Local Knowledge: Chicago

Local Knowledge: Chicago
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While visiting the Ryder Cup, take advantage of an incredible host city.
Nick Becks, PGA

Series: Travel Feature

Published: Monday, September 24, 2012 | 2:13 a.m.

As a PGA Member and Illinois resident, it's an honor to welcome the 2012 Ryder Cup to Chicago. The city is certainly known for its passionate baseball, basketball, football and hockey fans, but Chicago also has a rich history with the game of golf as Chicago Golf Club was one of the founding five courses to form the USGA in 1894. An abundance of first-class layouts and star players have emerged from the state and the city has hosted numerous PGA Tour events and Major Championships. This year, however, marks the first time that the Ryder Cup is being staged in Illinois and it is sure to add another proud chapter to the tradition of Chicago golf.

The city
Besides its larger-than-life residents such as Al Capone, Michael Jordan and Oprah Winfrey, Chicago, a city of nearly three million and the third largest in the United States, plays an important role in the history of our country. Believe it or not, the infamous Great Chicago Fire of 1871 remains to this day the worst urban fire in U.S. history.

But when it came time to rebuild, there was an architectural revolution that has had great influence on American architecture today. In the 20th century, as Chicago continued to add skyscrapers to its now world-famous skyline, the city also became the railway center of the United States, with a major growth in the industry. Today, Chicago hosts millions of visitors each year from all over the world who visit the city for its architectural landmarks, cuisine, entertainment, parks, lakefront and more.

Where to eat
Chicago deep dish pizza. It's a must while you're in the Windy City. Names like Giordano's or Gino's East have always been synonymous with Chicago-style pizza, but don't miss Lou Malnati's. With six locations in the city and plenty more throughout the suburbs, you'll want to find room for this flaky, buttery crust in deep dish or thin crust. You'll even find a Lou Malnati's location close to Medinah, in neighboring Bloomingdale.

For those who want to add a steakhouse to your Chicago visit, try Chicago Cut Steakhouse or David Burke's Primehouse. For a mixed palate, consider Hugo's Frog Bar and Grill on Rush Street. Hugo's may be best known for its namesake frog legs and other seafood dishes, but the restaurant also shares a kitchen with Gibson's Steakhouse and offers the famous steaks on its menu. For the best of both restaurants, I'd recommend the popular steak and crab cake entree. Nearby Shaw's Crab House is also a popular choice for seafood and steak in the city with a fun atmosphere in River North. The restaurant features live jazz music in its Oyster Bar from Sunday through Thursday. 

There are also plenty of choices for Italian food in the city. Head down to Little Italy and give Tuscany on West Taylor Street a try. Start out with an order of the grilled calamari followed by one of the restaurant's great pasta or seafood dishes. For dessert, make sure to stop by Mario's Italian Lemonade, where the Italian tricolor shack has been serving up drinkable Italian ice since 1954.

What to see
Some of the best views of Chicago can be seen from the 95th floor of the Hancock Building in the Signature Room or the Skydeck of the Willis (formerly Sears) Tower. For the history buffs, a variety of architectural boat tours run along the Chicago River with great views of the skyline, Lake Michigan and the iconic Navy Pier.

Museum Campus is also another popular stop for visitors of Chicago. Located on the lakefront just south of the downtown Loop, Museum Campus features three of Chicago's world-famous museums: Field Museum of Natural History, Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planaterium.

From the "Friendly Confines" of Wrigley Field, which the Chicago Cubs call home, to the lakefront Soldier Field, where the Chicago Bears play, Chicago's five major sports teams play a huge role in the city's culture. Other teams include the Chicago Bulls and Chicago Blackhawks who both battle opponents at the United Center, while the Chicago White Sox welcome supporters to U.S. Cellular Field. If you can find the time to catch a game, you're sure to join some of the greatest fans in sports here in Chicago.

Where to play golf
If you have time for a round, your first stop should be to see me at The Glen Club, a popular KemperSports property and home to the Illinois PGA and Illinois Golf Hall of Fame. The Glen Club is ranked No. 72 on GOLF Magazine's list of Top 100 Courses You Can Play, and is one of the best courses in Illinois. Tom Fazio transformed the formerly flat Glenview Naval Air Station into rolling terrain with dramatic elevation changes, lakes and meandering streams and 75 acres of prairie grass flowing throughout the layout. The course previously hosted an annual Nationwide Tour event (Bank of America Open) and has been the site of the Illinois Open seven times, including 2012.

Cog Hill Golf & Country Club in Lemont is a popular stop for golfers on the south side of the city and the only other Chicago-area golf course on GOLF Magazine's Top 100 Courses You Can Play. With four courses to choose from and a learning center that is open 364 days of the year, every level of golfer will find something to enjoy.

Another KemperSports property that is worth a visit is Bolingbrook Golf Club in Bolingbrook. One of the best municipal courses in the state, Bolingbrook provides a fun challenge for golfers in the southwest suburbs with its seven lakes and island green on 15.

For links golf only 16 miles from downtown Chicago, stop by Harborside International Golf Center. Its two courses were designed by Illinois architect Dick Nugent and offer views of the Chicago skyline from a close distance. Stonewall Orchard Golf Club in Grayslake is another course that's guaranteed to be in great shape.

Following the Ryder Cup this week, another exciting professional golf event will return to Chicago next year when the 2013 BMW Championship moves to Conway Farm Golf Club in north suburban Lake Forest. With the excitement and attention that the Ryder Cup brings to Chicago this year, I hope you'll take some time to enjoy our city, our golf courses and our Midwest hospitality.