Perfect your golf swing at Chicago's best practice facilities
Don't look now, but summer's coming to a rapid close. Before Old Man Winter descends for his annual (and seemingly never-ending) visit, dust off the clubs for a couple more chances to fine tune your Tiger-riffic swing. If your game's anything like ours, you've got enough to worry about without having to track down the best ranges.
We can't fix your slice, but we know the best spots to whack a bucket-o-balls. Better yet, we found the places that understand a duffer's desire to knock back a cold one between swings. Fore!
Diversey Driving Range
Our first stop allows for year-round practice, so even if you don't make it before summer's over, you can sneer at the inclement weather from inside one of 20 heated stalls. The two-tier range offers a view of the cosmopolitan neighborhood's high-rises, and it's but a Vijay Singh drive away from the lake. Don't expect to see any pros here, though. The range has been around for at least a quarter century and suffers from serious wear and tear in the fairway and especially on the shabby Astroturf.
Driving under the influence? Since the facility falls under the Chicago Park District's domain, we were forced to sneak a few furtive pulls of our High Lifes while crouched behind our golf bags.
141 W Diversey Pkwy at Lake Shore Dr (312-742-7929). Bus: 76, 151 (24 hrs), 156. 7am–11pm. Small basket $6–$7.50, large basket $10.50–$11.
The golf is a little rougher at this South Side park just west of Lake Shore Drive. The grass is pretty beat up from the summer's long, hot drought. But it's still a colorful spot: On our visit there was a funk band playing to a handful of fans right behind us. It might have been a distraction for some, but the plucky bass lines provided a nice soundtrack to our shanks. The course and a bucket of balls are relatively cheap, so there's a democratic cross-section of duffers slicing away.
Driving under the influence?Our tall boys were visible to the help, but nobody seemed to mind us tippling in the sun.
63rd St at Lake Shore Dr (773-667-0524). Bus: 6 Jackson Park Express. 8am–dusk. Small basket $4.50–$5.50, large basket $8–$8.50 (cash only).
It's a little tricky to get to the range from the parkway, but after slaying the dragon and crossing the moat (actually it's just a little footbridge that you have to traverse after parking), you are rewarded with more than 200 yards of fairway green. After our ball boy paused Swingers long enough to get us our balls, we were happy to see not another soul—except for one dress-code–flouting shirtless dude practicing his short game on the target green. Here, we were finally allowed to tear up real grass in the tee boxes as the cicadas serenaded us. While far from perfect, Marquette tops the Park District leaderboard.
Driving under the influence? We didn't tell on Joe Shirtless, and he didn't rat us out for the brewskies.
6700 S Kedzie Ave at 67th St (312-245-0909). Bus: 52A South Kedzie. 10am–6pm. Large basket $5.50–$7.25.
While it seems like you're going to hit Indiana any second while making the drive out here, you're duly rewarded for the trek with the holy grail of Chicago driving ranges. Harborside is laid out over an impressive spread of 57 acres of manicured lawns and links-style play (you'd never guess the ten-year-old course was formerly a landfill). The practice facility includes a real grass driving range and some beachy bunkers, plus putting and chipping greens. Bill Clinton hit his first (and only) hole-in-one here back in 2001, so expect a bit of a stodgier, old-boys club working on slices.
Driving under the influence? Not only is drinking allowed, this place actually sells the stuff. Drink without fear, just like John Daly.
11001 S Doty Ave at I-94 (312-782-7837). Bus: 111 Pullman/111th/115th. 7am–dusk. Small basket $7, medium basket $10, large basket $17.