Don’t Forget Your Golf Clubs

Route 66 is so much more than classic cars, murals, nostalgic gas stations, and diners. The cities and towns along the Mother Road offer plenty to see and do, including various golf courses with unique and challenging features for golfers of any level.

Timber Lakes is a conveniently located 18-hole championship course right off of I-55 in Staunton, Illinois.
Timber Lakes is a conveniently located 18-hole championship course right off of I-55 in Staunton, Illinois.
Photo by Ron Clements

Traveling from east to west, you will have plenty of opportunities to pull your clubs out of the bag. Before leaving the Chicago area, Carriage Greens Country Club in Darien is one of the best public courses in the area. The course has variable rates depending on demand, so just avoid a round on Sunday morning and you’ll be fine. Carriage Greens is just off of I-55 at the Cass Avenue exit.

The next recommended course is on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal. Weibring Golf Club, named after professional golfer and ISU alumnus D.A. Weibring, is the home course for the Illinois State Redbirds, but is open to the public when not used by the school. While the course emerged from a cornfield, it is now one of the best college courses in the country.

You can get another round in at bucolic Timber Lakes Golf Course in Staunton. Timber Lakes abuts I-55, making it super convenient to stretch your legs and play an 18-hole championship course that is one of the best rural courses on Route 66.

A pair of courses less than five miles apart await near the Illinois-Missouri border. Gateway National Golf Links is adjacent to Worldwide Technology Raceway and claims to be “the most challenging golf course in St. Louis.” On the other side of I-55 is Indian Mounds Golf Course, named for the historic Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site that is one mile east on Collinsville Road. Golfers can play 18 holes for under $20, cart included, on the course designed by Dave Murray and Jan Freilberg. The signature hole is No. 7, a 183-yard, par 3 that requires a tee shot to the peninsula green.

The St. Louis area has several golf courses, but a recommended spot is an hour west of the city. Sullivan Golf Club is a 6,174-yard course that opened in 1954 as a nine-hole course, but has been a full, 18-hole course since 1991. It was purchased by the city in 2018 and is now a public course with tall trees lining Bermuda fairways that lead to undulated Bentgrass greens.

Indian Mounds Golf Course
Indian Mounds Golf Course is just a mile west of the Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site.
Photo by Ron Clements

Three hours west, on the other side of Springfield, is Carthage Golf Course. Adjacent to Route 66, Carthage Golf Course is a challenging 18-hole course with 34 bunkers, two lakes, a driving range, an 8,000-square foot area to practice your short game and putting, and concrete golf paths.

Joplin has another course that is right on Route 66. Schifferdecker Golf Course at Schifferdecker Park is the only public 18-hole golf course in Joplin. It added a state-of-the-art golf simulator in 2017 for those rainy days. A day on the course itself in 2019 costs just $33 for 18 holes and a cart.

Route 66 spans just 13 miles in Kansas, but you can play a round of golf  in the hometown of a PGA legend. Hale Irwin was born in Joplin, but raised in Baxter Springs before his family moved to Denver during his high school years. It was in Kansas, where Irwin honed his skills when he started playing golf at the age of 4. You can play a round at the Baxter Springs Golf and Country Club – on Hale Irwin Drive – before crossing into Oklahoma. The nine-hole golf course doesn’t require a tee time and the club has a kid-friendly pool and bar.

This is by no means a comprehensive list and you’ll see several more golf courses along Route 66, including McLean Country Club, a pasture-like, nine-hole course that opened in 1950. The 2,802-yard course is one of few Texas courses with sand greens – something on which most golfers have never putted. Santa Rosa Golf Course in New Mexico also has unique features with grass bunkers on its 3,158-yard nine-hole layout.

Test your drives on your drive down Route 66, but like Winona – don’t forget your short game.

Ron Clements

Ron Clements

Ron Clements is a Wisconsin native and Green Bay Packers fan who married a Chicago Bears fan from Peoria, Illinois. Despite the rivalry, Ron and Patti make it work and have been living fulltime in an RV since March 2018. They travel the country in search of new adventures and love attending baseball games and exploring national parks. They visited all 30 MLB stadiums in 2018 and have taken their RV to each of the Lower 48 states. Ron is a veteran journalist of more than two decades and a summa cum laude graduate of East Carolina University, which he attended following his service in the United States Marine Corps. Ron has written for USA Today, Sporting News, CBS Sports, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Omaha World Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Fresno Bee, the Montgomery Advertiser, and many other media outlets. The Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66 is for anyone who has ever driven past a high school, college, or professional stadium, and thought, “I wonder what it’s like to see a game there.” A Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66 will be in bookstores and online everywhere on August 3, 2021.

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