When I first realized I would be heading to Peoria, IL for a few days in October, my first thought was not about the great golf I have in front of me. First off, it is October in the Midwest so the weather can be suspect at best. Secondly, I have never had anyone tell me that I have to get up to Peoria to check out any particular course. However, after a little research on the web and contacting a few people I know from the area, it turns out that it was worth the effort.
Two courses were immediately recommended to me upon asking around, Weaver Ridge, a newer but established course in Peoria and Metamora Fields, a brand new, D.A. Weibring Design, about 15 minutes east of Peoria.
For the St. Louis Golfer, Weaver Ridge will remind them of one of the top area layouts, Annbriar. That is because it was also designed by the Hurdzan-Fry group. Weaver Ridge features a ton of elevation changes which surprises most people coming to Central Illinois for the first time. Another aspect I love about going North to play golf, even if just 3 hours North, is playing on bent grass fairways, a rarity in St. Louis but a treat at Weaver Ridge. The course is well spread out through a residential community that only accentuates the golf course, not detracting from the course’s beauty.
Weaver Ridge features a great variety of golf holes to provide choices off of many of the tee boxes and a few risk/reward opportunities. Starting off with a par-5 you might assume it is going to be an easy day out there but the 2nd hole is a quick reminder that it is not going to be a walk in the park. Driving over a ravine and requiring a good tee ball to get a middle iron in your hand, the well protected green has a tone of slope and missing on the wrong side of the pin can easily lead to a 3-putt. One of the more picturesque holes is the Par-4, 5th hole. With water short of the fairway and bordering the entire left side through the green, picking the appropriate line for your tee shot is paramount. Thanks to the GPS on the carts, you can make an educated decision, but stray a little right or left and trouble is waiting.
The back nine features the elevation changes more significantly starting right at the 10th tee box. A fairway steeply below you runs to the right to a green protected by a deep creek short and bunkers and trees left. Then you climb up the hill for the Par-3, 12th hole, playing as long as 228 yards from the back tees, we wisely decided to play it forward during our round and had about 180 yards to the green, nearly 75 feet below us. After navigating 13 and 14 in the valley, you climb up the hill to play two tough Par-4’s. The Par-5, 18th is a great risk/reward hole. From a very elevated tee you can hit iron or hybrid off the tee to stay short of the creek, but an accurate and long hitter could challenge the creek and if successful can go for the green in two. If you waiver off line, a double bogey looms. A great finishing hole if your match is close.
What a treat the people of the Peoria area have now in another upscale public golf experience. Metamora Fields is just over a year old and looks as if it has been around much longer than that. Built on an old corn field, the architect, D.A. Weibring really used the natural terrain to design a beautiful piece of property for the golfers of Central Illinois. Playing hard and fast as new courses tend to do as they mature, drives a little longer than expected and approach shots that bounce a little more than usual is the norm, but presented a really fun and unique test.
The Par-3, 2nd hole is a short to middle iron over a small lake with water all the way up the left side and short. A bail out area to the right is placed well but if that pin is tucked close to the water, up and down is no easy task. The Par-4, 4th hole would normally provide a great risk reward, being reachable by long hitters on a down-wind day, unfortunately for us the wind was into our faces, making a usually easier hole, much more challenging. The 9th hole is a great finish to the front side with water protecting the entire left side. With a distance of up to 441 yards, you cannot afford to leave the driver in the bag if you expect to reach the green in two. My favorite hole on the entire golf course is the Par-4, 15th, a long hole that tees off slightly up hill and over a crest to a downhill approach. Normally you would just try to bomb two shots and hope you can get up and down, but on 15, the green is well protected by water left and long so playing a blind second shot is ever more challenging.
Metamora Fields was a great experience and having such a gem of a facility in such a remote part of the state is certainly a blessing to the golfers throughout the area, especially with such a dedicated family behind the project. Many thanks to Vickie for her hospitality and tour of the clubhouse, that provides a fantastic view of the entire property from banquet room on the 2nd floor including a huge balcony.
I would absolutely recommend a weekend trip to Peoria for a golf getaway and hope to return to the area during the 2013 golf season. The golf far exceeds expectations and the people are even nicer, making it an easy to get to destination for your next buddies trip or couples getaway.
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