Get More Golf for Less Green at Top-Notch Rockford Courses
Byline: Mike Michaelson
Pebble Beach, Augusta National ... Rockford, Ill.
No, there's nothing wrong with that picture. Unglamorous and unlikely though it might sound, the northern Illinois city is well- endowed with golf courses that not only are top notch (in the view of none other than Tiger Woods), but also represent incredibly good value.
Greens fees for 18 holes of golf max out at about $45, compared with $100 and more at some of the Midwest's signature courses. Rockford offers nine quality courses, earning it Golf Digest's title "best midsize city for golf" (for cities with populations of 250,000 to 1 million). Play-and-stay packages that include hotel rooms make golfing getaways even more affordable.
Yet, golf on the cheap doesn't mean playing on sub-par courses, so to speak.
Aldeen Golf Club, a park district course, recently earned 4 1/2 stars from Golf Digest. In 2001, Woods brought one of his four annual Youth Golf Clinics to Rockford, the smallest city ever to host the event (which is returning this year).
If not everyone in your group is hooked on golf, Rockford also offers greens that you don't need to "read." The city features many parks and gardens, including Anderson Japanese Gardens. Anderson was named the best Japanese garden in the Western world in 2004 by the Roth Journal of Japanese Gardening, selected from among more than 300 public Japanese gardens in North America.
The region's flagship golf course is the "must play" Aldeen Golf Club & Practice Center. Opened in 1991 and designed by renowned golf-course architect Dick Nugent, this upscale public course offers four sets of tees and gives players the versatility of choosing yardages ranging from 5,038 to 7,058.
Golfers will need every club in the bag to negotiate a course that has water hazards on 12 of its 18 holes and 62 sand bunkers strategically placed to trap errant shots. Greens are manicured bent grass and a challenging island green awaits at the signature 8th hole.
Sharpen your game at a 26-acre lighted practice area, the region's finest. It includes four large grass tee pads with a total of 75 practice tees, two short-game areas complete with sand bunkers and a 14,000-square-foot putting green.
Aldeen is one of four 18-hole park district courses in Rockford. Challenging Sandy Hollow Golf Course, a 6,228-yard course, is rated with 3 1/2 stars and features strategically placed fairway bunkers and a daunting 11th hole that requires a tee shot over a pond.
The 6,443-yard Elliott Golf Course and the 6,107-yard Ingersoll Memorial Golf Course, selected by the Tiger Woods Foundation in 2001 to host its junior golf clinic, rate three stars apiece.
In addition to Rockford Park District's four 18-hole courses, the surrounding Winnebago County Forest Preserve District has three 18-hole courses: Atwood Homestead Golf Course, Macktown Golf Course and The Ledges Golf Course, each with three stars from Golf Digest.
Rounding out the options are two nine-hole courses: Alpine Hills Golf Club and Sinnissippi Golf Course (another park district course).
New this year is the Rock River Golf Trail, with hotel packages that include one or two nights' accommodations with dinner, plus greens fees for two at three of the region's top 18-hole courses with motorized carts, range balls and a 10 percent golf-shop discount. …