Sunday, August 15, 2010

Golf in Illinois: PrairieView Golf Club

Byron, Illinois will not register in the minds of many golfers. However, once you play PrairieView, Byron becomes a place you want to visit often. Situated about 20 minutes southwest of Rockford, the course meanders through both its namesake as well as a forest preserve on the bluffs overlooking the Rock River. I have wanted to play PrairieView since I first read about them ten years ago. I had yet to meet anyone who had played there, but the website and course reviews attracted me. I finally took the opportunity to play two weeks ago, and I do not regret it. When first arriving, the club seems to be virtually in the middle of nowhere, and I was skeptical as to how a public course in this vicinity could afford to keep their course in as nice of shape as I had seen in the pictures. However, the final comments of the starter in the pro shop rang true throughout my round, “This is the best kept secret in the state.”

The front nine plays beneath the back nine, which is pointedly built on higher elevation. The lower nine is the also the prairie nine. The first hole may be the least memorable on the course, yet it still provides an excellent introduction to the round. The strait forward opener has little trouble, but allows you to warm-up and see the beautifully manicured condition that this track is kept in. The second hole is where PrairieView’s bite first comes into play. I found the tee shot to be crucial on nearly every hole, and the second proves my opinion. Two is a short par 5, but drive your ball too far or anywhere right or left of the fairway and bogey quickly comes into the picture. My playing partner and I also found the hazards to be very cleverly hidden. Because of the deceptive appearance of many hazards around the course, the very detailed scorecard is essential, especially when playing for the first time. Tight fairways, large fairway bunkers, and sneaky water hazards characterize the front. My favorite hole on this half, though, was number seven. The seventh is a par 4 of 431 yards from the men’s tees. However, the dogleg left hole is guarded by a large bunker long and right off the tee and large, mature trees to the left. The fairway is also interrupted by a patch of thick rough about 240 yards from the blue tees, where the dogleg turns. It is, to my surprise actually, the number one handicap.

The back nine immediately climbs the wooded hills to the south of the clubhouse. The tenth hole is nothing spectacular, but the vista from the eleventh tee is the most beautiful on the property. The tee is near the highest point of elevation, and it looks out over the front nine with the Rock River beyond and the city of Byron nestled on the opposing bluffs. And for your tee shot, you begin to venture into the forest preserve. The eleventh was my favorite hole on the course, and in my opinion, the toughest as well. A large fairway bunker loomed large in the landing area of this par 5 dogleg left. Trees guarded players from driving the ball long to get a good angle on the approach. A group of three tall, strategically placed trees prevent nearly anyone from going at the green in two shots, and they make it difficult to put your layup at an easy angle for the pin. It was a challenging hole, but the setting was very rewarding. The other par 5 of the back nine also demands strategy and accuracy. Once again, trees surround the green including an intentionally kept wood that overhangs the front of this heavily mounded putting surface. The finale was nothing too special heading back downhill to the clubhouse, but the rest of the experience was so interesting that I did not care. Despite what the group in front of us thought, this course is not for beginners. I was hitting the ball very well, and even though my putting was atrocious (43 putts I believe), I still only shot 91.

To top things off at PrairieView, the staff was friendly. The website is excellent. Tee times were readily available even on a beautiful Friday morning. Pace of play is emphasized at the clubhouse and around the course. And the practice facilities are expansive. The cost was not too impressive, but for the quality of the grounds, it is worth playing. Regular weekday greens fees are $27. Twilight is a much better deal at $17, and the times change with the sunset. To learn more about this delightful golf experience, go to

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