (Lake Forest)

14. Flossmoor GC (Flossmoor)

15. Exmoor CC (Highland Park)

How we rank our courses

For GOLF’s course rankings lists, each panelist is provided a list of hundreds of courses and “buckets,” or groupings. If they believe the course to be among the best in its category (World, U.S. Value, etc.), they check the corresponding box to place it in a specific bucket. Panelists are also free to write in courses they felt should have been included on the ballot. Points were assigned to each bucket; to arrive at an average score for each course, we divide its aggregate score by the number of votes. From those point tallies, the courses are then ranked accordingly.

The key to the process is the experience and expertise of our panel. Hailing from 15 nations and all the worldwide golf meccas, each of our 115 handpicked panelists has a keen eye for architecture, both regionally and globally. Many of our panelists have played more than 1,000 courses in 20-plus countries.

Because we don’t prescribe a set method to assess courses as other ranks do, no one opinion carries the day — our rank is a democracy. Some panelists believe that enjoyment is the ultimate goal, and thus prioritize design attributes such as width and playing angles, while frowning on upon having to constantly hunt for balls in thick rough. Other panelists value challenge and the demands of hitting every club in the bag. Still others consider a course’s surroundings and overall environment of paramount importance, thereby emphasizing the setting and naturalness of the course. In the end, allowing raters to freely express their tastes is what produces the desired eclecticism in our Top 100 lists.

Panelist integrity is vital. Voters with any ties or associations to eligible courses must flag such conflicts. Panelists also know not to let the quality of their play influence their ballot — same for a luxe experience or clubhouse. While opulence may make for a more a memorable outing, it’s not what GOLF’s course lists are about. Our focus is on design and architecture. We study the course, not the trappings around it.

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