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The Skyline’s Par for This Golf Course : Sports: Players tee off amid Chicago’s high-rises at the nation’s first center-city links.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Like a lot of businessmen, Steven Swinder brings his golf clubs and a change of clothes to work. Unlike a lot of others, he doesn’t have to go very far to use them.

Three blocks away from his office is the country’s first center-city golf course, nestled between traffic jams and a world-class skyline.

“I take a cellular phone, and I’m only five minutes from the office,” Swinder, an accountant, said Tuesday as he waited with attorney Mark Liss for their 5 p.m. tee time at Illinois Center Golf.

The nine-hole, par-27 public course opened Sunday. It has been crowded in late afternoons with golfers who pay $22 for a 70-minute round or $9 to hit a bucket of balls on the driving range--high fees by Chicago standards for comparable courses.

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The course, in a former rail yard along the Lake Michigan shore, is a mere five-minute stroll from crowded Michigan Avenue. Though open to the sky, it’s surrounded by the foundations of buildings and elevated streets.

The fairways are lush, with tricky greens--No. 9 is surrounded by water and reached by a bridge--and sneaky hidden sand traps. The holes range from 57 to 145 yards.

Traffic noise is a distraction--someone with a bad slice could smash a windshield on Lower Wacker Drive--but the spectacular skyline views from the fifth, sixth and eighth tees are pleasant diversions.

“This is pretty nice,” said Mark Monoscalco, gazing at the spread of architecture from the Sears Tower to the John Hancock Building.

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“There’s no reason for me not to become a better golfer now,” said Monoscalco, a self-employed computer consultant who took the afternoon off to try the new course. “I can come over here, play a round, and still get back in time to return calls.”

The course is across the street from the 80-story Amoco Building and within 250 yards of at least one large hotel--in range of a long drive, though players probably would not use a driver on this course.

The Swissotel Chicago, with glittering glass walls rising for 43 stories just beyond the ninth hole, is not worried about ball damage and sees its proximity to the course as a plus, particularly for attracting golf-loving Japanese guests.

“It’s cheap compared to what they have to pay” in Japan, hotel spokesman Robert Allegrini said.

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The U.S. Golf Assn. said it knew of no other urban golf courses as close to a downtown business district.


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