There's more room than you think at impressive Whitetail Ridge

More room than you think out there at impressive Whitetail Ridge

  • Todd Crowley of Naperville hits his approach shot to the ninth hole at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville. The par 5, which plays 580 yards from the back tees and 511 from the blues, looks tighter than it actually is when standing on the tee box.

    Todd Crowley of Naperville hits his approach shot to the ninth hole at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville. The par 5, which plays 580 yards from the back tees and 511 from the blues, looks tighter than it actually is when standing on the tee box. Photo courtesy Alex Balog

  • Keith Barnes from Joliet tees off on the par-3 11th hole at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville. It sports a large green complex, but golfers also must avoid water and front and to the left. It plays 184 yards from the back tees, 152 from the blues, 137 from the golds and 121 from the silvers.

    Keith Barnes from Joliet tees off on the par-3 11th hole at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville. It sports a large green complex, but golfers also must avoid water and front and to the left. It plays 184 yards from the back tees, 152 from the blues, 137 from the golds and 121 from the silvers. John Dietz | Staff Photographer

  • The 14th hole at Whitetail Ridge is the longest par 3 on the course, playing 241 yards from the tips and 210 from the blues.

    The 14th hole at Whitetail Ridge is the longest par 3 on the course, playing 241 yards from the tips and 210 from the blues. John Dietz | Staff Photographer

  • The 12th hole at Whitetail Ridge is a slight dogleg right that plays 398 yards from the tips and 348 from the blues. A well-struck drive will leave a short iron upon approach, although golfers must fly a creek that sits just 15 yards in front of the green.

    The 12th hole at Whitetail Ridge is a slight dogleg right that plays 398 yards from the tips and 348 from the blues. A well-struck drive will leave a short iron upon approach, although golfers must fly a creek that sits just 15 yards in front of the green. John Dietz | Staff Photographer

  • An approach shot to the par-4 12th hole at Whitetail Ridge requires golfers to fly a creek that sits close to the green.

    An approach shot to the par-4 12th hole at Whitetail Ridge requires golfers to fly a creek that sits close to the green. Photo by Brett Clark

  • The par-5 13th hole at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville is a double dogleg that can leave golfers with difficult second shots to get in position to get on in regulation.

    The par-5 13th hole at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville is a double dogleg that can leave golfers with difficult second shots to get in position to get on in regulation. John Dietz | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 7/25/2021 10:26 PM

Twelve holes into our round at Whitetail Ridge in Yorkville last week the skies opened up, forcing a retreat to the clubhouse.

Already immensely enjoying the round at our final Hiddens Gems course this year, my buddy and I spent the break drying off and grabbing a bite to eat.

 

We did so in the comfort of Whitetail's outdoor dining area, which was renovated during the COVID summer of 2020. I learned that what was once a space that could seat just 35 has expanded to 1,500 square feet with the ability to sit 100.

In addition to adding a full-length bar, the 19th hole now features a deck upstairs as well as outdoor couches and patio furniture.

"We decided to reinvent this place," said director of golf Alex Balog, who has a degree in construction management from Western Illinois University. "Myself, the owners and most of our staff did 90 percent of this work. We're all pretty handy.

"It's a cool atmosphere. The sun sets straight to the west outside those doors. It's just the best views around. People are enjoying it."

And that's just the eating area. As for the course -- which I'd never played -- I came away extremely impressed. In terms of layout and conditions it ranks up there with Arrowhead in Wheaton, Prairie Landing in West Chicago and the Village Links of Glen Ellyn.

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Course tour:

As I approached a group on No. 11 to take a picture, I explained I was writing a story on the course. One of them promptly growled: "Is it a horror story?"

This cracked me up, but it also illustrated how important course knowledge is at Whitetail Ridge, where there's more room than you think on many holes.

Two examples are Nos. 2 and 9 -- a pair manageable par 5s. Wetlands stare at you on the tee box on the 555/526-yard second hole, but a 200-yard shot puts you in position to get an easy par. The 580/511-yard ninth looks even tougher, but there is a large landing area to the right, so take a confident swing and pound one out there.

The front nine also features a demanding par 3 in the well-bunkered fourth hole and a drivable par 4 in the 311/291-yard sixth.

"I like the setting over there on No. 4," Balog said. "It's just a shortish par 3 up the hill. When you get up by the green it's protected by the trees and it's always just super calm right there. I just enjoy that little space. You're tucked away and it's always super quiet.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"Then No. 6 is a fun hole. Eagle comes into play and I've nearly had a hole-in-one there. The senior tees are only 220 yards from the hole, so seniors can drive that green and have a two-putt for birdie or maybe make an eagle."

One mind-bender is definitely No. 8, a 411/380-yard par 4 that sports wetlands through the entire hole. I got on in regulation thanks to an aggressive drive, but a good play for mid-handicappers would be to keep the approach shot to the right of the well-guarded green. Now a chip and a putt can save par, and you're keeping double or triple off the card.

The more demanding back nine begins with a long uphill par 4 and a treacherous par 3 over water. Aim to the right third of the green on No. 11 to avoid the nasty hill on the left.

The signature holes are probably Nos. 12 and 13.

Before teeing off on the par-4 12th look to your left and gaze upon the massive blue 'W' painted on the side of a barn. Cubs fans will be impressed. Sox fans, be careful not to "accidentally" fire a ball in its direction.

The hole itself offers a wide fairway, but don't go too far right or a tree will block the route to the green. The approach shot must fly a creek, but will likely require just a short-to-mid iron.

The dogleg left par-5 13th is all about positioning. The tee shot should stay far enough right so there's a chance to get the second shot around the bend, but there's also a creek that will be an issue for righties who cut the ball too much.

My tee shot was in the middle and I was slightly blocked from hitting a full second shot, so I hit a 5-hybrid that caught the rough on the right side. Next time I'd probably just take a 7 or 8 iron up over the tree to keep it in the fairway. It's definitely a great hole that requires a lot of thought, but stay conservative and you should card no worse than bogey.

No. 17 is another impressive par 3, one that plays 210 from the back tees and 180 from the middle. All of Whitetail's par 3s are really good tests, yet they offer large greens so aim for the front or middle in most cases and pars or birdies are definitely possible.

Suggestions:

Flipping the nines would give Whitetail Ridge a much more memorable finishing hole. It's something the course has discussed but has not put into action.

Another thought is to create a set of black/blue hybrid tees to create a 6,400-yard course.

Bottom line:

This course was in the best shape of the six we featured, so it gets a 4.75 for course conditions. Value is a 3 during regular hours, but a 4 if you play Monday or Wednesday for $50 and/or at twilight on the weekends. It gets a 3 for accessibility for our readership area and a 4.25 for course design.

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