Great Lakes showdown: Chicago vs. Cleveland as golf cities

Two prideful Midwestern cities, Chicago and Cleveland, square off in Major League Baseball's 2016 World Series.

Cleveland's teams, aside from the Browns, seem to be on a roll: Lebron James and the Cavaliers broke the city's curse earlier in 2016 and now the Indians are out to win their first championship since 1948.

Meanwhile, the Chicago Cubs have a well documented, agonizing curse of their own. But Chicago, thanks to Michael Jordan, Jonathan Toews and the White Sox, is no stranger to regularly winning pro sports titles recently.

The two cities both have notable, but very different golf scenes. They both share a similar climate: each town located along the banks of a different Great Lake.

The sheer size of Chicago makes it a little more difficult to stay in the inner neighborhoods and also get to the area's best golf courses. Cleveland is a "Rust Belt" city that relishes its underdog role.

Here's a look at how their golf scenes compare in several categories (we'd love to call this a best-of-seven but Chicago is the runaway winner in more ways than one):

Destination golf

Listed among the top 100 public courses in America, the Dubsdread Course is Cog Hill's most demanding and premium play.

Dubsdread at Cog Hill


The first place public golfers point to in Chicago is the 72-hole Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, home to the infamously tough No. 4 Dubsdread Course, plus three others that won't bruise the ego as much. Otherwise, Stonewall Orchard, The Glen Club and Cantigny Golf are also well known public facilities. Scenic Harborside International Golf Center is notable for its 36 holes (Starboard Course and Port Course) right on Lake Michigan.


More: Ginella on where to play in Chicago


Cleveland's golf scene has many big-name architects, including Pete Dye at Fowler's Mill. Shale Creek, one of the newest courses, opened in 2006. But architecture buffs can also find some neat golf courses by Donald Ross (the best being Hawthorne Valley) and Stanley Thompson (Sleepy Hollow). The closest thing to a stay-and-play in greater Cleveland is Quail Hollow Resort, located just east of town in Painesville. The resort features access to a pair of country club courses, the Weiskopf-Morrish course and a Devin-Von Hagge course. (Firestone Country Club's famed WGC Bridgestone host Firestone Country Club's South Course is operated by Clubcorp and private.)


More: Ginella on where to play in Cleveland


Edge: Chicago

The prestigious clubs

Chicago has had the benefit of a century-plus of big business helping to found some of the most reputable private clubs in the country. Much credit for the game's origins in town goes to businessman and architect C.B. Macdonald, who built Onwentsia and Chicago Golf Club. Others, like Merit Club, Butler National, Conway Farms, Olympia Fields and Medinah certainly make Chicago a top-5 U.S. city for ultra-private clubs.

Cleveland's private-club scene takes a backseat in Ohio to Columbus, which has more storied venues (thanks in part to Jack Nicklaus.) Nearby Akron is home to the 54-hole Firestone Country Club, one of the state's most well known (if not always beloved) venues. A few other greater-Cleveland clubs make Golf Digest's top 10 in the state: Kirtland C.C. (no. 7), Brookside C.C. (no. 9) and Canterbury G.C. (no. 10).

Edge: Chicago

Bargain courses

Sleepy Hollow is the gem of the eight golf courses in the Cleveland Metroparks system.

Sleepy Hollow


This is the category where we feel pretty confident in Cleveland's dominance. In Golf Advisor's Top 50 under $50, four courses were from Ohio and three are in northern Ohio. The city's metroparks system also provides some very pleasant and historic courses highlighted by Sleepy Hollow, Manakiki and Seneca Golf Course.

Generally speaking, the best public golf courses in Chicago are going to cost over $100, an unheard of price for the best golf courses in Ohio. Munis in the city can be very busy, and you have to head pretty far outside the city to find bargains (Rockford's Aldeen Golf Course is our top-rated course under $50 in Illinois).

Edge: Cleveland

CHI vs. CLE, according to Golf Advisor ratings

We took the category averages of each destination's top 10 courses to see which scored better. Chicago leads in Overall and five of the six subcategories. Cleveland leads Chicago in Value and comes very close in Course Layout:

CLE vs. CHI
Create column charts

Edge: Chicago

Golf trips for locals

Chicagoans have the benefit of not only two large airports that offer non-stop flights to just about anywhere in North America, but also a wonderful variety of golf destinations within a short drive of Chicagoland. The closest is Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, just west of town. Wisconsin is the big draw, however. Destination Kohler, home to Pete Dye's Whistling Straits and Blackwolf Run, is just two hours north. The Wisconsin Dells and Lake Geneva destinations are chock full of options, while Sand Valley and Erin Hills are also within an easy drive. Meanwhile, southwest Michigan is a popular spot for value golf.

Cleveland is a little further to the east and is accessible to some of western Pennsylvania's great resorts, as well as The Greenbrier in West Virginia. You can also get to western New York and across the border to Niagara Falls, which has a collection of neat courses. The eastern seaboard destinations like Atlantic City and Ocean City are also a manageable 7-8-hour drive.

Edge: Chicago

Off-course activities

Opening Day brings out the fans and is a day of civic pride and optimism all over the country


Both being such wonderful pro sports towns, coupling a buddies golf trip with a ball game of some kind seems natural. Cleveland is also, of course home to the Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame. Like a lot of Rust Belt urban areas, there is revitalization happening here with all the usual trimmings like new microbreweries, trendy eateries and happening live-music venues.

But Chicago is a world-class tourist destination for the arts, dining, its lakefront, shopping on the Magnificent Mile, and its wonderful neighborhoods, from Wrigleyville and beyond.

We know Dan Gilbert's work revitalizing Cleveland isn't done, but the Windy City is the standard-bearer when it comes to urban tourism in the Midwest.

Edge: Chicago

Brandon Tucker is the Sr. Managing Editor for GolfPass and was the founding editor of Golf Advisor in 2014, he was the managing editor for Golf Channel Digital's Courses & Travel. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and nearly 600 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at @btuck34.
3 Comments
Commented on

I saw this article for the very first time today Brandon. Cog Hill is complete BS and far from what I would point to as proper muni/public golf in Chicago even two years later. I just played Marengo Ridge and Broken Arrow for under $30 and I will play Chapel Hill for under $25 and all of them I would play before I play any of the Cog courses even #4. Chicago golf rules regardless over Cleveland.....the site of the 1st 18 course in America is?? Hint - where I reside.

Default User Avatar
Commented on

The opening picture in this article is PNC Park in Pittsburgh, PA.  I am a very big fan of Cleveland golf courses and live 2 1/2 hours away in Pittsburgh, PA area.  I am always willing to play courses in Cleveland area since they seem to be in great shape and not as many hills as Western PA.  Sleepy Hollow, Manakiki are great muni's.  Boulder Creek, Stonewater, Fowlers Mill are great tracks.  Hope you change the opening picture to include Cleveland's skyline!!!

Staff
Commented on

Good eyes birdieman. Thanks. 

Related Links
Jason Deegan shows you how to play a full weekend of great golf in Cleveland golf for under $200.
2 Min Read
There are a ton of really good golf courses in Chicago. Here, Chicago's own Dave Berner shares his 10 favorite plays in the area.
4 Min Read
With winter fully melted away, and LeBron James ready to push the Cavaliers to another potential NBA Finals run, let's celebrate Cleveland's golf scene.
3 Min Read
Jason Deegan shows you how to play a full weekend of great golf in Cleveland golf for under $200.
2 Min Read
More from the author
4 Min Read
December 3, 2021
It's never been easier to design custom hats, golf balls, clubs, headcovers and more.
2 Min Read
November 30, 2021
It's possible this little ditty finds you scooping up the last bit of cranberry pie crumbs out of the tray. Thanksgiving may have passed but the effects of celebratory eating around the table, and also possibly social imbibing during all the various football games throughout the weekend, are sticking with us. To our bellies and elsewhere.
4 Min Read
November 23, 2021
We scoured the web of golf and found holiday savings up to 50% off.
12 Min Read
November 18, 2021
Golfers can choose from a wide variety of portable launch monitor price points and user experiences. Here is what's new and the best ones to consider to improve your golf.
7 Min Read
November 9, 2021
Our community loves the value and experience at these popular and affordable military facilities and even book online.
5 Min Read
November 2, 2021
Some U.S. cities have frighteningly few public-access courses for its residents. If you like variety, you may not want to live in these metros.
Popular
6 Min Read
November 20, 2021
Help the golfer in your life shoot lower scores, look and feel better than ever this holiday season with these eight golf gifts.
16 Images
November 30, 2021
Thanks to our users, GolfPass has exceeded 300,000 reviews in a single year for the first time.
4 Min Read
November 30, 2021
The Jamaica Invitational Pro-Am "Annie's Revenge", one of the Caribbean's best pro-ams, introduces the fun and the sun of Rose Hall near Montego Bay.
4 Min Read
November 22, 2021
Anyone can play Tom Fazio's Wynn Golf Club, which sits in the heart of the Las Vegas strip.
Load More
Now Reading
Great Lakes showdown: Chicago vs. Cleveland as golf cities