Our region has some of the most picturesque golf courses in the country. It also has some of the most challenging holes. Here are some tips and tricks to keep you on the green and out of the rough.
Typically, the more picturesque a golf hole is, the more difficult it is. A 500-yard hole that’s punctuated with blossoming trees, calm water and neatly raked bunkers may look great in a photo, but those aesthetic touches also create trouble for golfers. Distance and beauty go hand-in-hand on these seven holes, as they challenge a golfer to make the most of accuracy, skill and patience.
Park Hills Golf Course: Hole No. 15
3240 W. Stephenson St., Freeport
Strong mental concentration and the ability to trust your swing are keys to navigating this hole.
Sitting at 577 yards on the West Course, one of two 18-hole courses on this rolling hillside, hole No. 15 is also one of the more difficult layouts.
“There’s out of bounds on the entire left side from tee to green,” says Jeff Hartman, head golf professional. “There’s a creek that you have to cross about 300 yards from the tee and the fairway is guarded on both sides with trees, requiring straight and long shots the whole way.”
The green elevates from the fairway, so the second shot will have to be about 10 yards longer than the actual yardage.
If you’re able to reach the green in three shots, the reward is worth it.
“The green is relatively flat, offering an easier-than-usual birdie putt,” Hartman says. “If you make par here, you’ve gained a stroke on the field.”
Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, The General: Hole No. 9
444 Eagle Ridge Drive, Galena, Ill.
Of the four courses at this eye-popping resort, The General features a 289-foot elevation change from the first to last holes and it has the longest hole. No. 9 plays 560 yards predominately into the wind during the summer months.
“The hole features a split fairway design that requires a solid and straight tee shot to reach a favorable position in the fairway,” says Mike Weiler, director of golf. “A successful second shot means the player negotiated a steeply banked, 30-foot-high hillside laden with tall fescue grass on the right and either side of the 15-yard wide bluegrass running up the middle of the fairway.”
Two solid shots leave golfers with a third shot 80 to 150 yards from the green, depending on wind conditions. The oval-shaped green is protected by a sand bunker in front and steep hillside behind.
“Three precise, confident shots will leave players with a reasonable birdie opportunity,” Weiler says. “Stray shots will be punished.”
PrairieView Golf Club: Hole No. 15
6734 N. German Church Road, Byron, Ill.
The second shot on this hole, which sits on a course where bison once roamed, will make or break a golfer’s score.
It stretches 550 yards from the back tee. The hole is pretty generous off the tee, but it forms a bottleneck about 100 yards short of the green. Cornfields and the Byron Nuclear Power Plant quietly rest in the distance.
“There are a couple of tall trees, one on each side of the fairway which, togther, make the second shot very demanding,” says Andrew Schlupp, head golf professional. “Advancing your ball past the trees and down the ‘chute’ will give you the best look at this elevated green for your third shot. Two bunkers positioned at the front right guard this left-to-right sloped green.”
Glen Erin Golf Club: Hole No. 18
1417 W. Airport Road, Janesville
If two golfers are tied heading into the final hole at this course, the winner will have to earn their victory. The longest hole at this hilly course is the last one, stretching 600 yards from the back tee.
“It essentially feels like a three-shot hole, but you have to stay out of trouble after your second shot,” says Matt Kersten, director of golf. “From the tee, you can hit in the bunkers on the left or right side, and on your next shot you can’t see the green, because you’re shooting over a hill and it’s long.”
The green is guarded by a bunker in front and the right side slopes down, so the ball can kick away from the green if it’s not properly positioned.
“It can be a challenging second shot, so most people aim for the 150-yard stick at the top of the hill, and then you can shoot down and see the green in front of you,” Kersten says. “It’s a good, challenging hole to end the day.”
The Celtic House, an event facility with roughly 12,000 square feet of event space, overlooks the hole.
Aldeen Golf Club: Hole No. 6
1902 Reid Farm Road, Rockford
This 558-yard hole has a creek flowing through the middle of the fairway, so it’s essential to strategize your options.
“This hole is all about placement,” says Jordan Zellman, manager of golf instruction and programs. “You can either play it safe with a layup shot before the creek or take a risk and go over the creek, leaving yourself an easy wedge shot.”
If you overshoot the green, beware. There’s a beautiful flower bed and a cropping of ornamental trees that could cause problems.
Majestic Oaks Golf Course at Lake Lawn Resort: Hole No. 12
Hole No. 12 at this beautiful lakeside course is one of the longest and most scenic holes.
Reaching 513 yards and hugging Delavan Lake, it’s also the toughest hole at this course.
“It’s a dogleg left and protected by water the entire way,” says Thomas Howe Jr., director of golf operations. “It’s protected by a large oak tree on the left about 250 yards from the tee box. The average golfer has to start right and not try to cut the corner for a chance at reaching the green in two.”
The hole is well protected by several sand traps, not to mention the water that wraps the left side of the green and a portion of the back by the lake.
Crystal Woods Golf Course: Hole No. 5
5915 S. Illinois Route 47, Woodstock
This 565-yard hole plays downhill, so hit that driver long and straight for a big advantage. It’s yours if you land on the fairway.
Position your second shot to the right side of the fairway for the best approach to the green. Be careful, because there’s water directly behind the hole. An overswing could cause some headaches.
“The left rough is tree-lined, so players must avoid playing too far to the left to avoid hitting out of bounds,” says John Craig, golf director. “A good drive and fairway metal can usually leave a short approach to an undulating green.”
Woodbine Bend Golf Course: Hole No. 16
3500 E. Center Road, Stockton, Ill.
This 535-yard, links-style hole slopes to the right, with a pond lurking to the right of the green. To the left, a bank of evergreens stands guard.
It might be best to have some extra balls prepared when you tee off. The approach on this hole is narrow and the hazards are many.
“Hit the tee shot on the front right of the fairway and aim just past the 150-yard marker for the second shot. Aim to the left side, so you’re looking down on the green,” says Sam Stoddard, general manager. “It’s a smaller green, so the third shot will have to be accurate. This hole will test your precision and accuracy.”