Glynns Creek Golf Club in Long Grove, Iowa: Where deer and golfers come to play
LONG GROVE, Iowa -- The setting is pioneer-like; one can easily picture the covered wagons making their way across the flat and open prairie on their way to unknown lands in the west. The rustic beauty of the old broken down shacks, the breeze in the open fields having its way with the native prairie grass, and the unmistakable sounds of the John Deere combine ravaging through the farmland enchants an individual's senses.
It's all reminiscent of a painting by Grant Wood, the famous satirical painter whose most notable work, American Gothic, is a staple on the walls of many American households. Born in 1891 in the heart of rural Americana, Wood was raised on a small Iowa farm. Each sight, smell, and sound of the area resembles each individual stroke from the hand of an artist that had the gift of capturing the essence of a region.
Welcome to Long Grove, Iowa, located just minutes west of the mighty Mississippi River and the Quad City metropolitan area. At the pulse of Long Grove lies Glynns Creek Golf Club, a rolling track cut through the forests of Scott County Park.
With the rural landscape in view from many tees and greens, it is impossible for golfers not to feel the unconscious urge to tightly grip their golf club like the farmer gripped his pitchfork in American Gothic.
As you approach the entrance to Glynns Creek, travelers are taken back in time about a century as a historical site known as Walnut Grove stretches along the highway for about the length of a city block. Walnut Grove was originally an old pioneer village that has now been converted into a small tourist stop.
A saloon, blacksmith shop, cobbler shop and saddlery are just a few of the remnants of an old Iowa village. As you stroll through Walnut Grove, you can almost hear the growl of the old blacksmith beating hot metal on his anvil and the drunken snickers pouring out of the saloon. On one end of the saloon a dusty sign reads, "Coffins Made To Order."
Fortunately, Glynns Creek Golf Club's player-friendly layout will not drive you to that extreme.
The entrance road into Glynns Creek mimics the fairways of the course as the road winds through woods and native prairie grass. It passes by the 4th, 3rd, and 1st hole, giving the golfer a taste of what's to come in the early part of the round.
A large practice area equipped with a driving range, target greens and an enormous undulating putting green gives the golfer a chance to hone his game or at least unwind the muscles before he or she takes on a golf course where every shot is a challenge. The course also features a fully loaded golf shop and concession area to accommodate all the needs of any golfer before he or she breathes the fresh Iowa air on the way to the first tee.
Glynns Creek offers a golfer of every skill level a chance to succeed by providing five separate tee boxes on each hole. Those brave enough can stretch the course out to 7,036 yards by playing the gold tees, making Glynns Creek a daunting venture similar to those on the professional tours.
John Valliere, Head PGA Professional at Glynns Creek, said the gold tees are relentless to mediocre ball striking, but can be handled by an accurate low handicapper.
"It's a lot of golf," Valliere said. "You have to hit a lot of long irons and it tests your game. Even some of the shorter par fours that look like gimmies on the scorecard are in reality not gimmies. You better keep the ball in play or you are going to make bogey or bigger pretty quickly." Although the course may seem intimidating from the tips, the lack of trickery on the course makes it enjoyable for a golfer of every level.
There are very few fairway bunkers or water hazards, but the mounds, grass bunkers, and long rough will keep any golfer honest. Whereas most modern courses are loaded with the wet stuff, water only comes into play on one hole, the par-five 15th. There are no hidden hazards or blind shots. Everything is right in front of you.
Standing on the first tee box, the player gets a beautiful view of the course, as holes nine, 10 and 18 run parallel to the first. These holes resemble a links style of golf similar to courses across the pond. There are no trees lining these holes and grass bunkers, prairie grass, and large mounds lurk just feet from the short grass.
Hole one is a very challenging par 4 right out of the gate. Measuring 413 yards from the blue tees, it is a dogleg left up a severe hill. The longer hitter can attempt to cut the dogleg, but will most likely cut off more than he can chew. Prairie grass and steep mounds await the foolish and pompous hitter trying to grip it and rip it on the first tee shot.
The first green sits in what is similar to an amphitheater, with steep banks surrounding the entire green. Seeing this amphitheater gives the golfer the impression that the hole was designed to hold a gallery, which is not unthinkable on a championship layout like Glynns Creek.
Valliere said the possibility of hosting a PGA tournament, such as the local John Deere Classic, might have been in the back of the mind of the designer when he came up with the blueprint for Glynns Creek.
"They wanted to build a course of that type of caliber," Valliere said. "It was going to be a public golf course and they wanted to keep it nice. The philosophy of the county leaders was to build something first class and top notch and keep it and run it that way."
Discussions for the possibility of Glynns Creek to host the PGA's John Deere Classic, then known as The Quad City Classic, were held a few years ago when the tournament was going to be moved from its host for several decades, Oakwood Country Club. No progress was made in the discussions and the new TPC at Deere Run was built to host the tournament.
After a simple downhill par 3, holes three, four, five, and six are cut through the woods of Scott County Park. While all of the holes are fairly short par 4's, each require a demanding tee shot to avoid getting your ball lost amidst the tall trees.
Since Glynns Creek's grand opening in 1992, Valliere said one of the main tasks for the maturity of the course and its playability was to work on clearing the underbrush out of the woods, specifically on this stretch of holes.
"It was all dense woods before and you weren't going to find it [your ball]," Valliere said. "That slowed up play and penalized you a bit. I wouldn't say it was unfair but it made it too difficult to get around. You still got the trees but you got a shot out of them now."
A nice aspect for scoring is Glynns Creek's use of risk and reward par fives. Three of the four par 5's on the course are reachable in two for the longer hitters but feature certain dangers that are waiting to trip up the birdie-seeker.
The front nine concludes with two of these tempting par 5's in the last three holes. The seventh hole, measuring 490 yards from the blue tees, allows for a fade into a wide fairway that opens up on the right side with trees lining the landing area.
The second shot is severely uphill with the trees ending but native prairie grass anxious to devour any wayward fairway woods. Sounds easy enough, but the risk, and reward, awaits at the green.
"Hole seven is the triple tiered green," Valliere said. "If you are going to try to get there in two and the pin is all the way in the back, you better be at least to that middle tier or it's a tough two putt."
The ninth is another par 5 measuring less than 500 yards. One major difference between the ninth and the seventh is that the ninth is wide open on either side from tee to green. A missed fairway will not punish you, but it will make for a tough second shot into a narrow green surrounded by a deep bunker on the right side.
The green slopes severely from front to back and slick chip shots can easily trickle off the green if a golfer is chipping from behind the pin.
The back nine is much longer and finishes with a tough par 3, 5, and 4, which usually play dead into the fan. The 17th hole measures 600 yards from the tips and unlike the other three par 5's, this hole is not a risk and reward hole. It is simply a hole filled with risks so play it with your brake lights on.
The 18th hole offers the golfer a unique and challenging green. A pot bunker guards the front of the green and negates any shots running up and on. The green wraps around the bunker on both sides and is shaped like an hourglass.
Certain hole locations are not accessible if you are on the opposite side of the hourglass and cut off by the bunker. Two-putt pars and legitimate birdie chances are a premium on this difficult 411-yard finishing hole.
One final feature of Glynns Creek that one should keep an eye open for, especially on the back nine, is the wildlife that makes its home in the woods of the course and the county park. The course is known as nature's playground where deer and golfers come to play. Deer, fox, and wild turkey can be seen scampering across fairways from time to time. However, unlike the famous gopher from Caddyshack, the wildlife at Glynns Creek knows proper etiquette and will not gobble up any golf balls.
Valliere said that the scenery, which is authentic to this rural area, adds to the enjoyment of the round, and that's exactly what developers were looking for when they decided to build this course away from the congestion of the nearby cities.
"You're not playing through houses, and you're not playing along the highway," Valliere said. "You're out here in a park-like setting and you're bound to see the wildlife that exists. I'd like to say it is peace and quiet. It's a fun one to play."
With the tranquility, peacefulness, and beauty unique to the heartland, Glynns Creek Golf Club is a relaxing break from the hectic pace of everyday life. And it's a darn good golf course too.
June 11, 2003