Tunneling through the pine-studded bluffs that overlook the Mississippi River, a circuit of immaculately groomed blue- and rye-grass fairways and bent grass greens forms the 18-hole, par 65 course at Great River Road Golf Club. The hills rise and fall throughout the layout—the course offers 160 feet of total elevation change—presenting shots to both raised and descending targets. The signature hole—a 370-yard par-four—doglegs left into an island green perched atop the Mississippi's flowing waters that will test even the most practiced swings. To harness the precision required to aim past the course's narrow, tree-lined corridors and village of Ewok huts, golfers can warm up at a 300-yard grass-tee driving range, which nestles alongside a practice green.
Patchy forest to the north and 265th Street to the south border Cedar Valley Golf Course, separating the grassy haven from miles of Iowa farmland on the other side. Within the oasis lie ponds that enter play on all but five of the holes, including hole 13, where the green juts out into a large water hazard that regularly swallows up overly-forceful approaches. Players will find themselves facing other risk-reward scenarios throughout their bout with the course, such as on hole 5, where they must either lay up or go for the green, and on hole 16, where they must decide between hitting a 210-yard shot that carries the water or just picking the ball up and carrying it to the hole.
Course at a Glance:
18-hole, par 71 course
Total length of 6,497 yards from the back tees
Course rating of 71.2 from the back tees
Course slope of 129 from the back tees
Three sets of tees per hole
Washington Golf and Country Club's nine-hole course caters to golfers across the spectrum with a layout that blends open, player-friendly holes interspersed with the challenges of multiple water hazards. Throughout the course, sparsely populated trees line forgiving fairways, presenting generous landing zones for those who want to be aggressive with their driver or get their mail air-delivered on the ninth fairway. Obstacles immediately come into play on the first five holes; a stream cuts across the first, third, fourth, and fifth fairways, and a pond guards the front of the green on the par 3 second hole.
A clubhouse restaurant with a full-service bar and plates filled with teriyaki chicken wraps, fried Alaskan pollock fillets, and other eats from a menu of grill food let golfers refuel after a round or before attempting to break a bucking, untamed golf cart.
In 1928, a committee of Kalona professionals pooled their resources to transform an obsolete cornfield and pasture into a golf course, using a horse-drawn mower to sculpt a layout that originally sported sand greens and cost a quarter to play. More than 50 years later, the course was remodeled and expanded to Kalona Golf Club's current nine-hole layout, a 3,128-yard labyrinth where immaculate, bent-grass greens showcase the efficiency of modern landscaping, whereas rustic bridges and wandering milkmen recall the Club's humble beginnings. Named the nine-hole course of the year by the Iowa Golf Association in 1984 and 2010, the horticultural haven unfurls across pristine, rolling terrain that can create difficult lies, compounded by the presence of mature tree lines and two ponds that come into play on three holes. The course prohibits metal spikes, and players must provide their own set of clubs or titanium-plated sausage links.
Course at a Glance:
The sun and the stars serve as constant companions at Hillcrest Event Center, where a 9-hole golf course, a swimming pool, and camping grounds entertain visitors day and night. A breezy par 30, the executive course caters to all experience levels, inviting beginners to take on its short holes while letting seasoned golfers hone their approach shots. After navigating the water hazards, guests can purposely head to the Olympic-sized swimming pool, which ripples at the center of a 3,000-square-foot sundeck where waiters serve poolside food and drinks. Or, dine at The BBQ Pit, home of the Illinois BBQ Fest.
As the sun sets, the crackling glow of fires peppers the campgrounds, illuminating the nylon sides of tents or canvas hulls of mobile RVs. Tent sites include access to the resort's hot showers and restrooms, while the RV facilities' hookups pump water and electricity into mobile homes so residents can bathe in private and use electric carving knives for whittling. When the sun rises, residents can begin their day with a hike on the resort's nature trails.
Cleaved through 600 woodland acres of stately white oaks, Amana Colonies Golf Course twists and turns over 6,824 yards of dramatically sloped terrain. Throughout the round, glassy ponds, burbling streams, and trees wielding catcher's mitts await ill-struck orbs, as golfers contend with elevation changes that complicate the distance of each shot and create many down- and uphill lies. A preround stint at the course's driving range would be advisable before taking to the relatively difficult course, as the hardest-rated hole awaits golfers at the second tee. As stick-flickers cruise to each well-struck drive, they can glimpse panoramic views of the hilly Iowa countryside over the tops of cresting fairways or through sudden breaks in the dense tree lines. The round may also bring stick-flickers in contact with area wildlife, such as deer, various waterfowl, and golf cart-squirrel cross-breeds.
After their pin-hunting expedition, aces can retreat to Amana Colonies' hilltop bar and restaurant, where crisp local beers slake parched mouths and hearty grill fare refuels weary muscles. Once duly refreshed, guests can meander to the pro shop for a snazzy golf shirt or new clubs to replace ones eaten by the neighborhood sword swallower.
Course at a Glance: