Gambling is a big draw in the Quad Cities these days. But with golf clubs like Glynns Creek Golf Course in Long Grove, Iowa - which hosts the annual Quad City Open - golfers know the "Quad Cities" are on an upswing.
LONG GROVE, Iowa - The mighty Mississippi meanders serenely between Illinois and Iowa, separating the two Illinoisan cities of Rock Island and Moline from the two Iowan cities of Davenport and Bettendorf. Although this area has seen its ups and downs in terms of the economy, the "Quad Cities" are on a decided upswing as of late.
Riverboat gambling is the biggest tourist draw, but golfers should note that well over half a dozen public golf courses - and several private clubs - dot the surrounding countryside. All of these are reasonably priced, well maintained and well worth a visit.
There are, in fact, such an abundance of hidden gems among these courses that the intrepid golfer is promised a far richer payoff than the grannies pumping quarters into the slot machines on the river.
One of the longest of the veritable treasure trove of golf courses in the Quad Cities area is Glynns Creek Golf Course, located in Long Grove, Iowa, just north of Davenport. The 7,036-yard Dick Watson design opened in 1992 and hosts the annual Quad City Open, making it a true "championship course."
How Glynns Creek plays
"We've got two different nines here," Glynns Creek Head Professional John Valliere said. "The front nine is cut right out of the woods, so you must keep the ball in play or you'll be punching out. The back nine is more wide open."
This dual nature is typical of courses laid out on former pasture land, but the consistently rolling terrain prevents any associated discontinuity from becoming jarring. The overall design consists of a lot of parallel fairways running back and forth, but you don't feel particularly hemmed in or claustrophobic. The fairways are wide and generally straight away and the doglegs that do exist are gentle.
This said there are a few places where poor shots can end up in another golfer's hip pocket. For example, a bad slice on the 439-yard 12th can end up on the green of the 194-yard 16th. On the bright side, the 12th can be birdied from that position (take it from me).
The greens are large with lots of movement in them, but they were slow and grainy on the day of our visit, as the relentless heat had forced the mower blades higher than usual as a precaution. As a rule, fairway and greenside bunkers are less than plentiful, completely lacking on certain holes.
One major challenge of several holes is their length, combined with uphill approaches to semi-blind greens. Even more of a test, however, is the extremely dense bluegrass rough. At the time of our visit, the ankle-deep matting was so juicy that even if you could find your ball, it was nearly impossible to advance it.
Usually one doesn't worry so much about just missing the fairway on a course that costs less than $30 a round, but here, it is a true penalty.
Along with the elevated greens, golfers are treated to a good number of elevated tees, which always provide more bang for the big-stick buck. (Just keep an eye on the ball if it heads toward the rough!)
The odd thing about this track is that despite a lack of any seriously weak holes, there aren't any real memorable ones, either. It's missing the "Wow factor" that golf travelers look for in a destination course. Perhaps this is why 85 percent of play here comes from locals who enjoy a good test, but don't worry about taking memories home with them.
Having said this, there are a few holes that might stick between your ears for a while. The 425-yard fourth presents an intimidating tee shot through the trees to a rightward-canting fairway. It doesn't look like much on the card or GPS map provided on the cart, but it could turn real ugly if your drive runs down into the bottomless rough.
The 371-yard 14th is another tricky driving hole, with a right to left swoop that makes first-timers think that a fairway wood might be the club. But take a driver instead, as the fairway opens up out beyond the trouble in sight of the tee boxes. This green is also one of the best on the course, with some serious mounding and severe breaks.
The most difficult hole on the scorecard is the 600-yard 17th, which demands three good shots from anyone to get to the green in regulation.
The verdict on Glynns Creek
Glynns Creek lacks in the wow-factor department, but it does deliver a tough round of golf at the extremely fair weekend rate of $27 ($40 with cart) and just $18 on weekdays. Despite some brown patches on the fairways and the aforementioned slow greens, conditions were perfectly acceptable.
The layout — especially the wide-open back nine — allows players to swing away with their drivers much of the round, which is always fun. The GPS units on the carts also allow you to see where other carts ahead of you are, so you don't need to worry on the few blind shots.
The GPS also provides up-to-the-minute sports scores, which was very cool. The "return to cart path" notice we received on one hole was not so cool, though, considering we hadn't left the cart path.
The pro shop is well stocked, but the grill was a bit of a junk-food hell. The only vaguely healthful offering was a chocolate-covered granola bar.
The charm of Glynns Creek is that though it's not the most visual-appealing course, it's long and challenging. Players most hit a lot of good shots if they expect to score well.
Quad Cities hotels
The newest hotel in the Quad Cities is the Stoney Creek Inn (309-743-0101 or 800-659-2220). This family-friendly lodge-style inn is full of Northwoods charm.
Quad Cities dining
For what might just be the best slab of beef in Iowa at a reasonable price try Farraday's Restaurant at the Isle of Capri Casino (319-359-7280) in Bettendorf. After dinner and drinks, you might want to mosey up to the poker room in the riverboat casino and play a few hands of Texas hold 'em.
The winner of the professional division of the 2006 Quad City Open held at Glynns Creek was Steve Thomas, who shot 66-68-64 en route to a three-stroke victory and an $8,500 payday.