One Visit to The General, and You Won't Believe You're Still in Illinois

By Chris Saunders, Contributor

The General, Eagle Ridge ResortGALENA, IL - Upscale golfing is not only limited to the private suburban courses found near Chicago. Nestled in the rolling hills along the Mississippi River, this Northwest Illinois treasure has quickly transformed its image from a popular regional destination, to a resort that is getting attention from a national golfing audience.

Eagle Ridge Resort features three 18-hole golf courses, and a very user friendly, but equally challenging 9-hole course. The North and South courses, designed by Roger Packard, have been favorites among Illinois golfers for years. It wasn't until the construction of "The General" in 1997, that Eagle Ridge started getting national exposure. Proof of this was confirmed recently with Golf Magazine's ranking of No. 52, amongst the "Top Courses You Can Play."

The high marks are nothing new for The General. It has been receiving rave reviews from golfers since day one. When the course opened, it opened in a big way, being ranked in Golf Digest's top ten "Best New Upscale Public Courses." Andy North and Roger Packard teamed up to design this property that overlooks the Mississippi River, and offers scenery that you wouldn't expect to find in Illinois.

"What sets Eagle Ridge apart from the rest of the State is the setting of the property," says Dale Balvin, Director of Golf Operations and Head Golf Pro at Eagle Ridge. "Eagle Ridge is located just a few miles from the Mississippi River which makes the topography of limestone cliffs, oak and walnut trees, elevation changes and great views of the entire country side. You can't believe you're in Illinois."

The General, Eagle Ridge Resort The resort has spared no expenses. In addition to the three and half beautiful golf courses, the resort features a massive 10,000 square-foot clubhouse. Inside you'll find a fully equipped pro shop, men's and women's locker rooms that match any private course, and Spikes Bar & Grill, a popular hangout for a post-round meal or a family get together. The resort is not just a gentleman's club, with plenty of entertainment for the entire family. Tennis, cross-country skiing during the winter months, and swimming are just a few of the most popular activities.

Since the introduction of The General, it's been the golf experience that drives much of the business at Eagle Ridge. When you arrive at the tee box on hole No. 1, you'll have a better understanding as to why the course is receiving so much hype. The downhill par 4 gives you a fantastic view of the valley that houses the front nine, with the majestic clubhouse lurking high upon the hill behind you. The hole takes a delicate tee shot that requires more touch and accuracy than raw driving power. You can make it to the green in three if you don't try to muscle the tee shot.

The General, Eagle Ridge Resort The first hole gives you a good feel for this course, with accuracy being more important than pure power. The course is ranked nationally, primarily for the layout and scenic backdrop, but in general the course is very playable. This is especially true if you play the tees recommended for your level of handicap. Head Golf Pro Dale Balvin, gives some sound advice for players that are looking to survive this challenging 6,800-yard par 72 course.

"Accuracy off the tee is key. Resist the urge to hit your driver on every hole. Also, play for the front edge of the greens. Long shots to the green will put you in trouble."

A long 180-yard par 3 will challenge you on hole No. 3. With water running along most of the right side, it is important to choose a club that you're comfortable swinging if you want to make a run at the green. The wind can be a factor on this wide-open hole, and staying left is your only option. If you're lucky enough to land on the green, your work is far from over. The undulating green will challenge you on this hole and nearly all of the par
3 's.

The General, Eagle Ridge Resort You'll close out the front nine with a spectacular tee shot that will test you like no other on the front nine. The 410-yard par 4 ninth requires your ability to drive deep and with pinpoint accuracy to avoid a deep rough that will inhale your ball. You'll need enough club to carry the deep valley of wildflowers to reach the fairway and have a chance for a small number on your score card.

At only 357-yards, the par 4 No. 14 may not be the most difficult hole on the course-in fact it may be the easiest. Players have been known to drive the green from forward tees on this awe-aspiring tee that is situated some 200-feet above the fairway. If there is a part of the course that may get backed up, it is No. 14. The view atop the tee box is unmatched in Illinois, and you'll need a few minutes to take it all in. Dale Balvin, Director of Golf Operations and Head Pro, doesn't hesitate in giving the label of "signature hole" to this masterpiece.

The General, Eagle Ridge Resort "On No. 14 tee you can see Iowa, Wisconsin and of course, Illinois. It's a 200-foot drop to the fairway off of a limestone cliff. Wooded areas guard the left hand side of the fairway and the right is guarded with a pond," says Balvin, who encourages players to be conservative on this hole. "The smart play is an iron off the tee, but most players want to swing away with the tempting driver."

You'll rap up your round the same way that you started-shaking your head in disbelief. Yes, you're in Illinois. No. 18 requires another strategically placed tee shot, and it doesn't hurt to bring out the driver in full force for this 532-yard par 5. The two-tiered fairway, with short rough splitting the middle, will make the second and third shot a little more difficult. Pitching onto the green will be a little hazardous with the front bunker protecting the undulating green that awaits you.

The General, Eagle Ridge Resort With green fees ranging from $90 on weekdays to $135 on the weekends, this may not be a course that you play on regular basis. The resort does truly offer a golf experience that you may not find at too many courses in Illinois, so an occasional getaway may be worth your time. If it's a little pricey for your pocketbook, look into the twilight rates that are a little more reasonable at $35 for weekdays and $45 on the weekends.

Chris Saunders, Contributor

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