THE GENERAL AT EAGLE RIDGE – Galena, IL
A – Playability & Challenge
A – Quality of Course
A – Memorability
B – Service Levels
B+ – Pro Shop
A – 19th Hole Experience
A- – OVERALL EXPERIENCE
(Written by Jim Allen) … When something is named the “General” it better have a reputation for something big or impressive. It’s a name typically reserved for a leader, a champion race horse, or maybe just one mean pit bull. Based on that, the GENERAL at Eagle Ridge doesn’t disappoint. This challenging and scenic course, located in Galena, Illinois – three hours west of Chicago, is definitely worth the windshield time.
The first hole sets the tone for the front-nine which cuts through the lower valley. With the trademark silo and clubhouse behind us, the first chore of the day is a downhill 384-yard par four. There are two ways to play the hole. Either hit the narrow fairway and chase a pair, or hit it in the deep rough and agonize your way to a double-bogey. Personally, I like this scenario because it forces me to slow down rather than wail away. The game plan stands true as I was rewarded with a par.
Four of the most challenging and enjoyable holes on the course begin on number three, a downhill par three that is accented by a pond as a backdrop. The next holes in the scenic canyon are an uphill par four, a demanding dogleg left and a tough dog leg right back around the same pond. It may have represented the most memorable four-hole combo of Golfest 2009. The front is finished up on a tricky ninth hole which requires a carry over a ravine and the appearance that everything that goes right is a death trap. Aim at the silo and everything typically works out okay.
If there is an official list of the best 18 golf holes in the United States, the General’s par-4 14th would be on it – no negotiations required. It’s a 357-yard adventure that features a view of three different states from the picturesque tee box. That would be Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Illinois. Once the camera’s were put back in the cart, the next shock and awe moment comes with a tee shot that begins from a starting point 180-feet above the fairway. The extended hang time makes the experience that much more enjoyable. Somehow, everybody in our group scored a par the hole – which is something to write home about. It was our PGA moment!
Unfortunately, whatever goes down on a golf course typically has to come up someplace else and 180 feet is a lot of ground to make up. What the 14th provided in entertainment, the 407- yard 17th hole punished us with a grueling uphill road trip. This one required a tee shot over a ravine to an island shaped landing area on a tiered fairway. If all that went well – which didn’t in my case – the approach shot was a 160-yard stroke to a green that was at least 50-feet above my head. Have they ever covered this scenario in the tip section of Golf Digest? Howmany extra clubs is that? Do I lay up or tee it up? Either way, it wasn’t pretty. Only one of our 12 golfers wrote a four on their card on number 17. The rest of us took our medicine and limped our way to the par-5 finishing hole.
The 18th got us back on track for a great finish at the General. This hole features a split-fairway (the right side is bigger) with the silo once again being the aiming point on the final approach shot. Par’s were pretty much the norm here. A great finishing hole for a great golf course. By the way, this course review deserves a non-golf related sidebar just because of its uniqueness. The gang at Golfest has traveled to all corners of the US and has had the opportunity to meet what can best be described as … different individuals. Eagle Ridge vaulted to the pinnacle of the list as we shared the resort with a group of offbeat characters in town for a UFO Symposium. Many made claims and told stories about being abducted and probed by extra-terrestrials – and they were dead serious about it. It was the largest collection of flip over hair, polyester suits, and personality disorders I had ever seen in one location. And let’s not forget about the UFO Symposium name badges, proving there is never a dull day on a Golfest trip.
Overall, the General at Eagle Ridge was a great experience. The marshals were accommodating, the cart girls were frequent, the scenery was unique, and the scores were rewarding for good play. (And none of us was abducted or probed.) The trademark silo clubhouse is also a pretty good place to hang out for the 19th hole experience. We enjoyed our time in their spacious pro shop and wolfed down a great lunch and cocktails at their Spikes Restaurant.
If you are from a large metropolitan area like me, Galena, Illinois and the Eagle Ridge Resort seems like it is in the middle of nowhere. However, I would highly recommend the journey if you are looking for an entertaining golf destination. The General, as a standalone golf course, is very worthy of its name and its Top 100 rating. I have to go now … my pit bull General is chewing on ET’s leg.