Historic Town of Galena, Illinois Has Polished Gem in Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa
By Glen Turk
What makes the perfect vacation destination? This is a subjective exercise, so numerous answers will be accepted. After much deliberation, I've determined the number one quality a vacation spot must have is options. Yes, choices are the foundation of any stellar getaway. How else can you explain the popularity of buffets, satellite radio, and ebay -- people love choices! And as you'll quickly discover, that is precisely why Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa in Galena, Ill. receives an A+ on MGM's vacation report card.
Live to golf? Then Eagle Ridge has got you more than covered with 63 of the finest holes in the Midwest, including the highly-decorated General, a Roger Packard/Andy North tribute to the game. The North, South and nine hole hidden gem East Course rounds out this stellar quad squad of first-class tracks. Love fine dining? On site, Eagle Ridge offers three distinctive restaurants. Want to do more than besides golf? (Outrageous, I know.) How about horseback riding, hiking, swimming, boating, poolside lying, or spa facility just plain relaxing? Simply stated, you can do it all or nothing at all at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa.
And finally, if you're the adventurous type and don't mind a 18 minute scenic drive, the history-laden town of Galena awaits. As the childhood home of Civil War General and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, the 4,000 person town is brimming with quaint antique shops and historical landmarks. If the sinful temptations of fudge, wine, and exotic sauces trips your trigger, then you'll find nirvana in Galena.
So now that we've determined that die hard golfers a like and those up for enshrinement in the Shoppers Hall of Fame will love a weekend getaway to Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, let's dig deeper into what you should expect to find while there. Since this is Midwest Golfing Magazine, we'll focus on Eagle Ridge's flagship course, The General.
Opened to the public in May of 1997, The General at Eagle Ridge has been one of Illinois' top-10 facilities from the start. The terms "flat-lander" and "Illinois" go together like "Chicago Bears" and "poor offensive line", but for some strange reason the glacier that rolled over the Midwest eons ago forgot to finish the job in the far northwestern region of the state. What was left behind are rolling hillsides and valleys, with some elevation changes exceeding 200 feet. Roger Packard and Andy North concocted an adroit display of 18 holes at The General, weaving them through old quarries and lush forests in the process. No two holes on the 6820 yard layout are even remotely close to each other -- a true testament to the quality of land they had to work with.
It all begins with the 407 yard, par-4 first complete with a 50 foot drop from tee box to fairway. The entire fairway is tucked within a valley, eliciting the sensation you're the only group on the course, even though you're only an 8-iron away from the clubhouse. And better yet, if you can control your nerves on the tee box, the first hole is a realistic par or birdie opportunity.
Greatness continues at the 549 yard, par-5 2nd. Another elevated tee shot gives players a view of only 60% of the fairway, as the right side is blocked out due to a line of trees that continues down two-thirds of the landscape. The land truly is the star here, as the entire hole flows to a stunning conclusion. An elevated tee shot presents a visually intimidating hole, as you can only see the left side of the fairway. Once you are in position, this great risk reward hole features a long, narrow green guarded by a bunker on the left and the creek on the right will challenge any golfers approach shot.
The next hole of distinction is the par-4, 437 yard 5th -- a wicked dogleg with a massive oak obstacle that guards almost the entire green. This may be the only hole where a straight tee ball will get you trouble, as a fade off the left side of the fairway or a draw from the right is the only way you'll have an unobstructed view of the green. Or you could be like me and "purposefully" blast it so far right you're in the 4th fairway with a perfect line. You'll be 190 yards back with no direct sight line to the putting surface, but at least it's open!
The par-4 372 yard "Quarry Hole" was blasted out of a limestone quarry and presents one of the coolest backdrops in the Midwest. A pint-size putting surface from back to front is protected by an eight foot rock wall roughly 10 feet off the green. Being one club long may result is the cruelest ricochets of all-time, as a ball hit off the rocks could go anywhere. And as the law of averages dictate, never any closer to the hole. Getting to this wild green is no picnic either, as the fairway drops off on the right side and some of thickest rough of the property is present down the left.
The back nine at Eagle Ridge continues the spectacular display of views and shot values at the par-3, 163 yard 11th. Five small patches of land that represent each tee box are all that stand between you and a 75 foot drop to a forested ravine. A massive green is the only attribute that doesn't make this hole completely cruel, as the thought of making a round-crushing mistake must be overcome.
The inward nine flourishes during the three hole stretch at numbers 13, 14, & 15. The par-4, 442 yard dog leg left will test you off the tee, as trees overhang the left side, while bunkers and forest right leave hardly any room for a misfire. Make sure to enjoy your approach shot at the 13th, as your secluded in one of the most tranquil areas of the property. I will warn you though, the 13th isn't the hardest hole on the course for nothing. Play for par, accept bogey and head to the next.
Of all the thrilling shot opportunities afforded at Eagle Ridge, my favorite is from the 14th tee box. If there is one shot you want to see fly straight all day it's this one. The holes plays to a 180 foot elevation drop from tee to green and can be driven in the ultimate risk/reward option. From the perched tee box you can see 40 miles in the distance straight west past the Iowa state line. Deep woods left and a boggy marsh right makes the short grass seem like an oasis in the desert. The putting surface is slightly raised from the fairway and is protected by a menacing bunker short and right. If no one is on your tail, hit an iron of the tee followed by a rip-roaring drive and play both balls to conclusion.
The rugged beauty of Eagle Ridge is exemplified at the rising 407 yard par-4 17th. Wicked rock walls create tiers in the fairway that must be avoided at all costs. The green plays severely uphill as one to two clubs extra are necessary to find the putting surface. In fact, until a few years ago, the slope was so severe from back to front that balls would go in reverse and end up 30 yards from the flag. Now, a patch of tall grass has been installed to prevent the frustrating feeling of hitting a green only to see it roll downhill back to your feet.
The General's incredible display of holes winds up with the 532 yard par-5 18th. As the only hole on the track with a double fairway, there are numerous ways to slay this giant. I recommend always taking the high road in life, and at the 18th that means favoring the right fairway. The left side is sunken and runs out of room rather quickly and also doesn't present the finest angle to the green. If you crush your drive this is a great opportunity to go it, even though won't be able to see the putting surface. Fortunately, Eagle Ridge's signature silo is the largest aiming point you'll find in the state.
I was hoping to briefly discuss the other 45 holes of brilliance at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, but a course this tremendous deserves the uninterrupted spotlight every once and awhile.
If you'd like more information on all that Eagle Ridge has to offer, check out their website at www.eagleridge.com/ or call (800) 240-1681.
Revised: 09/02/2011 - Article Viewed 21,838 Times
Written By: Glen Turk
Glen Turk is a Wisconsin native and is the Senior Writer/Editor of Midwest Golfing Magazine. Midwest Golfing Magazine was formerly known as Pub-Links Golfer's Magazine and is a free publication distributed four times per year throughout Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio.
His duties at MGM include writing course features, facilitating product testing, and overseeing the overall content and look of the magazine. But clearly his most important task is playing as much golf as his wife allows. Fortunately for him, she plays also and loves out-driving him even with a 60 yard head start.
Glen plays to a 6 handicap but once set a record by having his ball retriever regripped 15 times in one calendar year. It was a December trip to Guam that ultimately did him in. Finally, if you haven't caught on by now, the two most worthy weapons in Glen's writing arsenal are self-deprecating humor and pithy one-liners.
My signature line, "Be A Force on The Course" and now more recently, "Hit 'Em Where They Mow!" can be reused at no charge.
Contact Glen Turk:
Midwest Golfing Magazine - Senior Writer Editor