Eagle Springs is one of the oldest golf courses in Wisconsin, and certainly has one of the most interesting histories. It began as an 18-hole club for visitors from Chicago, and its second iteration featured two opening holes designed by Chicago Cubs pitcher A.G. Spaulding, with the rest “designed by the land,” in owner William Tuohy’s words. The Great Depression led to the closure of half those holes, and what remains has become one of the nine-hole courses increasingly gathering attention as a gem in the golf community.
As you may have guessed from Tuohy’s description of the course’s natural design, there is certainly quirk to go around. No hole better demonstrates the course’s old-world approach than the No. 2, a volcano hole so devious than even Donald Ross would blush at its difficulty. Although that green is at least flat atop its earthen traffic cone, others roll like Lake Michigan during a storm.
The course is now in its fifth generation of family ownership, and they don’t aspire to change it a lick.
Over the past 25 years Wisconsin has become America's hottest new golf destination, with resort courses costing an arm and a leg to play. However, the oldest course in the state, a "resort course" without a resort, is just $19 to walk for 18 on the weekends.
Eagle Springs is unlike anything I've ever seen in the golfing world. Its a true mom and pop classic. In the middle of nowhere, with tons of quirk and charm, it embodies the spirit of the midwest. The first tee is a bold introduction. Just feet from the original clubhouse and guiness on tap you launch your tee ball over a 30 foot ridge to start the day. The fun continues when you find your ball and figure out how the hell you're supposed to navigate your next shot. The green on the first might be my favorite in the world its a wild punchbowl where you can literally putt it 180 degrees. We literally spent 10 minutes just knocking balls around the green.
The second is the postcard hole, a miniscule green perched atop a massive volcano. In many other bold volcano type holes like LuLu or Lawsonia I've noticed that the green typically sits somewhat naturally into the land, and yet this one shoots straight up out of the ground. The fact that it was built 100 years ago is a pure feat of engineering. I stepped up first and knocked a pitching wedge to a foot. The rest of my family, all single digit handicappers in their own rights, all missed the green, all making 5 or more. Its a true hit and hope hole, and if you think about it strategically off the tee its not much different from an island green. But wouldn't it be way more fun if you would be able to find your ball, play it, and make 6 without dropping two pro v's in the water? The 2nd at Eagle Springs is a great example of bold, nontraditional hazards, and one of my favorite holes in the world. We struggled to hit it with our modern clubs, I can't even imagine trying to hit it with a mashie.
The third is a cape style hole doglegging around a pond that you can bite off as much as you can chew to get a good angle into the green. The hole is likely the dullest on the course, but still offers great strategy. The fourth plays back uphill to a blind green set off to the right somewhat similarly to 13 at Pine Valley. Approaching the green to find where your ball funneled to is a ton of fun, making for another wild experience.
Five plays from back atop the ridge down to a green just over a creek. If you look to the right you can spot an old hunting lodge to the right of the tee box. One of my favorite parts that surprised me at Eagle Springs is how true the course plays to how it was intended to. The greens are perfect and still hold the same original fill pads, and are surrounded by short grass allowing balls to run off the sharp edges. Six plays back uphill through a wild fairway shaped almost like a halfpipe. The green is guarded by two pot bunkers that prioritize a good drive.
Seven is another awesome par three. A long narrow trench bunker fronts the green which is set into the side of a hill providing a huge backstop. My brother landed it near the back fringe, allowing his ball to trickle down to the hole for a near ace! Definitely one of the coolest shots on the course, and a reminder of how fun it is to be able to use slopes creatively on an approach shot.
The eighth is the sole "par five" on the course playing over a blind ridge down to a semi blind green that is backed by a horseshoe shaped bunker. Nine is a massive sweeping cape hole that allows you to cut off as much as you can over the prairie of native grass. The green slopes dramatically from back left to front right over a ravine that makes you think your right miss will almost run down into the parking lot. After finishing on 9 all you'll want is to head back to the first tee.
Eagle Springs doesn't have an architect listed to its name. There's some legend revolving around former Cubs owner AG Spalding, but even the current owner who is the fifth generation of the Touhy family doesn't know who built the course. Most likely, it was assembled by Wisconsinites in a mish mash manner. Its not a course you go to to check off an architect off your list, but rather to experience rural Wisconsin charm. It's a quirky yet inviting course, with a strong emphasis on fun. Is it perfect? Absolutely not. You could argue that some of the flatter holes like 3 and 8 come out a little dull but its still about as much fun as you can have on a golf course. You could drive thirty minutes from Eagle, WI to pay $350 to play Erin Hills, but you'd honestly have more fun at Eagle Springs. Plus, you could play 331 holes for the same price! I highly recommend anyone in Chicagoland make the drive up to Eagle Springs