Recreation & Destinations

Nine Un-Fore-Gettable Golf Holes

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It’s time to dig the clubs out of storage and hit the links. As a new season tees off, consider tackling nine of the best golf holes in our region.

The No. 3 hole at Pottawatomie Golf Course, in St. Charles, has an island green that leaves little room for error.

The No. 3 hole at Pottawatomie Golf Course, in St. Charles, has an island green that leaves little room for error.

Pottawatomie Golf Course

845 N. Second Ave., St. Charles

Signature Hole: No. 3, 345 yards, par 4

The island green on this nine-hole course, owned by the St. Charles Park District, is the first ever designed by Robert Trent Jones Sr.

The hole is a dogleg left and plays harder than its yardage. The distance on your second shot over the Fox River depends on how far left or right your tee shot goes. The distance over the water to the island green is only 85 yards, but what makes this shot so tough is that it’s a carry all the way to the green. There’s no room long, short, right or left.

Club selection depends on the golfer. “The second shot has to clear the water in order to get to the green,” says Ron Skubisz, director of golf services. “The exactness of the shot makes it difficult even for accomplished players.”

Skubisz says any golfer who pars this hole should feel good about his or her round, regardless of how the rest of the day goes. If you lose a ball or two in the water, don’t worry about it; plenty of golfers do.

“It’s a demanding golf hole for a short par four,” Skubisz adds. “It’s the genius of the design. Not all holes have to be long to be difficult. On this hole, it’s all about accuracy and strategy off the tee.”

The tricky No. 17 at Bowes Creek Country Club, in Elgin (left), has a fairway that’s edged by water hazards and a green surrounded by bunkers.

The tricky No. 17 at Bowes Creek Country Club, in Elgin (left), has a fairway that’s edged by water hazards and a green surrounded by bunkers.

Bowes Creek Country Club

1250 Bowes Creek Blvd., Elgin

Signature Hole: No. 17, 370 yards, par 4
One of the most exciting and challenging holes at Bowes Creek Country Club is No. 17, a short par four.

For starters, there’s a prevailing wind to contend with and the Bowes Creek corridor, which is 150 yards from the tee box. In case you hook your drive, there’s also water all along the left side of the fairway. Bunkers guard both sides of the green.

“It’s a sea of bunkers that you’re hitting into,” says golf pro Mike Lehman. “Using a driver on this hole is extremely risky. It will depend on luck if you want to get it on the green. The odds are not with you.”

Instead, Lehman suggests using a 3 or 4 wood, or a hybrid, to get 225 yards down the middle of the fairway.

“It’s a position-type shot,” he says. “You just want to use a club that will get you to a 9 iron or wedge. It pays to be conservative and trust the yardage. There’s no special gravity on this hole.”

Lehman says No. 17 is part of Bowes Creek’s version of Augusta National Golf Club’s Amen Corner. “It looks more menacing than it really is,” he says. “It’s representative of the entire back nine, with its rolling hills. It’s a chance to make birdies or maintain pars and finish your round nicely.”

No. 17 at Hawk’s View Golf Club’s Como Crossings, in Lake Geneva, has a 100-foot drop from tee to green, forcing golfers to play less club.

No. 17 at Hawk’s View Golf Club’s Como Crossings, in Lake Geneva, has a 100-foot drop from tee to green, forcing golfers to play less club.

Hawk’s View Golf Club, Como Crossings

7377 Krueger Road, Lake Geneva

Signature Hole: No. 17, 169 yards, par 3

While this looks like an easy hole on paper, it’s one of the most challenging holes of either of the two courses at Hawk’s View, due to the 100-foot elevation drop from tee to green.

The elevation change makes club selection critical: If the wind is helping out of the north, a golfer can play three to four clubs less than the standard yardage; however, the prevailing summer winds are typically out of the southwest, which is a hurting wind from the right.

“It’s best to actually take one more club than the standard yardage, and hit a low knockdown shot that stays under the wind,” says golf pro Matthew Boesch. “Easier said than done with the large and deep bunkers guarding the green both to the right and long.”

What really makes this hole special is the tremendous view from the tee box. When perched up top, you can see beautiful rolling hills, along with gorgeous Lake Como five miles to the west. The best time to capture stunning views is mid-October, when the leaves are at their peak colors. This incredible setting even inspired one golfer to propose marriage on the No. 17 tee box.

Hawk’s View is planning to add a staircase that leads from the cart path to the tee box.

Par is considered a success on the No. 17 hole at Chalet Hills, in Cary. Its green is surrounded by bunkers and water, forcing golfers to hit precisely.

Par is considered a success on the No. 17 hole at Chalet Hills, in Cary. Its green is surrounded by bunkers and water, forcing golfers to hit precisely.

Chalet Hills Golf Club

943 Rawson Bridge Road, Cary

Signature Hole: No. 17, 141 yards, par 3

Chalet Hills Golf Club is nestled among mature hardwood trees and pristine wetlands, with sculptured fairways, bentgrass from tee to green, scenic lakes, and ponds left behind by the moraine glacier. Hole No. 17 is a perfect example of that charm.

“It’s a downhill, picturesque hole, surrounded by water and bunkers located on three sides of the hole,” says golf pro and general manager Brian Smith. “The hole overlooks Lake George, which is situated in the middle of the course. It’s quite impressive.”

Although it’s beautiful, No. 17 is anything but easy, mostly because of the water and bunkers that guard the green. “There’s not a lot of room to miss,” Smith says. “A prevailing wind into your face out of the south during the summer also plays a factor.”

Smith recommends aiming for the middle of the green, in hopes of getting within 25 feet from the pin. Par is considered a success on No. 17. “It’s not so much of a birdie hole,” he says. “The greens are undulated from front to back and are fast.”

A match between regular golfers at Chalet Hills will usually come down to this hole. “It’s fair, demanding and picturesque,” says Smith. “It fits right in with good finishing holes.”

The No. 15 hole at PrairieView Golf Club, in Byron, has a wicked dogleg and a protected, undulated green that both require careful approaches.

The No. 15 hole at PrairieView Golf Club, in Byron, has a wicked dogleg and a protected, undulated green that both require careful approaches.

PraireView Golf Club

Ill. Rt. 72 & German Church Road, Byron

Signature Hole: No. 15, 550 yards, par 5

No. 15 has been the signature hole at PrairieView Golf Club, operated by the Byron Forest Preserve District, since the course opened in 1992. But longtime golfers may remember it as the tree-lined No. 6 before the course was reconfigured in 2000.

“It’s one of the toughest par fives in the area,” says Andy Gramer, golf pro. “It’s a dogleg right that plays uphill into the wind. The approach shot is played into an undulated green, which is protected by a deep bunker right and short of the green. The approach is 30 yards wide, which adds to the difficulty. Shotmaking is optimal. Due to the dogleg, it’s hard to get home in two.”

Many golfers question their decisions on this hole, Gramer says. “Golfers are left asking themselves: Do I go for it or not? It’s not your typical straightaway golf hole.”

Gramer, who grew up playing PrairieView, says getting a par on No. 15 is considered a success. “It’s a challenge, but there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy this hole.”

The No. 11 hole at Aldeen Golf Club, in Rockford, is deceptive -- it appears to be short, but its downward sloping green is surrounded by hazards.

The No. 11 hole at Aldeen Golf Club, in Rockford, is deceptive — it appears to be short, but its downward sloping green is surrounded by hazards.

Aldeen Golf Club

1902 Reid Farm Road, Rockford

Signature Hole: No. 11, 424 yards, par 4

Most of the talk at Aldeen Golf Club is about the challenging No. 8, with its par 3 island green. But don’t overlook No. 11, one of the toughest holes on the Rockford Park District golf course.

“It can make or break your round,” says Duncan Geddes, director of golf. “It’s short enough to make birdie, but if you hit it in the water, you’re in trouble. There are different ways to play it. Both the tee shot and approach can be risky. If you lay off the tee with a shorter shot, it makes the approach much more challenging. Either way, it takes two good shots to get on in regulation.”

Geddes suggests using a fairway wood or hybrid for a longer approach shot onto the green.

“I always tell golfers that it all depends on how well you’re driving the ball,” says Geddes. “If you can curve it left or right, you can take your driver out and get past the bunker.”

The green is surrounded by water and deep bunkers, and tough pin placements up front make for a tough downhill putt. “Any place on the green is challenging,” Geddes adds. “It’s an easy hole to bogey, but not so much to par or birdie.”

The newly improved No. 11 hole at Pinecrest Golf Club, in Huntley, has water at its front and back, making for a challenging approach.

The newly improved No. 11 hole at Pinecrest Golf Club, in Huntley, has water at its front and back, making for a challenging approach.

Pinecrest Golf Club

11220 W. Algonquin Road, Huntley

Signature Hole: No. 11, 203 yards, par 3

Thanks to some cosmetic changes made a few years ago, No. 11 at Pinecrest Golf Club is now one of the prettiest and most challenging holes on the course.

“It wasn’t a pretty hole,” says director of golf Mike Yackle. “When you teed off, there was a bridge over the water to the green and a cart path along the right side. We decided to move the bridge over more, so it’s not in play any longer. Still, it’s a difficult hole, with water on the front and both sides of the green. It’s the closest thing we have to an island green.”

The greens are flat and firm – a westerly wind can cause trouble with the nearby bunkers.

“I tell better players to make sure they use more club than they need,” says Yackle. “You’re better off going long than short. That means using a 3 or 5 wood in most cases.”

Pinecrest Golf Club, which is owned by the Huntley Park District, has six water holes, but No. 11 is the one where most lost balls can be located. “If you could put one of our holes on the PGA Tour, this would be the one,” says Yackle.

The No. 10 hole on Geneva National’s Gary Player Course, in Lake Geneva, gives long hitters an advantage, with its long, downward-sloping fairway.

The No. 10 hole on Geneva National’s Gary Player Course, in Lake Geneva, gives long hitters an advantage, with its long, downward-sloping fairway.

Geneva National Resort, Gary Player Course

1221 Geneva National Ave. South, Lake Geneva

Signature Hole: No. 10, 552 yards, par 5

Gary Player No. 10 at Geneva National Resort is a refreshingly different sort of hole. It gives long hitters a great chance to birdie, and a long drive will give golfers extra distance as the ball rolls downhill. As a golfer hits into the green, missed shots tend to move toward the pond; err toward the hill on the left.

“It’s a great risk/reward hole, dominated by water on the right side,” says golf professional Bryan Brotchie. “I always recommend using a driver on No. 10. There’s a number of options after a long tee shot. You can go for it, lay up to the left or lay up in front of the water. It’s tough, but this is a hole you want to birdie. But really, you can score anywhere from three to seven on this hole.”

No. 10 also gives golfers a great view of the sloping, undulated fairway and The Hunt Club Steakhouse, located just off the green. “It’s really a fun hole to play, but it’s one of those holes you enjoy just standing on the tee and taking in the view,” says Brotchie. “To me, No. 10 really stands on its own. When I play a round with members, I always tell them, ‘Shoot as far as you can and go for it. It’s one you’ll always remember.’”

The No. 17 hole on Eagle Ridge Resort’s The General Course, in Galena, has multiple tee boxes that offer different angles to a narrow fairway.

The No. 17 hole on Eagle Ridge Resort’s The General Course, in Galena, has multiple tee boxes that offer different angles to a narrow fairway.

Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa, The General Course

444 Eagle Ridge Dr., Galena

Signature Hole: No. 17, 407 yards, par 4

This stout par 4 begins from an elevated tee that leads down to a narrow fairway. It continues back uphill toward a medium-sized green that slopes from back to front. With six tee options from two different directions, this hole can give golfers a different driving line every time.

“The safe shot is a right-to-left cut, because of the perceived generous rough and fairway on the left side,” says golf pro Reagan Davis. “Be careful not to aim too far left, because golf shots left straight on this line will bounce right and could bring the left tree lines into play. Also, the left side is guarded by a well-placed sand bunker that makes for a very difficult second shot to reach the green.”

Once you’re on the green, make sure to note the downward sloping green. Balls that roll past the hole can move fast with a prevailing wind.

“Overall, No. 17 is my favorite hole on the back nine of The General,” Davis says. “It has it all: tough tee shot, a beautiful second shot and a tricky green. This grand hole could stand up on any of the best golf courses in America. It plays different every time you play it, and it makes you want to play it again and again.”

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