I love nine-hole courses. They're often an invaluable asset to communities that are not able to support a larger-scale and more land- or resource-intensive golf operation, in both rural and urban areas, due to their smaller footprint. They're great for being able to play golf without having to devote a huge chunk of your day, although if you want to spend more time there, you can always make another loop! On top of those benefits, for some reason playing them always seems to feel less serious/more relaxing than playing an eighteen-hole course. With that in mind, it's quite safe to say I enjoyed my visit to Eagle Springs, located somewhat in the middle of nowhere southwest of Milwaukee. The golf internet has been gushing about this historic rural nine for a while, led by The Fried Egg among others, and it did not disappoint despite the decent amount of rain the area had received the few days prior. The oldest golf course in the state of Wisconsin, Eagle Springs is loaded with quirk, starting right out of the gate; the tee shot on the first hole requires a leap of faith over a blind hill to a heavily mounded fairway. The green is divided into two very distinct areas, with a higher portion to the left and a lower “punchbowl” section to the right, somewhat hidden behind a large mound in front of it. It’s a downright bonkers green complex, but it often gets overshadowed by the one that immediately follows.
The iconically severe "Volcano" second is the big draw at Eagle Springs, and rightfully so. The severity of the slopes off the edge of this very small green have to be seen to be believed; it’s a good twenty feet from the fairway below that loops around the front up to the green on slopes of varying steepness; the left side is particularly vertical, and nearly impossible to walk up. An up-and-down from the left side, however, is not impossible (#humblebrag alert) as I proved with a deft bump-and-run into and up the slope and a ten-foot putt into the heart of the cup; mission accomplished. After the fact, I noticed that an alternate second hole existed back farther in the woods, designed for older players who have difficulty walking up the steep slopes to the Volcano per the Fried Egg article on the course. I didn't think to look for this hole while on the course and wish I'd gotten the chance to play it.
The third is the only hole on the course not featuring some sort of vertical movement, but even then, the ever-so-slightly raised green features a subtle swale that cuts diagonally across it to provide just enough interest so that it is not a throwaway. The next two holes play up and down the side of a hill, with the fourth being a particularly great hole; the tee shot provides a look into the left half of the fairway, which provides a better look into the green sunken behind a ridge in front of it, but a much worse angle of approach than from the right side of the fairway. As a left-to-right player, I was happy to find the proper side. Alas, I was not aware of the cool kicker slope coming from the front right of the green, but my friend provided excellent advice not to miss left into what proved to be quite a deep drop-off. The fifth plays back down the hill in somewhat less exciting fashion, once again favoring a left-to-right shot off the tee.
The sixth begins the excellent stretch of closing holes; an uphill but drivable par four at less than 300 yards, the green is nonetheless surrounded by bunkers and mounds and slopes heavily towards the front portion. The downhill seventh, at all of 140 yards from the longest tees, plays over a valley to a green featuring a bunker wrapping around its front and an enormous slope feeding balls onto the green from the back left. While it's a rather simple hole in terms of knowing where not to miss - don't be short! - it's nice to have options on how to play the shot, and though I didn't experience I'm sure it's pretty cool to see your ball feed off the slope toward the flag. The eighth is the only par five on the course, but doesn’t particularly play like one. Because the green abuts the edge of the property and the tee box is stretched to the end of a steep ledge, the hole unfortunately cannot be lengthened; as the hole stands at 450 yards, it only requires a drive and a mid-iron to get to the green in two shots for most good players. Still, the green sits below a ridge and only the top of the flag can be seen from the fairway, leading to an intimidating approach where one should err on the shorter side.
To close out the round, Eagle Springs offers right-to-left players penance after the difficulties they experienced in the middle of the round. The hole bends uncomfortably around a tree which no longer comes into play and threads between some mounds, before traversing over a ravine to a humpback green that falls off both front and back (although more far severely in the front). This approach is one of the more photogenic spots on the course, highlighted by an old silo poking out of the woods behind the green.
It’s a hard sell for a lot of people to travel a bit out of their way to play a nine-hole course, for sure. On top of that, Eagle Springs is no Dunes Club, Whitinsville, or Sweetens Cove – a “destination” nine-holer like the cited examples. But if you’re looking for fun and quirk in a simple, low-key environment with the typical quality golfing turf found in Wisconsin, Eagle Springs is the perfect place to spend a day, morning, afternoon, or even just a couple of hours if you find yourself driving by.
Played June 28, 2021
Date: June 30, 2021