The golf season is in full swing, and it’s a great time to hit the links. Tour some of the region’s best golf holes, from a deceptive par 3 that drops 100 feet to a par 5 that requires precise hits.
PraireView Golf Club
Rt. 72 & German Church Road, Byron, Ill.
Signature Hole: No. 15, 550 yards, par 5
No. 15 has been the signature hole at PrairieView Golf Club, operated by the Byron Forest Preserve, since the course opened in 1992. But most longtime golfers may remember it as the tree-lined No. 6 before the course was reconfigured in 2000.
“It’s one of the toughest par fives in the area,” says Andy Gramer, head golf professional. “It’s a dogleg right that plays uphill into the wind. The approach shot is played into an undulated green, which is protected by a deep bunker right and short of the green. The approach is 30 yards wide, which adds to the difficulty. Shotmaking is optimal. Due to the dogleg, it’s hard to get home in two.”
Many golfers question their decisions on this hole. “Golfers are left asking themselves: Do I go for it or not?” says Gramer. “It’s not your typical straightaway golf hole.”
Gramer, who grew up playing PrairieView, says getting a par on No. 15 is considered a success. “It’s a challenge, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy this hole.”
Aldeen Golf Club
1902 Reid Farm Road, Rockford
Signature Hole: No. 11, 424 yards, par 4
Most of the talk at Aldeen Golf Club is about the challenging No. 8, par-three island green. But don’t overlook No. 11, one of the toughest holes on the Rockford Park District course.
“It can make or break your round,” says Duncan Geddes, director of golf. “It’s short enough to make birdie, but if you hit it in the water, you’re in trouble. There are different ways to play it. Both the tee shot and approach shot can be risky. If you lay off the tee with a shorter shot, it makes the approach shot much more challenging. Either way, it takes two good shots to get on in regulation.”
Geddes suggests using a fairway wood or hybrid club for a longer approach shot onto the green. “I always tell golfers that it all depends on how well you’re driving the ball,” says Geddes. “If you can curve it left or right, you can take your driver out and get past the bunker.”
The green is surrounded by water and deep bunkers, and tough pin placements up front make for a difficult downhill putt. “Any place on the green is challenging,” Geddes adds. “It’s an easy hole to bogey but not so much to par or birdie.”
Hawk’s View Golf Club, Como Crossings Course
7377 Krueger Road, Lake Geneva
Signature Hole: No. 17, 169 yards, par 3
While this looks like an easy hole on paper, it’s one of the most challenging at Hawk’s View, due to the 100-foot elevation drop from tee to green. The elevation change makes club selection critical. If the wind is coming from the north, it can play three to four clubs less than the standard yardage; however, the prevailing summer winds are typically out of the southwest, which is a hurting wind from the right.
“It’s best to actually take one more club than the standard yardage, and hit a low knockdown shot that stays under the wind,” says golf pro Matthew Boesch. “That’s easier said than done with the large and deep bunkers guarding the green both to the right and left.”
What really makes this hole special is the tremendous view from the tee box. From there, you can see beautiful rolling hills, along with Lake Como five miles to the west. The best time to capture stunning views is mid-October, when the leaves are at peak color. This incredible setting even inspired one golfer to propose to his now-wife on the No. 17 tee box. Hawk’s View is planning to add a staircase that leads from the cart path to the tee box.
Geneva National Resort, Gary Player Course
1221 Geneva National Ave. South, Lake Geneva, Wis.
Signature hole: No. 10, 552 yards, par 5
Gary Player No. 10 at Geneva National Resort is a refreshing break. It gives long hitters a great chance at birdie. A long drive will give golfers extra distance as the ball rolls downhill for a great second shot. When hitting into the green, misses tend to kick to the pond, so err to the hill on the left.
“It’s a great risk/reward hole dominated by water on the right side,” says golf professional Bryan Brotchie. “I always recommend using a driver on No. 10. There’s a number of options after a long tee shot. You can go for it, lay up to the left or lay up in front of the water. It’s tough, but this is a hole you want to birdie. But, really, you can score anywhere from 3 to 7 on this hole.”
No. 10 also gives golfers a great view of the sloping, undulated fairway and The Hunt Club Steakhouse, located just off the green.
“It’s really a fun hole to play, but it’s one of those holes you enjoy just standing on the tee and soaking in the view,” says Brotchie. “To me, No. 10 really stands on its own. When I play a round with members, I always tell them, ‘Shoot as far as you can and go for it. It’s one you’ll always remember.’”
Eagle Ridge Golf Resort, The General Course
444 Eagle Ridge Dr., Galena
Signature hole: No. 17, 407 yards, par 4
This stout par 4 begins from an elevated tee that leads down to a narrow fairway. It continues uphill toward a medium-sized green that slopes from back to front. With six tee options from two directions, this hole can give golfers a different driving line every time.
“The safe shot is a right-to-left cut, because of the perceived generous rough and fairway on the left side,” says golf pro Reagan Davis. “Be careful not to aim too far left because golf shots on this line will bounce right and could bring the left tree lines into play. Also, the left side is guarded by a well-placed sand bunker that makes for a very difficult second shot to reach the green.”
Once you’re on the green, Davis says, make sure to note the downward slope. Balls that roll past the hole can move fast with a prevailing wind.
“Overall, No. 17 is my favorite hole on the back nine of The General,” Davis says. “It has it all: tough tee shot, a beautiful second shot and a tricky green. This grand hole could stand up on any of the best golf courses in America. It plays differently every time you play it, and it makes you want to play it again and again.”
Ledges Golf Course
7111 McCurry Road, Roscoe, Ill.
Signature Hole: No. 5, 438 yards, par 4
The fifth hole at Ledges Golf Course is a dogleg right that’s about 440 yards from the championship blue tees. “The tee shot is very demanding and presents several options for various skill levels,” says Mike Durand, director of golf for the Forest Preserves of Winnebago County, which maintains Ledges. “The hole is framed by water on the left and right, while a large fairway bunker guards the corner of the dogleg.”
A tee shot of 275 yards or more can run through the fairway and reach the water on the left. A tee shot that drifts into the right-side rough can bring a narrow waterway into play. The safest shot off the tee is to the corner of the dogleg, approximately 230 to 250 yards from the tee.
“This option leaves you with a challenging approach shot of approximately 190 to 200 yards to a large green with water on the left and a green-side sand bunker on the right,” says Durand. “A great risk/reward tee shot that carries the fairway bunker offers a good angle to the green for an approach shot of 150 to 160 yards.”
Pay attention to the wind. A prevailing crosswind can make it difficult for good players to make birdie or par. This hole averages about 4.6 strokes in tournament competition, a fact that makes bogey a decent score for any mid-handicap player.
Park Hills East Golf Course
3240 W. Stephenson St., Freeport
Signature Hole: No. 12, 556 yards, par 5
Freeport golfers are well familiar with the challenges on No. 12 at Park Hills East Golf Course. It used to be a tough No. 1 when the course was just 18 holes. But when the course expanded and became two golf courses in 1965 – Park Hills West and Park Hills East – the challenging hole became East’s No. 12.
“The drive sets up the second shot, which is the most important shot because 130 yards from the green is a huge hackberry tree on the right side of the rough,” says Jeff Hartman, head golf pro. “On the left side are strategically placed bunkers that require an accurate shot in order to avoid them. The fairway bunkers were added to give golfers another challenge. Now, you have to have courage on the second shot to hit either behind the hackberry tree or the bunkers.”
The third shot into the green also demands precision. It’s a relatively steep, sloping green with tricky pin positions. “It’s a fast green,” Hartman says. “The front pin placement is the trickiest, especially if you roll past the cup on your approach shot.”
A par on this hole can provide an advantage. “It’s a very difficult hole to birdie,” Hartman says. “It’s definitely a momentum swing hole. It’s easy to bogey or double-bogey. And when we get a north wind in the spring and fall, it presents even more of a challenge.”
2327 Riverside Dr., Beloit
Signature Hole: No. 7, 146 yards, par 3
Looks can be deceiving, especially on Beloit Club’s No. 7. The challenging par 3 has an elevated tee and green, with a significant drop-off in the middle. “It’s one of the holes that golfers think could be a hole-in-one opportunity,” says Milt Kodl, head golf professional. “It may look easy, but it’s definitely not.”
In recent months, No. 7 has received a facelift, along with the rest of the course. Renovations include the removal of 360 trees, the addition of nearly 60 greenside and fairway bunkers, and the installation of new tee boxes later this year. A brand-new clubhouse opened this season.
On No. 7, two flat bunkers that once protected each side of the green have been replaced by four new bunkers: three are visible from the tee box, and one is hidden behind the green. “These bunkers can be a distraction for golfers,” Kodl says. “They may not hit into them, but they can see them. The bunkers are in play on all sides, so you have to be fairly accurate.”
Without the trees that once surrounded the green, there’s a southwest wind to consider. “It can be a two-club difference either way, depending on the wind,” says Kodl.
Still, a bad tee shot can be costly. “It could be anything from an easy birdie to a double bogey hole,” says Kodl.
Timber Pointe Golf Club
5750 Woodstock Road, Poplar Grove, Ill.
Signature Hole: No. 8, 130 yards, par 3
This par 3 hole at Timber Pointe Golf Club is both challenging and picturesque, the way it tucks into the woods.
“No. 8 is a hole that’s framed so well,” says Randy Schairer, head golf professional and co-owner of this 12-year-old Boone County course. “When you stand on the tee, it looks amazing. It’s not an overwhelming or intimidating hole. It’s a typical Midwestern par 3.”
But the hole can sure test your mettle. To hit this large green surrounded by timber, a tee shot must carry past sand traps in front, without landing in the bunkers hidden behind the green.
From the outset, bunkers come into play. One on the left side of the fairway is only 60 yards from the tee box and rarely comes into play. Other bunkers closer to the green do require attention, especially one on the left side.
“When the pin is tucked on the left side, you’re forced to carry a large bunker in front of the green,” says Schairer. “That’s the toughest pin placement. But it also makes for a great golf shot, if you can pull it off.”
Club selection depends not only on the golfer’s experience, but also on the wind. Trouble comes when the ball is hit too long, traveling over the green and into the woods. “It’s a real tough up-and-down from behind the green,” says Schairer. “Most golfers are happy for a par here, before moving on.”