Cinder Ridge Golf Course
Wilmington IL, - Cinder Ridge Golf Course in Wilmington is a fine example of what a little imagination and will power can do to the game of golf. The course is the work of George Kappos, who built the facility on an old coalmine, about an hour and half southwest of Chicago city limits.
"There was a strip mine operating here between 1927 and 1953," Kappos, who bought the land in 1977, said. "Peabody Coal brought in the raw product, processed it and shipped out from here. It was a total operation on this land."
Along with coal ditches adjacent to some of the fairways, some stone structures still remain on the course.
"I have tried to maintain the majority of the natural surroundings and some of the artifacts from the mine and now we have one of the best courses in the area," Kappos noted.
"The miners raped the land and left it for dead." Kappos continued. "Nature has a way of recovering itself. I just came in and saw a golf course."
Kappos, who admits that the course is a work in progress, carve the holes out of the beautiful natural setting this area has to offer. The 350-acre layout features many undulating fairways flanked by brush, swamp and wooded area. Golfers may feel like they are taking a hike instead of playing golf, as there are many great views of the scenic setting throughout the golf course.
Fourteen holes, to be exact, have a least one water hazard at Cinder Ridge. Along with the water, Cinder Ridge is dotted by many hidden wetlands and unforeseen lateral hazards. With this in mind, new players might want to consider playing a conservative round of golf during the first time around this track and enjoy the scenery.
Cinder Ridge features five sets of tees, ranging from a short 4,810 yards to a challenging 6,909 yards.
Of the 18 great holes, four stand out as being reason to come back to Cinder Ridge. First and foremost is one of the most talked about holes in Chicagoland, the par-3 16th. Standing on the tee box of this 133-yard hole called Out of Africa, golfers have to carry most of the hole over water. What makes the hole amazing is the layout of the green in which Kappos appeared to have had too much sand at his disposal and placed eight bunkers around the circular putting surface.
It is tough to think safe, looking at this short hole, but if the pin is stuck anywhere to the left or right on the green, it might be wise to take an extra club and swing easy for the middle of the green.
Trees in the back of the putting surface throw shadows everywhere, making any birdie putt a test. Along with the sixth hole, which is also all carry over water, Kappos gets a hole-in-one for his tremendous par-3s.
The 18th, a par-five measuring 489 yards, asks players to hit two shots over water. The tee shot has water in play to the left with any left-to-right players having to hit a long iron over the water to angle back into the fairway. With a great tee shot, players will have the option to fly it over the water at about 150 yards out and go for the inviting, large putting surface in two. With so many options and hazards, this finishing hole could easily be a swing hole when needing a birdie.
The 12th hole has Kappos sense of humor written all over it. A 390-yard dogleg par four has players carry over marsh and wetlands to a blind fairway. The fairway slopes down to the right with even lies hard to find. The hole gets real tricky if players hit a average drive less than 250 yards in the middle of the fairway. Kappos decided to leave a single tall tree in the way so that players must carry with a mid iron to a narrow green. A bunker in the front of the green catches many a shot hit by players who carry the tree but don't have enough club.
After playing seven holes with narrow fairways and many hazards, the long par-5 eighth changes the pace for players. Off the tee box, this 600 yard dogleg left appears to be able to handle a landing of a 747 airliner in the middle of its fairway. The tee shot and second shot are straightforward if kept in the center of the hole and long. The hole gets real interesting on the third shot in which players are looking directly up to the green. Without being able to see the bottom third of the flagstick, players have a difficult time judging the distance on this narrow green.
Kappos' creativity is seen throughout the course with plateau tee boxes, single trees left in the center of the fairway and a variation of undulations on each green.
Even the clubhouse is part of the history of Cinder Ridge. The 10,000 square foot building, which has the same steel frame as the main offices of Peabody Coal, houses a well-stocked clubhouse, banquet facility, deli and beautiful locker rooms.
Cinder Ridge takes group outings seriously, with packages from three foursomes and up. The smallest deal, called the Par Golf Package, includes golf, cart, range balls, prizes and a brat or burger on the turn and is a steal at $48 per person on weekdays. Other packages include steak dinners and shotgun starts.
For the gambling types, Joliet, which is 30 minutes northwest of the course, features Empress and Harrah's casino boats. Gaming is big in this area, making it easy to find most games, including many blackjack and craps tables.