How Eagle Ridge is celebrating The General’s 25th anniversary

Eagle Ridge, Illinois’ only full-fledged golf resort in Galena, is marking the 25th anniversary of its premier course, The General, in an unusual way.  Call it a “Celebration Restoration.’’

Not only is The General one of the very best courses in the state, it’s also the most different.  No 18-holer in Illinois has the 280 feet of. elevation changes that The General has.  It’s a course that isn’t suitable for walking, but its views are unmatched.

John Schlaman was the director of golf at Eagle Ridge when The General was under construction. Schlaman, who would later direct the operation at Prairie Landing in West Chicago, is back now as head of the resort’s South Course.

“Building The General was obviously difficult,’’ recalled Schlaman.  “What I remember most was the fire in the hole. For a lot of that course we had to dynamite stuff to create different routings. We also struggled with seeding on the 17th hole.  It’d wash out and had to had to be re-seeded.’’

That happened several times, to the dismay of its two architects, two-time U.S. Open champion Andy North and the late Roger Packard, who also worked on two of the resort’s other three courses.

Playing The General was always a memorable experience, but the course was never ideal.  The nines were flipped after Mark Klausner took over ownership of the resort in 2019 and brought in Mike Weiler as director of golf. That was a big change, and more recently Weiler has uncovered two “mystery tees.’’  They were there when North and Packard did their work but disappeared from the scorecard seven years ago.

Now, rather honor the reputation The General has built over 25 years, the Eagle Ridge leadership is focusing more on a restoration project centering on those “mystery tees.’’

“We’re not so much celebrating as we are upgrading,’’ said Weiler.

Sam Marzahl was hired as The General’s superintendent two years ago, and he’s tackled a cleanup project encompassing the “mystery tees’’ that will lengthen Nos. 6 and 8. Other tees have been added and the end result may add as many as 400 yards to the layout from the back tees.

Klausner, meanwhile, brought in Moline-based John Deere Co. for a much-needed replacement of maintenance equipment that was at least nine years old under the previous ownership.

“A three-year deal for $1 million a year,’’ said Klausner.  “They’ve been super people to work with, and they teach us how to use the new equipment.’’

Klausner has also ordered an expansion of The Highlands restaurant, the moving of the Village Store and the creation of a new, very upscale Stonedrift Spa.  It’s scheduled to open in mid-September.

The “Celebration Restoration’’ and spa opening will follow The Legends Dream Big Charity Golf Tournament, the highest profile event in resort history coming up on Aug. 10.  That celebrity-filled outing is one of the lead-ins to the following night’s Field of Dreams game between the Cubs and Cincinnati Reds in Dyersville, Ia., about an hour’s drive away.

COMING UP:  Northbrook’s Heritage Oaks, in its first season, will host two national qualifiers in the same day on Wednesday.  U.S. Senior Amateur hopefuls (among them former Blackhawks’ player and general manager Dale Tallon) will compete in the morning and the U.S. Women’s Senior Open candidates will battle in the afternoon.

Two of the biggest amateur tournaments of the year are on tap for next week. The Women’s Western Amateur begins its six-day run on Monday at Sunset Ridge, in Northfield, and the 91st Illinois State Amateur is Tuesday through Thursday at Westmoreland, in Wilmette….The Women’s Western, held annually without interruption since 1901, calls for 36 holes of qualifying for the 120 starters, then three days of match play for the 32 survivors….The State Am won’t have a defending champion.  Last year’s title went to Ethan Farnam in a playoff with Jordan Les.  Both have since turned professional.