Mother’s Day is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the great women in our lives, and for WiscoGolfAddict.com Contributing Writer Troy Giljohann and me, this past Mother’s Day was a special weekend where – even better – we got the opportunity to drop our kids off with their grandparents and treat our wives to a special weekend away at a great Midwest golf resort just several hours south of Milwaukee in Galena, Illinois: Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa.
While close in proximity, Eagle Ridge couldn’t feel less like Southeast Wisconsin. Its great bluffs adjacent to the Mississippi River (“Deeeeeep river…” – a true dad, I have to do the Clark Griswold singalong every time we’re near and it annoys my wife to no end) provide the remote area with incredible topography, and the drive in, friendly staff, championship-level golf and wonderfully quaint location lend it oodles of charm.
Most Midwest golf enthusiasts have heard of The General, which lives up to its stellar reputation, but it’s never a single golf course that makes a heralded golf destination. Rather, it’s the secondary and tertiary courses that make it worth visiting and contributing our hard-earned dollars toward… And Eagle Ridge’s North and South courses make this Galena-adjacent property well worth the trip.
On Friday morning my wife, Kelly, and I left car seats and overnight bags at my parents’ in Hartland and set off for two days of parents-only fun across the border in Illinois. Driving southwest, we were only a few hours from home, but we felt like we were in a completely different part of the country without losing any Midwest hospitality.
Between the grandeur of the Mississippi River and its stately bluffs, the area harkened me back to my college days at the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. It’s one of my regrets that I didn’t play more golf while I was there; I still need to get back to photograph and review La Crosse Country Club, and to replay Forest Hills and Drugan’s Castle Mound (one of the spots I bartended in college, serving up old fashioned after old fashioned) among a number of others.
Kelly, Troy, Catherine and my retreat to Galena was a relaxing, leisure-filled time away that was exactly what everyone needed.
Check-in at Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa was quick and our rooms were comfortable. Kelly’s and my room had two queen-sized beds and a seating area, bathroom and prep area.
We spent very little time in our room, though, preferring instead to spend the days on the golf courses (for Troy and me, including a 45-hole day on Saturday!) and in the spa (for Kelly and Catherine). We always reconnected for a drink at the end of each day at the Woodlands Lounge, and finished each night playing trivia in the lobby.
The last night of our trip – Mother’s Day – Kelly and I decided to venture out to downtown Galena on our own. Kelly is definitely the planner of our family, so she’d spent time researching the area and decided on Galena Cellars for our Saturday night.
Three stories in all, Galena Cellars’ downtown location specializes in wine flights and well-curated food. We tried at least a dozen different wines – several we loved and purchased – and the food was excellent. We started out with a cheese and charcuterie board, then got twin lobster tails, portobello mushroom fries and roasted carrots hummus, and everything was delicious.
And the price? Let’s just say those twin lobster tails were only $45. We were really impressed with both the quality and value (a building theme while at Eagle Ridge) of dining in downtown Galena.
Galena Cellars was the ideal restaurant for a date night on Mother’s Day weekend, and it would serve as a terrific spot to bring your wife or significant other any other time, as well.
After dinner we strolled the main streets of Galena, which was far more expansive than I’d expected, got ice cream, macaroons and another round of cocktails before being met by Eagle Ridge’s transportation back to the resort – free of charge. Everyone working in service for the resort was incredibly friendly and accommodating, and we couldn’t have asked for more out of our night away from the resort.
A historic town situated alongside the Mississippi River, Galena was home to the 18th President of the United States, Ulysses S. Grant, and was at one time a bustling thoroughfare during the early development of the United States.
While that resided a bit as many of the country’s main cities receded from the banks of our major waterways, recent times have treated Galena well. I would best compare it to Stillwater, Minnesota (a nostalgic, charming river-side town with terrific dining, a small year-round population but burgeoning seasonal surge) – the downtown area was much larger than I expected and was a lot of fun to explore.
There are a ton of great photo opportunities, too, while visiting downtown Galena. Here are a couple of our favorites:
Getting to Eagle Ridge
Coming from the Milwaukee area, Eagle Ridge is just under a three-hour drive. The majority of it feels like the drive to the Quad Cities, but the last 45 minutes to an hour are spent on topsy-turvy backroads – the kind that would be incredible to drive on a motorcycle or in a Porsche roadster, but are a little less fun in a late-model SUV.
We took a different way home, which was recommended to us by the starter on the South course. By taking Highway 20 just off the property, we were at least primarily on main roads instead of back ones. The difference in time was negligible, but it was a bit more comfortable with less blind spots and random stop signs.
Looking at Google Maps, each way takes two hours and 52 minutes without traffic to/from Menomonee Falls (2:45 to/from downtown Milwaukee), so it’s literally a choose-your-own-adventure scenario.
We all drove in on Friday, just ahead of our 2:10 tee time on the North course. We arrived early enough to drop the ladies off at the newly renovated Stonedrift Spa, where they spent a significant amount of their Mother’s Day weekend receiving treatments including massages, facials, detoxes and pedicures.
Troy’s wife, Catherine, posted all about their spa experience on her Postcard Narrative website, linked below:
Chances are if you’re reading this article and interested in visiting Eagle Ridge Resort & Spa you’re interested in their golf, and Troy and I enjoyed the four courses there thoroughly.
As mentioned earlier, The General was every bit as good as advertised. It even reminded me a bit of Blackwolf Run with its exceptional conditioning and adventurous use of the land.
There are plenty of golf enthusiasts on my Instagram page who piped in that the North is their favorite course at Eagle Ridge, and several others who indicated the South.
It’s on the back of secondary courses that golf destinations are worth traveling to, and Eagle Ridge’s secondary courses are well worth playing. They’re incredibly dramatic with their land movement and design elements, are challenging and absolutely beautiful.
The North course
Troy and I spent Friday afternoon on the North course. A little less refined as The General, it has a lot of the same markings including exceptional shot values and otherworldly changes in elevation that reveal bits of the property to golfers following well-hit shots.
The seventh through ninth holes, especially, were incredibly memorable with pronounced drops on seven and eight followed by a tee shot carry on nine that had to climb a massive hill in the fairway.
The course’s conditioning was excellent, and the layout required heroic shots that now make me think we probably shouldn’t have been playing the tips – but it was a lot of fun!
The first group off Saturday morning at The General, Troy and I were on site by 5 am to get started on photography.
We had plenty of time to get all our drone and other equipment ready as the day’s sunrise was delayed by heavy cloud cover, and as we each headed out on our own towards different sections of the world-class property we texted one another about how incredible it was. It wasn’t until after we teed off that we realized how much each missed on the other nine – this place has so many signature holes and an amazing variety to its hole layouts.
Following photography we grabbed our clubs and headed to the first tee.
I’m not a great player these days, but I managed to shoot a tidy 39 on the front nine and 42 on the back. This was a really solid score for me, especially at a course as tremendously challenging as The General.
There are very few courses I’ve ever played that have anywhere near the elevation changes The General has. Several holes, in fact, reminded me a lot of some of the most dramatic holes at another of my favorite Midwest haunts, Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club (yes, I know I need to get back soon to re-shoot and review it) in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.
If you’ve ever taken advantage of The Perfect 4-Some deal there, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about and recognize how exceptional that is.
The East course
Following our morning round on The General, we finished up early enough that we had several hours to kill before playing the South course. With the wives tied up with spa treatments, we were green-lit for extra golf.
Great golf destinations are chocked full of golf opportunities, and you’ll certainly find that at Eagle Ridge, where the East course may get the bottom billing but provides a fun, shorter experience worth checking out.
A nine-hole layout opened in 1991 and designed by Andy North, Roger Packard and Bob Lohmann, the course is far from a chip-and-putt experience with some quirky par fours, a par five and all the elevation changes you’ve come to expect at this great Galena resort.
The second hole, an insanely downhill par three, for example, is a fun example of what players can expect here:
The South course
We finished off our Mother’s Day/buddies golf trip with a memorable round on the South course.
In typical Eagle Ridge fashion, we were greeted and given the lay of the land by some of the most friendly starters we’ve met anywhere. Folks at Eagle Ridge are proud of their golf experience, and they have a lot of reason to be. The South course is another gem with a layout that winds through forests and across the hilltops, up and down extreme hillsides with strong design interest.
While this was the last course we played at Eagle Ridge, we had a hard time deciding which is our second favorite. Both the North and South courses are extremely strong and each stands up well on its own.
While I was blown away by the quality of the golf at Eagle Ridge, Kelly and Catherine were incredibly complimentary of the spa and resort experience. This trip was exactly what we needed, and that such a massive change-in-pace and overall vibe was so close by in proximity blew our minds.
If you’re looking for a fairly economical way to play some really memorable Midwest golf this season, consider Eagle Ridge whether it’s with your buddies, wife or even as a whole family.
We certainly found the town of Galena to be a wonderful throw-back experience on its own, and I think you – like we were – will be really surprised at how good all the golf is there, especially for the price.
Have you had a chance to play at Eagle Ridge yet? I’m curious – how do you rank the courses there? My guess is 75% or better will say The General is number one, but what do you put as number two?
Please, sound off in the comments and also let me know what you think the top three Midwest golf destinations are for both value and quality. Eagle Ridge certainly belongs in the discussion!