Eagle Ridge

By Jae-Ha Kim
Asian American Golf
August 2007

When you think of famous golfing destinations, California’s Pebble Beach and Scotland’s St. Andrews immediately spring to mind, thanks to years of televised tournaments. But over the past few years, Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa–located about 150 miles west of Chicago in the heart of historic Galena, Ill.–has been building quite the reputation as a must-play golf course.

Eagle Ridge (444 Eagle Ridge Dr., Galena, Ill., 815-777-5000) boasts 63 holes over four courses, but it’s The General that’s the most challenging and coveted. Rated highly by Golf Digest, Golf, Golf & Travel, Golfweek and the new Zagat Survey of America’s top golf courses, The General has attracted golfing legends such as Andy North, as well as Dave Wannstedt, football coach for the University of Pittsburgh Panthers.

The 6,800-acre resort is a favorite destination of the jet set, attracting California-based stars to fly in for a few rounds of golf. Celebrity golfing aficionados such as Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Amy Madigan and “Beverly Hills, 90210” stars Jason Priestley, Brian Austin Greene and Ian Ziering have all tackled the impeccable courses here.

“You don’t need to travel around the globe or even across the country to experience a world class getaway,” says Ikhlas Ahmed, the resort’s general manager. “When you are surrounded by hundreds of age-old trees, a breathtaking view and clear blue skies, even a bad golf game looks spectacular at Eagle Ridge.”

Galena, which has a population of 3,600 residents, sees a surge every year during golfing season. More than 190,000 tourists visit Eagle Ridge annually. On this day, David Rood–who resides in the western suburbs of Chicago–has his mind set on conquering The General.

“The natural beauty of the rocky hills at Eagle Ridge is a far cry from the usual courses I play,” says Rood. “Being a suburban Chicago flatlander, I never get to see elevation changes at the courses I usually play, so it’s really nice to tackle The General. It’s a challenging, but incredibly fun course to play.”

The General is a visually stunning and intimidating course, but don’t let it scare you away. The course plays very well and when you head back home, you’ll leave feeling like you’ve conquered a beast.  The beauty of The General comes from its liberal use of natural terrain to build a contoured course that rolls, drops and climbs through the hills of northwest Illinois. The layout–designed by Roger Packard–is so well thought out that when you’re playing a round, you feel at peace–as if you’re the only one on the course.

While The General is visually stunning, there are two standout holes you may want to prepare for.  Number 14 has a drop off the tee so big you will not see where your ball lands.  It’s hard not to try and hit the biggest shot of your life. The cart path down to the fairway is reminiscent of San Francisco’s famed zigzagging Lombard Street.

The view of the surrounding countryside is stunning, but don’t waste all day looking, ’cause you’ll want to enjoy the 17th hole as well. You’ll get a glimpse of the fairway from the tee at number 14, but try not to let it intimidate you. Once your tee carries a small glen, it’s an impressive uphill climb to a sloped green.

While it may be tempting to do nothing but golf, keep in mind that Eagle Ridge offers top-notch amenities as well. The Stonedrift Spa is the perfect treat after conquering The General. As you enter the doors, you’re treated to fragrant aromas that get you in the mood to relax and enjoy a soothing massage, mani/pedi, or facial.

Afterwards, be sure to soak in the breathtaking view from Spikes Grill & Chophouse, which is located at one of the property’s highest points. Start off with the ginger seared tuna appetizer and then enjoy the tender filet mignon or shrimp and lobster artichoke.

If you get a chance, head into town to browse in the art galleries or indulge in some delicious homemade ice cream. Downtown Main Street offers a plethora of shopping opportunities, including the Galena Cellars Vineyard & Winery (515 S. Main St., 800-397-9463).

Galena’s most famous resident was Ulysses S. Grant. In order to show the famous general their appreciation for all his efforts during the Civil War, the townspeople gifted Grant with a stately home in 1867. The U.S. Grant Home (500 Bouthillier Street, 815-777-3310) is open to the public for tours. A visit to this historic site is the perfect way to cap off a golfing trip to Eagle Ridge.

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