WEAVERRIDGE GOLF CLUB – Peoria, Illinois
A – Playability & Challenge
A – Quality of Course
A+ – Memorability
A+ – Service Levels
A – Pro Shop
A – 19th Hole Experience
A – OVERALL EXPERIENCE
(7/11/09 – Written by Mark Suzda) … There are 16,944 golf courses in the United States. All of them have grass, and sand, and trees, and greens. Most of them have practice ranges, water hazards and clubhouses. With all of those common denominators, you would think that just about every golf course was pressed out of the same mold. However, if you venture to Peoria, Illinois and WeaverRidge Golf Club, you will find out that the mold was broken with this class act. It’s the people and the company culture that put this venue over the top. Yes America! Listen up! If you put happy associates in a great work environment, you will not only survive during these tough times; you will probably thrive also.
The WeaverRidge experience begins immediately when you pull up to the clubhouse. Our rambunctious group of 12 Golfestians was sincerely greeted by very polite and courteous employees who welcomed us to their facility. Wow, somebody actually appreciated the fact that we traveled 2,000 miles to get here. And I would like to point out that it wasn’t one of those typical canned responses we tend to get where the enthusiasm level is somewhere between depressing and suicidal. The W-Ridge staff is clean cut and engaging and created a sense of comfort that made me feel like I made the right decision to play at their facility. In my book, there is no better way to start a round.
The awesome clubhouse atmosphere featured more of the same – in the pro shop and in the bar. I truly got the feeling that I belonged here. At this family run course, everybody seemed to enjoy what they are doing. While walking through the hallway I crossed paths with a man who was obviously on his way to something important. However, he stopped in his tracks to say hello, ask where I was from, and if there was anything he could do to make my visit better. In my 20+ years of playing golf, if I had ten cents for every time that happened … I would have … uh… a dime. By the way, the something important man was Matt Weaver, the General Manager. I … the customer … was important!
Our group had some time to kill, so we homesteaded the bar as our base camp to enjoy some pre-round swing lubricants. We were engaged by everyone, including course owner Jerry Weaver, who went out of his way to greet and welcome us to his facility. While most owners sit in the backroom counting their money or reading Customer Service for Dummies, Jerry worked the room like a politician. He was looking for ideas and opinions to improve his already near perfect venue. And you know what? His attitude is contagious, because everyone I observed at W-Ridge is having a great time. Jerry is one of those rare businessmen who truly cares about his customers opinions. He is also the kind of guy whose personality would fit in perfectly with my Saturday night poker party. So here I am – halfway through a golf course review, and I haven’t even talked about the course yet. If the course is half as good as the people, it was going to be a great day. And I was right.
The layout partially runs through the beautiful rolling country side and routes its path through some gorgeous homes. The Hurdzan-Fry designed course very eye-appealing, causing me to leave my camera handy in the cart tray, rather than buried deep in my bag. The course was in excellent condition, something that could have been a mess on this late Saturday afternoon. The first three holes are pretty much wide open and pars were a common result as long as we stayed out of the strategically placed bunkers. The par-3’s were all scenic and challenging and the greens were fast and rolled true. After reloading with dogs and drinks at the turn, number 10 opens with a cool downhill tee shot, followed by a carryover Big Hollow Creek to the green. The creek also comes into play twice on number 11.
The 12th hole is a 190-yard par-3 that has a 120 foot drop to the green. It provided for some great Kodak moments and a par! The rest of the course meanders gracefully around the hills. The par-5 18th hole is a tremendous finishing hole. It features another downhill tee shot that must stop short of Big Hollow Creek. Going for the green in two is dangerous because of the multiple well-placed bunkers protecting the green. As you finish, the WeaverRidge clubhouse is up the hill to the left with great views of the course. Unlike many generic courses, WeaverRidge has a lot of personality, with it’s 18 individual showcases highlighting the local surroundings, rather than just filling in yards on a scorecard. Just about everybody’s scorecard looked good today. Speaking of which, they have a pretty cool one. They have a slot cut in the card to show your front nine score along side the back when you fold it over. They say that the little things in the world make the biggest difference. It does in my golf world. I was impressed.
To wrap things up, I must say that WeaverRidge provides the ultimate golf experience. I felt it was a privilege to play this venue. I would highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to play it. It truly is a hidden gem, not only in Illinois, but on the Golf Digest Top 100 list. While there may be 16,944 courses in the U.S., this is one that I would keep on playing.
EDITOR NOTE: WEAVERRIDGE GOLF CLUB was voted the GOLFEST 2009 COURSE OF THE YEAR by its members.