Byron Hills Golf Course is a picturesque Quad Cities layout
PORT BYRON, Ill. — There are golf courses that you like to play because they push you to the limit. Then there are courses that you enjoy playing simply because they're pleasant, relaxing and even, well, pretty.
Byron Hills Golf Course just outside the Quad Cities is one of those latter tracks.
Opened as a nine-hole course in 1966 and expanded to 18 in 1984, Byron Hills features bountiful mature trees, gurgling water hazards, and rolling hills, all of which merge to create one of the most picturesque parkland-style courses in northeastern Illinois.
How it plays
Byron Hills is not overly long, at just 6,465 yards from the tips, nor very difficult (on paper), with a rating of 70.5 and a slope rating of 115. Yet the aforementioned trees and water conspire to ruin the scorecard of anyone wild enough or foolish enough to defy them.
Owner Bruce Sutton advises to "(play) for position" on most of the holes.
"You'll use most of your clubs," he said.
Sutton can be excused for uttering the cliché because, quite honestly, you end up using every single club. In many cases, more often than you'd like.
The 356-yard opener is parkland to perfection, playing downhill to a green guarded front and left by a pond and a towering fountain. This is what the Brits might call a very tidy hole — everything is in its proper place, and if your ball is too, you could card an efficient birdie to start out.
The 373-yard third is much trickier and local knowledge would be very useful. From the tee, players are faced with a drive to a horseshoe-shaped fairway that hugs a hill on the right. Assuming your ball finds the fairway, the approach is played into a green that is set into the hillside and perched over a creek.
The routing on the back nine is a bit more up-and-back than the front, which wraps around the outside of the property. But the back is also 400 yards longer than the front and allows longer hitters to pull out the driver and swing away on a few longish par 4s, such as the 451-yard 11th.
The 406-yard 14th is a truly artistic hole. The elevated tee boxes overlook a swooping fairway that turns to the right around water. A good drive leaves an approach over a large fairway bunker and deep swale back uphill to an elevated green.
The generally small to medium-sized greens were not fast, but were extremely firm, which is an interesting combination. The fairways, tees and greens had only a few patches here and there of brown, and were well maintained.
In a few places, cart paths curved sharply above step embankments and water hazards, which would make for some very dangerous drunken cart driving, if one were so inclined to drink and golf. Be cautious behind the sixth green, especially.
The clubhouse might just tempt one to tip a few back, too, as it looks very much like an old Elks Lodge and houses a full bar. The homemade sandwiches come highly recommended as well.
Byron Hills Golf Course: The verdict
As with all of the courses in the Quad Cities, Byron Hills offers good golf at a great price. Greens fees run from $17-$21 ($10-$12 extra for a cart), which is very fair for a well-kept, beautifully laid-out little parkland track.
If Mark Twain had seen Byron Hills, he might not have found his good walk to be quite so spoiled after all.
Stay and play
The newest hotel in the Quad Cities is the Stoney Creek Inn (309-743-0101 or 800-659-2220). This family-friendly lodge-style inn is full of Northwoods charm.
There are several cozy brewpubs in the Quad Cities. For adults, Bent River Brewing Co. in Moline serves up microbrews and pub fare along with live music on weekends.
For a more family-style pub, River House Bar and Grill in Moline is worth a visit just to marvel at the belt-driven ceiling fan system. The homemade meatloaf ($8) is comfort food at its best.
Byron Hills has been in the Sutton family since 1972. Bruce and Penny Sutton are the clubhouse managers. Larry Sutton is the superintendent.
April 17, 2007