Where to Sneak In 18
Got a few free hours after the last meeting? Here are six courses you can get to in 30 minutes or less.
By Ryan Brandt

(Business 2.0) – The feel of a solidly hit three-wood whipping down a narrow stretch of fairway. The plunk of the ball landing perfectly on the carpeted green. The applause of big clients on hand to witness it all. For a workaday golfer, nothing could be better.

Quit dreaming, pal: You won't be getting out of your last presentation until 3:30, and all the good courses are in the burbs at least 90 minutes away, right? Wrong. Instead of heading back to your hotel to sift through e-mail, grab your clubs and get going: In these six major markets, we've found challenging courses close enough to downtown for you to play a full 18 holes before the sun goes down. Now that's what we call pitch-and-putt. -- RYAN BRANDT

Atlanta

10 MIN FROM DOWNTOWN East Lake/Charlie Yates Golf Courses Bobby Jones perfected his swing on the stately private East Lake course, home to November's PGA Tour Championship. GE, IBM, and other Fortune 500s have company memberships to entertain clients here, so if you or your client is in with the likes of Immelt or Palmisano, you might be able to get a tee time. If not, turn to the public Yates midlength course, which offers an affordable three-hour round in the same hallowed setting among giant oaks 4 miles from downtown. $22 Mon.-Fri., $28 Sat.-Sun.; 404-373-4655; www.charlieyatesgolfcourse.com.

Chicago

20 MIN FROM LOOP Harborside International Golf Center With tall-fescue rough and reliable winds blowing off Lake Calumet, Harborside's two championship courses offer links-style play straight out of Scotland. You'll know you're far from the moors, though, when the Loop skyline comes into view, a straight shot 15 miles north on Interstate 94. Busy all day? Get to the 58-acre practice facility by 5:45, and for $59 you'll be able to hit a bucket of balls before retiring to the restaurant in the 24,000-square-foot clubhouse. $80 Mon.-Thurs., $92 Fri.-Sun.; 312-782-7837; www.harborsidegolf.com.

Dallas/Fort Worth

30 MIN FROM EITHER CITY Cowboys Golf Club At the world's first NFL-themed course, even golfers who don't care about the Cowboys memorabilia strewn throughout the clubhouse and tee boxes will enjoy the narrow wooded sections and elevation changes rarely found on the flats of north Texas. The three-year-old, 7,000-yard course is less than 10 minutes from DFW Airport and provides free transportation to a number of nearby hotels. $150 daily; 817-481-7277; www.cowboysgolfclub.com.

Los Angeles

25 MIN FROM DOWNTOWN Rancho Park Golf Club Challenging holes and affordable greens fees make this the best public course in the area. But they also make it the most popular. To reserve a tee time in advance, apply for a $35 golf card ($15 for residents) at www.lacity.org. You can also just put your name on the walk-on list at 5:30 a.m. or after 2 p.m. for the quickest rounds. But leave plenty of time for the 18th hole: A plaque gives a stroke-by-stroke account of the 12 that Arnold Palmer recorded there during the 1960 L.A. Open. If you suffer a similar embarrassment and need to make a quick escape, LAX is only 10 minutes away. $22 Mon.-Fri., $28.50 Sat.-Sun.; 310-838-7373; www.rpgc.org.

New York City

25 MIN FROM MIDTOWN Pelham/Split Rock Golf Courses A $30 cab ride--or $2 subway fare--from Midtown brings you to these two full-length courses in the northeastern corner of the Bronx on Long Island Sound. Many regard Split Rock as the best municipal course in the city, and the two courses have received a combined $7 million in improvements completed this year, including better irrigation and drainage systems. $37 Mon.-Fri. ($33 after noon), $43.50 Sat.-Sun., discount for city residents; 718-885-1258; www.nycteetimes.com.

Seattle

20 MIN FROM SEATTLE 10 MIN. FROM BELLEVUE Golf Club at Newcastle Designed by award-winning golf architect Robert E. Cupp and Masters champ Fred Couples, the Coal Creek course here plays long and tough, starting with the 621-yard, par-five first hole. Frustrated? Just take in the incredible 360-degree views of the skyline and Cascades, or opt for the more forgiving China Creek course. Coal Creek $150, China Creek $100; 425-793-5566; www.newcastlegolf.com.