Designed by course architect Dick Nugent, the acclaimed Aldeen Golf Course ushers club-toting clientele into a 7,131-yard grassy valhalla stretching across bucolic fairways and exceptionally maintained greens. Five sets of tees temper the difficulty of this lengthy and relatively challenging course, which requires astute club selection to adjust for subtle elevation changes, sound course management to cope with 62 treacherous sand bunkers, and one philologist to converse with the hillpeople living amid the well-mounded rough. Encroaching water hazards rear their hydraulic heads on a dozen holes including the signature par 3 eighth, where duffers clamber over a replica of the storied Swilcan Bridge of St. Andrews lore to access an island green that would make even the boldest of John Daly impressionists nostalgic for the predictability of putt-putt windmills. Loop the verdant links the old-fashioned, foot-intensive way with today’s first option, or enlist a trustworthy cart to tote a bag and golf mate with today’s second option.
The Golf Shack Super Driving Range provides golf-ball-wallopers with a place to practice swings year-round, featuring 40 stalls, 20 grass tees, and a bentgrass putting green. Twenty covered stalls stand staunchly next to 20 uncovered stalls, allowing drivers to choose their preferred ambience. Upon entry, visitors receive a basket containing 80 balls, offering golfers a chance to perfect their power drive, take a couple of reps with their new set of irons, or test their experimental rocket-propelled hover-putter. Ambitious Groupon holders also have the option of using all three buckets in one trip.
Stretching across Rockford's south side since 1930, the 18-hole Sandy Hollow Golf Course has fielded fairway-threading drives, pin-seeking approaches, and birdie-sealing putts for more than 80 years. As one of five Park District Courses, the 6,228-yard loop presents lush fairways lined with trees, which aim to swat humans' shots as revenge for turning their friends into paper towels. The course also boasts a significant environmental pedigree, having been certified as an Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary and taking top prize in the Public Space category of the 2002 City of Gardens Rockford in Bloom awards.
Course at a Glance:
Red Barn Golf Course's nine-hole, executive layout stretches across 2,120 yards of scenic, player-friendly terrain. The course promotes short game improvement with a preponderance of par-threes, while two holes that exceed 300 yards in length allow drivers and three-woods to doff their sequined headcovers for at least one heroic drive. Nineteen sand traps loom on the edges of the course's fairways and greens, adding drama to linksmen's orb-blasting expedition. The grounds also encompass a pro shop, putting green, short game area, and a full-length driving range, where guests will likely encounter PGA Instructor Marianne Floberg Kaiser, who roams the grounds, imparting golf wisdom in lessons and burying untold treasures throughout the course's bunkers.
The course at Glen Erin Golf Club harkens back to the earliest days of golf with a links-style layout inspired by traditional courses in Ireland. Though it opened in 2003, the course pays homage to yesteryear with rolling fairways, oversize greens, and deep pot bunkers. Native fescues ensnare wayward shots that venture outside the first cut of rough, forcing players to chop through dense grasses with scythe clubs just to get the ball back onto shorter grass. The back nine is bookended by par 5s on holes 10 and 18, each more than 575 yards in length and unreachable in two strokes for all but the longest hitters or golfers who have wired their golf ball with hummingbird wings.
Course at a Glance:
The Golf Club at Waters Edge presents golfers of every stripe with a nine-hole layout that puts iron accuracy and short-game touch to the test. The Randy Wirkus design extends to 1,700 yards for a par of 33—an ideal setup for beginners who want to focus on fundamentals and ex-players who want a reason to sport their bygone golf fashions. After the round, golfers can unwind at the onsite restaurant, which offers a full-service bar, a Friday fish fry, and a pool table.