Rockford has long been known as the mecca of golf.
Golf Digest named Rockford the 12th best golf town in the nation, and No. 1 among mid-sized cities. In 2008 the magazine named Aldeen one of the top 50 courses in the country to play for under $50 and the following year Aldeen was named the best municipal golf course in the state.
With four municipal courses in Rockford, as well as three courses in the Winnebago County Forest Preserve, golfers have two choices for unlimited golf on a variety of courses at economical rates. So why should a golfer leave the county to play elsewhere when some of the best golf values in the country are right here in town?
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Because there are so many other great courses around, including PrairieView in Byron, Timber Pointe in Poplar Grove and Swanhills in Belvidere.
And if you fancy variety, here are five courses within 30-60 minutes of downtown Rockford that are definitely worth checking out:
This is perhaps the most unique course in the region, full of ups and downs and tight turns. And it’s not one or the other: most holes are uphill or downhill and also feature a left or right dogleg. On the entire front nine, the flag is invisible from the tee except on the two par 3s. The course is also widely spread; Numbers 11 and 12, separated by a line of trees, are the only two adjacent fairways on the course, which have a distinct resort feel.
“When they designed it, part of the back nine was a Christmas tree farm,” said longtime course pro Jason Hill. “The lake is artificial. They had to find a place with enough ripples and runoff to fill it. We took advantage of this with the golf course.
Because there are so many hills and doglegs, the course plays longer than its listed distance of 6,520 yards (blue tees), 6,120 (white), 5,498 (gold) and 5,100 (red). It also requires smart shots more than long shots.
“For someone who doesn’t have knowledge of the course, if you don’t play the proper tee times, it’s extremely difficult,” Hill said. “If you play the good starts, it’s always difficult, but it’s fair.”
Because it’s so far from a major population center, fittingly residing a mile south of Peace & Quiet Road, Lake Carroll might be the least known of Rockford’s golfing gems. No local course has more doglegs. Or more hills. And few have bigger greens. When I recently played the course for the first time in 20 years, I had almost as many void putts (a hole-in-one on the 181-yard No. 8) as unique putts (two).
Swanhills, Macktown and Ingersoll are the courses most golfers in the area flock to when they want to shoot a good score. Wolf Hollow is also part of this group. Yet it’s also in its own class: a fun course that doesn’t beat you with its most memorable holes.
“What makes a golf course fun? I have no idea except that I wouldn’t mind going back and playing it again and again and again,” said Freeport’s Steve Young, who has played 903 courses in his life. and helps rate the top 100 golf courses in the country. Digest.
Young enjoys playing Wolf Hollow.
“It’s not the best golf course, but I never got bored going back and playing it,” he said. “If you swing well, you will score well. I don’t know what makes it fun, but it’s just fun.
Part of the fun is that the course is always in good shape. It’s not particularly long (6,408 yards from the tips, 6,096 from the whites, 5,787 from the yellows, and 4,898 from the reds). “He also has a lot of different types of holes,” said Wolf Hollow pro Doral Reining. “Wide open holes, narrow holes with trees, lots of elevation changes.”
Wolf Hollow’s toughest hole is No. 7: a 392 yard par 4 that’s wide open from the tee but uphill into a narrow tree drop for the last 200 yards. It’s also one of his funniest holes. But No. 1 for fun is No. 16, a 313-yard par-4 on a sloping gorge that produces more birdies and more double bogeys and possibly worse than any other local hole. Five-time Men’s City champion Lloyd McWilliams always told his golfers to lie down with one iron and then hit another short iron into the green when he was an assistant coach for Christian Life. But he said his kids never listen and always try to drive green – and he would have done the same.
“I messed it up so many times. It’s a 260-yard par-4; how are you going to lie down You have to go. I really like this hole,” Christian Life golfer Daniel Schroeder told the Register Star 15 years ago.
This Marengo course is similar to Lake Carroll in that it has a lot of doglegs. But it’s different from any other local course in that, well, it’s different from itself. The back nine, built in 1963, features woods and steep hills. Think Silver Ridge. But the front nine, which opened in 1990, is relatively flat with lots of sand and some water. Consider a less watery Aldeen.
“This is the most interesting part of our golf course. It never gets old,” said Bob Witek, owner or co-owner of the course for 60 years, of the radically different nine.
But what makes the course special is not so much the difference in the style of the nines as the quality of the two styles.
“We knew what we wanted to achieve and we did it,” Witek said. “We have a good amount of water and a lot of doglegs, which I think are the most interesting holes. Almost every hole has a bend and you have to put the ball in a certain area. We pride ourselves on the fact that you can use almost any club in your bad when playing with us, rather than just hitting it on the fairway.
While Marengo Ridge is a contrast of two nines, Silver Ridge mixes it up almost on every hole. From downhill par 3s (#2), to short, tight par 5s (#3), to par 4s that require either a fade (#7), a clean draw (#16) or a right arrow tee shot (nos 5 and 6), this course threatens you with woods – not trees, but real forest-like woods – on almost every shot.
It also has the best hole in the area, although not everyone uses it. The back tee of #11 has its own sign: Heavenly 11. A winding cart path on the left takes you to a cliff 60 feet above the hole. Only half of the green is visible beyond the trees at 180 yards. But since it’s so far downhill, the hole is easier than it looks. When I take my friends to Silver Ridge, I demand that we play the tips on #11, because if you haven’t played Heavenly 11, you haven’t played the real Silver Ridge.
The oldest course in northwest Illinois opened with six holes in 1893. In 1913 Harry Collis was hired to expand it from 9 holes to 18. Arnold Palmer played in an exhibition here in 1963 And after more than a century as a private course, the club went public in 2017.
It is a traditional country club style layout, short (6,365 yards from the tips) but tightly lined with trees. It is mostly flat, but has some huge hills, starting with a steep climb on the 354m first hole. Two of the best holes are two of the shortest: a 110-yard par-3 over a gorge and a 282-yard par-4 with a sharp dogleg to the left and water that hugs the green so tightly that you can almost putt in it. the pond.
“It’s a phenomenal course and a fair test of golf,” Keith Jungen, who has won six Stephenson Cup titles on the course, said when first published in 2017.
Matt Trowbridge is a sportswriter for the Rockford Register Star. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @MattTrowbridge. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at rrstar.com. Matt covered sports for the Register Star for over 30 years after working for newspapers in North Dakota, Delaware, Vermont and Iowa City. He grew up on a farm in northwest Minnesota with six brothers and one sister. Her four daughters are all graduates of Rockford Public Schools.