White Eagle – Beauty and the Beast

By BETSY LAREY – Gazette Columnist

This was an easy headline to choose. I must admit in advance that White Eagle Golf Club in Hudson, Wis. is one of my favorites in the Twin Cities. I try to play it at least a couple of times a year. My cart mates over the years have also loved it, but agree that it is definitely a players’ golf course.

There are five sets of tees, and the scorecard has recommendations by handicap. Kudos for tee suggestions for women’s handicaps, instead of the standard "women from the reds". The course plays 4,995 yards from the forward tees to 7,178 from the tips. I played the golds at 5,784 and my playing partner, LPGA Pro Angie Ause (who has played professionally) played the whites at 6,240.

Here’s what we both agreed on for the likes. The scenery is beautiful. You see a few houses tucked away in the woods every now and then but it is not lined solid, like a lot of development courses. Each hole is so secluded you feel like you’re on your own golf course. The course is on a sprawling piece of real estate, so you rarely see an errant ball in your fairway. The greens are fast and firm, and play true. The course is always in great shape, and the holes are all very different from one another.

Here’s what we thought other players would want to know before they went out. These are not dislikes in any way, but things you should be aware of. The course plays longer than the yardage (and longer than it looks) because of all the elevation changes. There are blind shots, and you need to pay attention to the GPS in the carts.

This is not a forgiving golf course. If you miss the greens, on most holes you will have to hit a high lofted pitch shot that will sit. The rough is tall and thick around the greens, so you will not be hitting very many bump and run chips, which most average golfers prefer.

You need to pay attention to the greens. On a number of holes, you will not be able to see the entire green. They are big and undulated, so you really need to know where to land the ball. Going for the pin is not the best choice on a lot of the holes.

I would not call this a target golf course (like Troy Burne in Hudson) but you do need to pay attention to yardages on the dog legs. There are a number of holes where you’d really like to stripe it with your driver but in reality a 5 wood or a hybrid is a much smarter play.

Here are a few descriptions of some of the more interesting holes. The first hole is a tough one, with a forced carry over the marsh for your second shot. You can play around it but it will add about 50 yards to the distance. You can’t be short of the green or you can easily slide back in the marsh. The second hole is the classic risk/reward. You’ll need to clear another marsh off the tee. The more you want to bite off, the shorter the hole. The fifth is a long downhill par 3 and is one beautiful golf hole.

Here’s the only bad thing I have to say about the course. The sixth hole is just a terrible golf hole. You play from an elevated tee down to a ravine, (that you can’t go through because you’ll be OB) then take a 90 degree turn straight up a hill. You have no depth perception with the green because you can’t see it, and it’s a 2 club elevation. If you can’t hit 150 yards with a lot of height, you’ll be playing on a severe upward slope. The ninth hole is one of my favorites. You’re on an elevated tee and you have water left and right. A good second shot sets you up for a nice wedge to the green. If you can control your driver, this is a good chance at a birdie.

The eleventh hole, called Gill’s Vision (after course designer Gill Garrett) is one tough hole. Another long par 5 with a couple of blind shots thrown in. Thirteen is another elevated par 3 but very short. A birdie is a distinct possibility with a good shot close to the pin. Fourteen is aptly named Pyscho Drama. A short par 4, once again off an elevated tee but don’t even think about hitting driver. If you’re short you can slide into the "stuff" on the right, long and you’re OB. Sixteen is a very interesting hole that I used to dislike and now like. You’re faced with a blind tee shot that you’ll have to dial in the distance perfectly. You’re better off being short with your second shot so you have a level lie for your next shot into the green. The seventeenth hole is intimidating off the tee. There is a small neck in the fairway (where my driver always lands) 15 yards wide. If you can’t hit a long ball, better off to play it short. Eighteen is a pretty finishing hole with a gorgeous waterfall next to the green.

So all in all, I highly suggest heading out to White Eagle and give it a try. It’s just a 10-minute drive across the Stillwater Bridge. You can check out more on their website at www.whiteeaglegolf.com or call 715-549-4653.

Betsy Larey is an LPGA Teaching Pro who enjoys writing, researching and playing golf. You can reach her directly at [email protected].