So you've learned the basics, but deep down you know you're still a hack. Before you sign up for the annual office golf outing, play some of the area's nine-hole courses to build experience. Here is what we found when we played a few in the area.
Zigfield Troy Golf Range
1535 W. 75th St., Woodridge; 630-985-9860
Par 27 (all par 3s)
Fees: $9 Mon.-Fri.; $11 Sat.-Sun. (and holidays)
Extras: Practice putting green and driving range. Lessons available from licensed PGA instructors.
The course: Mostly straight, unobstructed fairways with few bunkers and greens with little break. Ideal for first-timers.
Easy hole: No. 3 (par 3; 161 yards). Though it's the longest hole at Zigfield Troy, No. 3's wide fairway lets golfers have some fun with longer irons.
Tough hole: No. 9 (par 3; 83 yards). No. 9's fairway bottlenecks toward the green with two deep sand bunkers. Land in one, and you'll be digging out your ball for 10 minutes. Pro's advice: "Don't be short," says Tim Troy, a PGA pro and son of course founder Zigfield Troy. "The two bunkers are difficult to get out of, so be sure to carry the bunker. If your ball doesn't fall on the green, you should have an easy chip back onto the green."
Around the links: Jonesin' for more golf? Head next door to Lost Mountain Adventure Golf (1535 75th St., Woodridge; 630-985-4653), a massive, 18-hole, three-tiered miniature-golf course with waterfalls.
Ken Loch Golf Links
1S601 Finley Rd., Lombard; 630-620-9665
Par 30 (Six par 3s and three par 4s)
Fees: $12 Mon-Fri.; $13 Sat., Sun.
Extras: Clubhouse lunch counter serves hot dogs, chips, soda and beer.
The course: Deceptively tough course with a couple of doglegs and some well-placed water hazards. Remember that impossible-to-clear water hazard in "Tin Cup"? Novice golfers will find an equally frustrating one on No. 8.
Easy hole: No. 7 (par 3; 100 yards). A shorter iron should put you on the green.
Tough hole: No. 4 (par 4; 305 yards). A dogleg right flanked by a weed-covered fence on the left, trees and a water hazard on the right and a recommendation to take a drop. Pro's advice: Forget the driver, says course superintendent Rich Kensinger. "Unless you can hit an incredibly straight drive, I would use a 5-iron, and I would put it up over the trees." For that hole, Kensinger says, use two irons to get to the green, then two putts to save par.
Around the links: Jousting is so 1400s! Lombard's Enchanted Castle (1103 S. Main St., Lombard; 630-953-7860) offers partygoers speed and collisions galore, from go-kart racing and bumper cars to roller coasters.
Legends of Bensenville Golf Course
811 E. Grand Ave., Bensenville; 630-594-1100
Par 28 (Eight par 3s and a par 4)
Fees: $12.60 residents, $15.75 non-residents Mon.-Fri.; $15.75, $18.90 Sat., Sun.
Extras: Driving range, practice putting greens and sand bunkers. Clubhouse pro shop serves candy, soda, bottled water and beer. Lessons available.
The course: Don't let the lush lawns and short lengths of Legends fool you. The course eats golf balls for breakfast with narrow fairways and tall grass along the boundaries.
Easy hole: No. 2 (par 3; 118 yards). Though sand traps surround the green, the tee sits on higher ground, giving golfers some extra lift and distance.
Tough hole: No. 4 (par 4; 314 yards). The course's only four-shot hole is brutal: a slight dogleg right over a bridge, a water hazard to the right and numerous bunkers. Pro's advice: "It's a risk-reward hole," says Jeff Grubb, head golf pro at Legends. Using the driver is risky, but if you can land it, you'll have a shorter approach shot and a chance at birdie. "The smart play is an iron off the tee, a short iron to the green, two-putt to save par and get out of there."
Around the links: You can cool off a mile away at The Edge (735 E. Jefferson St., Bensenville; 630-766-8888), an indoor ice-skating facility that serves as a practice site for the Chicago Blackhawks and Olympic gold medalists Tatiana Totmianina and Maxim Marinin.
Columbus Park Golf Course
5701 W. Jackson Blvd., 312-746-5573
Par 35 (Two par 3s, six par 4s and a par 5)
Fees: $14.25 Mon.-Fri.; $15.50 Sat., Sun.
Extras: Snack bar.
The course: Though long on yards, Columbus Park offers some wide fairways for those still trying to hit the ball straight.
Easy hole: No 8 (par 3, 187 yards). A short, benign hole, even with a water hazard. A longer iron should get you on the green.
Tough hole: No 3 (par 4, 401 yards). A dogleg right with a deep bunker on the right blocking the green. Pro's advice: "Hit your tee shot left of the green," says Bobby Anderson, golf pro at Columbus Park. "If you're over to the left, you have a shot at the pin. If it's over to the right, you have to hit it over the [sand trap]."
Around the links: You're close to Oak Park, and that means . . . it's Frank Lloyd Wright time! Contact the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust (931 Chicago Ave., Oak Park; 708-848-1976) to book one of their many tours highlighting the architect and his influential work.
South Shore Cultural Center Golf Course
7059 S. South Shore Drive, 773-256-0986
Par 33 (Three par 3s, six par 4s.)
Fees: $14.25 Mon-Fri.; $15.50 Sat.-Sun.
Extras: On-site snack bar and banquet facilities.
The course: South Shore rivals Marovitz in terms of lakefront play. It's also shorter than its North Side counterpart, giving golfers a nice mix of wide and narrow fairways, challenging bunkers and short, recuperating holes.
Easy hole: No. 7 (par 3; 177 yards). Thank the designers for this painless par 3 with a straight fairway and an elevated tee box. A longer iron should get you on the green.
Tough hole: No. 6 (Par 4; 380 yards). No. 6 offers a straight, narrow fairway that rises as you approach the green. Pro's advice: Since most duffers still slice the ball, forget about driving it straight down the fairway. "Tee it off the right side of the box and aim for the left side of the tree line," says Emanuel Worley, a golf pro who teaches at South Shore Cultural Center. This way, he says, there's a good chance the ball will stay in-bounds. "If they're in the fairway, they should have no problem getting onto the green."
Around the links: The South Shore Cultural Center, located on the property. This former country club now houses community arts programs, a theater and a fine arts gallery. Banquet facilities make it a popular location for weddings, receptions and small conventions.
Sydney R. Marovitz Golf Course (Waveland)
3600 Recreation Drive, 312-742-7930
Par 36 (Two par 3s, five par 4s and two par 5.)
Fees: $19.75 Mon.-Fri.; $22.75 Sat.-Sun.
Extras: Snack bar.
The course: With the deep blue lake on one side and highrises on the other, Sydney R. Marovitz is a picturesque nine-hole gem in the city. It's also very, very long. Novice golfers should work up to this course.
Easy hole: No. 3 (par 3; 177 yards). Despite the green's slight right hook, this par-3 hole is the only respite novices get.
Tough hole: No. 7 (par 4; 422 yards). A dogleg left that runs along the lakefront's jogging trail on the right. Try not to hit any runners. Pro's advice: "The most important thing on that hole is a well placed tee shot on the right side of the fairway," says Chris Paterson, PGA professional at Sydney R. Marovitz and Diversey Driving Range. "It's a hard dogleg left, and the left side is blocked by some really old, very tall trees." Paterson also recommends a longer iron, a 4- or 5-iron, for the long approach shot toward the bunker-covered green. "Keep the ball low so you can roll it past the bunkers."
Around the links: Well, there's the lake. Specifically, there's Belmont Harbor (3600 N. Recreation Drive, 312-742-7673), where you can watch the boats or sail them yourself.
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