The Set Up
If you are an avid fan of Plugged In Golf and have been reading for years, Spirit Hollow will be a name you’ve seen before. Our editor and founder Matt Saternus accurately noted in a review HERE that, “We fell in love, not only with the course, but with the hospitality and the brilliance of the whole operation.” That love hasn’t soured with time, it has only grown and aged like fine wine.
The reason why we’re highlighting this experience is that there is some serious value and a memorable golfing trip idea to note with their Fly, Stay, and Play Experience. As the name suggests, an entire experience is included in an up-front free. You get the round-trip flight, lodging, and unlimited golf during your three-day, two-night stay between Mondays and Thursdays. For a single person, this package starts at $564 plus tax, and for a pair, it’s $479 plus tax per person.
The Getting There
Getting to Spirit Hollow was a huge part of the fun of this trip. I was able to take the short and exhilarating flight from Chicago O’Hare to Southeast Iowa Regional Airport, which is situated only a few minutes away from the golf course. Just be aware, that this is no ordinary plane ride.
Utilizing Southern Airways Express, I felt like Indiana Jones stepping on the tarmac and boarding the 10-seat propeller plane. While I didn’t have a fedora to cover my face and sleep, I wouldn’t have wanted one. The views of middle America were a sight to behold. As you come in to land, you fly over Spirit Hollow for a sneak preview of the course you’re about to enjoy. On a Fall day, the views were spectacular.
It makes for an awesome start and a completely different kind of experience than your average golf trip. If you’re on your own, it could feel very chill and quiet like you’re taking a private plane to a private course. Conversely, you could take a group of friends and make it feel like a true event. It ultimately depends on what kind of experience you want to create for yourself at Spirit Hollow.
The Golf Practice
Spirit Hollow shines when it comes to their varied practice facilities. By the first tee, the course features a large putting and chipping green with a bunker. Beside the clubhouse, dozens of range bays extend a few hundred yards out. During colder weather, the grass ranges are switched to astroturf ones but are still available for use.
The course’s practice facilities aren’t limited by rain, sleet, snow, or darkness. That’s because apart from the typical range, there’s a secondary range. Attached to the bar and restaurant is a series of heated bays for year-round use that all feature Top Tracer data. On top of that, the range lights up and features glowing targets to hit well into the evening with a drink or two if you feel like some less-than-serious practice.
The Golf Course
The course itself has not changed much since our last visit, but that’s no negative. The best things about this course have remained. Echoing the feelings of having that private plane ride, the course feels like it’s exclusively yours when you’re there.
It’s extremely quiet and there is hardly any wildlife that would cause any noise. Despite being a public course, it gives off private club vibes with how few others are around, and how immaculately the course is maintained by a large and diligent staff. Playing there for a few days, I saw extreme dedication by that group. Multiple times, I’d see a divot or a blemish somewhere in the afternoon, then it was fixed by the next morning.
Matt was correct in that this course is as varied as a course can be, requiring precise planning to achieve your lowest score. There are forced carries over hazards, tight doglegs, towering tee shots, uphill lies, downhill lies, and more. Everything you can think a golf course can throw at you is out there for you to find at Spirit Hollow. While it’s challenging everywhere, from the tips this course plays difficult. If you want even more details about the course, read Matt’s original review HERE.
The Customer Service and Amenities
More often than not for destination golf courses, the staff are pleasant. However, Spirit Hollow does it differently. During my experience, I had so many fun conversations with the staff. They were incredibly kind and truly were there to help in any way they could. They were even happy to drive out food to you on the course!
Depending on the package you select with the Stay and Play deal, breakfasts, and dinners can be included at Spirit Hollow. Lambo’s is the bar and restaurant that’s present on-site. Every morning during the Fly, Stay, and Play experience you’ll have your choice of a bevy of breakfast items including omelets, french toast, and breakfast platters. After as many rounds of golf as you can fit in, you’ll have your choice of several different dinner options: pasta, ribs, filet mignon, ribeye, shrimp, or salmon. Those items are limited to the people who utilize this deal and stay on the property.
Other options at Lambo’s include pizza, sandwiches, and burgers, which are available to anyone who’d come and play. A must-try regional specialty is the “Chicken Lips.” While it sounds rather exotic, they’re simply strips of chicken breast battered, lightly fried, and sauced with either sweet chili or buffalo sauce. Sometimes simple can be perfect though, and that’s certainly the case with this fried chicken.
The Other Things to Do
Now I don’t need much else besides good golf for an enjoyable trip. However, if you are that rare breed that enjoys more than just golf, this stay-and-play experience does have other things to do. In the bar on site, there’s both shuffleboard and cornhole to play. If you’re gamed out, you can zone out and watch whatever sports are playing on the 45 different TV screens.
If you’re looking for a bit more privacy, heading back to The Claret Jug room still has activities for you and your friends. There in the private room are more TVs, a poker table, and a chessboard. When you’ve had enough of golf, games, and TV there’s plenty of seating by the fireplace to simply rest and relax. It even features an office space if work comes knocking on your holiday.
Off-site, Spirit Hollow’s free shuttle ride will also take you to downtown Burlington. There, you can experience the fun the town has to offer including shops and restaurants. One interesting landmark that is a worthwhile checkout is the iconic Snake Alley named “Crookedest Street In The World” by Ripley’s Believe It Or Not. That same shuttle can also take you to the Catfish Bend Casino. There you’ll find all the games you’d expect including hundreds of slots and table games.
Spirit Hollow offers some of the best golf that Iowa has to offer. Collectively, the course and the Stay and Play experience allow you to experience as much premium golf as you could ever possibly want. It’s an experience that is undoubtedly enhanced by being with your friends or family.
Throughout my experience, I kept thinking about how great of a location this would be for different kinds of get-togethers. Family trips, bachelor parties, fantasy football draft parties, or a golf league’s end-of-season Ryder Cup-style event. Any gathering seems like an awesome opportunity to visit Spirit Hollow. Whoever you’re planning your next golf trip with, the Stay and Play Spirit Hollow experience merits special consideration.