50 Words or Less
The General at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, located in The Galena Territory, near Galena, Illinois, is a stringent test of your long game. One of the most beautiful courses in the state. A recent change to the routing makes for an even better experience.
The General, named for Galena’s most famous resident, Ulysses S. Grant, is the signature course at Eagle Ridge Resort. Like its namesake, this course is relentless, and few golfers will walk away feeling that they’ve won the day. The General is, however, equal parts beast and beauty, boasting some of the best views in Illinois.
The General has a putting green located behind the clubhouse within a short drive of the first tee. Unfortunately, there is not a driving range on site. If you want to warm up your ball striking – and I strongly recommend you do – you’ll need to stop at the North Course, 3 miles up the road.
Customer Service & Amenities
The clubhouse at The General has received a thorough makeover in the last year. The pro shop is now conveniently located on the lower level. It’s also much bigger, allowing for a larger array of soft goods from a variety of premium brands.
Upstairs you’ll find the new Highlands Restaurant and Lounge 289. While I wasn’t able to dine there, I can tell you that the views of The Galena Territory are spectacular.
Consistent with the rest of Eagle Ridge Resort, the customer service at The General is top notch. The moment I pulled into the lot, I was greeted by a staff member who took my clubs from the car and got them onto a cart. From the head pro to the wait staff to the grounds crew, everyone was friendly, helpful, and determined to make my experience enjoyable.
Beauty & Scenery
By and large, Illinois is a flat, Midwestern state. Galena is an exception, and The General makes great use of the elevation. The highlight is the tee shot on #5 (above). From this elevated perch, you can see three states – and a green that’s in play for long hitters.
The General doesn’t just rely on the natural elevation for visual interest. Holes like #17, above, have interesting, memorable green sites. There isn’t much water or sand on The General, which gives more weight to the bunkers and creeks that do come into play.
Most of The General is set in dense forest. This creates great drama when the course opens up at higher elevations. Finally, the variety of native vegetation is shocking. I think that the plant life alone could make The General visually stirring even if it were flat.
With tees set at roughly 6,700, 6,300, 5,900, and 5,200 yards, many golfers will be tempted to play the tips. Unless you are either very long or very accurate, don’t do it. Due to the aforementioned elevation, there are holes that play much longer than their stated yardages. From the back tees, the visuals are daunting and the realities aren’t much friendlier.
Recreational golfers playing from the middle two tees will have an easier time but will still need to bring a strong effort. The fairways at The General are not wide, and there’s very limited room beyond them. Most holes have at least one side that is effectively OB because of trees or tall grass. In some cases, both sides are out of play. If that wasn’t enough, a number of holes feature some amount of forced carry off the tee.
Once you’re in the fairway, things get slightly easier. Outside of being uphill or downhill, the fairways are reasonably flat. Your main challenge will be adjusting your yardage for the elevation change.
The greens at The General are average to slightly below average in size. If you miss the green, all manner of large numbers are in play.
Before you pull a club or hit your approach shot, you need to carefully survey the area around the green. Tall rough can grow very near the green. You can easily lose a golf ball in it. If you have the choice between playing away from a bunker or away from the rough, play away from the rough.
Greens & Surrounds
Most holes at The General feature at least a small amount of fairway running up to the green. It doesn’t play firm and fast, so this area should be seen as a bailout zone, not a way to run the ball onto the green. Outside of these strips, most greens are surrounded by rough and a single bunker.
The greens are the one area where The General takes it easy on the golfer. Smooth and true, these greens are easy to read. The breaks are obvious but not dramatic, so three-putts should be extremely rare.
In 2020, Eagle Ridge flipped the nines at The General. This makes for an overall better experience. The opening holes are now a bit gentler, easing the golfer in to the demands of the tee shots. You also get to the signature hole sooner in the round – hole #5 – which allows you to better appreciate the rest of the course rather than waiting for that epic view.
The back nine is where the new routing really shines. Holes 12-15 play around a small lake, and at this point in the round, it’s easier to appreciate what a beautiful run this is. Also, importantly, these are all tough holes and your game should be ready for them by this point. Finally, the course now closes at the club house with a birdie opportunity rather than the unusual par 5 9th.
If you think of yourself as a quality ball striker, The General is a great place to put yourself to the test. For the Chicago-area golfer, or those beyond, Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa is a great place to come to pack in golf and outdoor relaxation.
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