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Like golf? Putters attending the American Bar Association convention in Chicago next month are in for a treat. Indeed, you’d be hard-pressed to find a major American city that’s crazier about the game than Chicago. No fewer than 90 courses lie within an hour of The Loop. Indeed, there’s even a North Shore suburb called Golf, which in 1928 became the smallest incorporated village in the United States. Chicago is golf-mad enough to devote millions of square feet of prime downtown real estate to a nine-hole par-three course. A two-minute cab ride from the Hyatt Regency, the Family Golf Center, (312) 616-1234, is a challenging pitch-and-putt with an island-green finishing hole that mimics the famed 17th at Sawgrass. Family Golf also has a grass driving range that provides the ideal warm-up for the bounty of layouts you’ll want to attack. Naturally, some of the more famous courses are extremely private. If you have connections — or if the pro at your home course does — try to get on Medinah Number 3, (630) 773-1700, site of 1999′s PGA Championship; Shoreacres, (847) 234-1472, a Seth Raynor masterpiece in Lake Bluff; or the recently remodeled North Course at Olympia Fields Country Club, (708) 748-0495, down near Chicago Heights. All three rank in Golf Digest‘s Top 100. (As do, by the way, Butler National, a men’s-only club in Oak Brook, and the ancient and impossible-to-get-on Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton.) Nobody knows these courses better than former civil rights lawyer Bill Daniels, the publisher of Golf Chicagomagazine, http://www.egolfchicago.com/. Among the other wonderful privates worth a shot, he counsels, are The Merit Club, (847) 918-8800, up in Libertyville — which hosted the 2000 U.S. Women’s Open — and the North Shore Country Club, (847) 724-9240, in Glenview. But Daniels, like most Chicagoland golfers, knows that quality tee times don’t require calling in favors. (They do require a bit of money, though. Prices for the better courses range between $80 and $150 a round.) You won’t play a tougher course than Number 4 at Cog Hill Golf and Country Club, (630) 257-5872, in the southwest suburb of Lemont. Known as “Dubsdread,” Dick Wilson’s extremely penal layout employs tight landing areas combined with heavy bunkering and fast, undulating greens that shed even the most perfectly struck approach shot. Every July, Dubsdread punishes Tiger Woods and the rest of the Advil Western Open field. If your game’s a little shaky, consider one of Cog Hill’s other three courses before getting beaten up by this one. Another Chicagoland must-play public course is Kemper Lakes, (847) 320-3450, in the northwest suburb of Long Grove. Host of the annual SBC Senior Open, as well as the 1989 PGA Championship, this Ken Killian-Dick Nugent design challenges you with water, pinched fairways, and enormous elevation shifts on almost every hole. Plus, the gracious country club-like atmosphere is second to none. The Windy City lives up to its name on the Port and Starboard Courses at Harborside International Golf Center, (312) 782-7837. Completed five years ago by Nugent, the courses occupy a former landfill, but you’d never know it. Located just 20 minutes south of downtown, off I-94 on 115th Street, both 18-hole layouts deliver a surprisingly sophisticated golfing experience. Both courses play off the breezes of Lake Calumet. A double green, reminiscent of the one at St. Andrews, provides the home hole for both courses. And, speaking of landfill reclamations, the par-three Nickol Knoll Golf Course, (847) 590-6050, in the northwest suburb of Arlington Heights, bears mention, but not for the golf. Its clubhouse boasts a tribute to Walter Payton, the late Chicago Bears running back who dozens of times a day ran up the 45-degree hill that now sits between holes five and six. Finally, Golf Chicago’s Daniels advises his brethren of the bar to check out two other area courses: Prairie Landing Golf Club, (630) 208-7600, a dazzling Robert Trent Jones Jr. layout in West Chicago that stretches to almost 7,000 yards from the tips, and The Glen Club, (847) 291-9666, a Tom Fazio design in Glenview that’s scheduled to open just before the ABA convention begins. “That course,” Daniels says knowingly, “will immediately shoot near the top of every list of courses in the area.”

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