Iowa is among the smaller states in the midwest, both geographically and in terms of population. Despite its low profile, the state still manages to boast an impressive resume of golf courses. And it has plenty to choose from, with over 440 golf courses (more than its neighbor to the north, Minnesota, even though the former only has a population two thirds the size of the latter).
If you haven’t been to Iowa yet to check out what the state’s golfing scene has to offer, you need to. This down to earth and unpretentious state has a ton of great golf courses to play.
Here are five Iowa golf courses you need to play.
The Best Private Course: The Harvester (Rhodes)
The Harvester is the number one course in the state and also happens to be the best private club too. Every club has its quirks and The Harvester is no exception. The club prides itself on its simplicity, has very few rules, and doesn’t even have tee times. This approach gives the course a laid back, causal feel where time isn’t the most important thing.
The layout of The Harvester is perfect for this atmosphere. It has huge, expansive fairways that can be forgiving. True to the states nature, trees aren’t really a factor at The Harvester, though there is plenty of tall grass just off the fairway and water guarding at least a few of the greens. And in several locations, clusters of bunkers penalize errant shots ruthlessly.
The course is deep enough from the blacks, measuring right around 7300 yards, and is a par 72. It is also challenging with a course rating of 76.0 and slope rating of 140.
Like all private clubs, getting the chance to play The Harvester can be a bit tricky unless you’re willing to fork over a hefty membership fee. Outside of that, you have to know someone. If you do, I hope you have a great round.
Best Public Course: Spirit Hollow Golf Course (Burlington)
Located along in the beautiful Mississippi River Valley in Burlington, IA, Spirit Hollow Golf Course is one of, if not the best public golf course in the state. The course features majestic holes, sprawling fairways, yet has just enough trees to reward straight shooters.
The front nine starts with steep elevation changes and twisty turny fairways. The greens appear as if they are on display and tilt, ever so slightly, toward the water. From there, gorges, creeks, and bunkers come into play throughout.
The back nine features a lengthy par 5 on ten, though with enough stick, you should have a chance to make it in two. Later on, the par 3 15th has a massive water hazard in between the tee box and the green. It is only a chip shot from the blues, but if your playing form the blacks it will take all the club you can give it to clear the water.
From the tips, the course is deep at 7550 yards and is a part 72.
While Spirit Hollow doesn’t necessarily break the bank, it isn’t a free ride either. Monday-Thursday the price is $89 for 18 walking and it is $99 for the same on weekends and holidays. But to be honest, its worth it to be able to play this gem.
Most Scenic Course: Blue Top Ridge at Riverside (Riverside)
Designed by Rees Jones, Blue Top Ridge Golf Course is among the most beautiful courses in Iowa. The course has the charm and old time feel of some of the great courses in the country, yet gives off an accessible vibe. The massive, stately clubhouse overlooks holes 9 and 10 and gives the course and elegant feel.
The course’s sloping fairways and undulating greens add to the mystique and beauty of this unique track.
The course is around 7500 yards from the tips and is a par 72. With two rivers and spate of man made lakes, the course features plenty of challenging shots. It also has a varied landscape so no two shots are ever the same.
A round of 18 is reasonably priced for a course of such quality, costing you $75 to walk during the week and $85 on Friday and the weekend.
Most Challenging Course: Amana Colonies Golf Club (Amana)
Of all the challenging golf courses in Iowa, and there are many, Amana Colonies Golf Club has got to be near the top.
The course is defined by shapely fairways many of which are doglegs to the left, favoring those who can successfully play a draw. The 8th hole is a mid range par 3 over water that requires enough club or you’ll be swimming.
Tall pines guide each approach to quick, sloping greens, nearly all of which are protected in the front (and some in the back too) by punishing sand traps.
It’s not the length of the course that causes trouble, it’s the fact that each shot needs to be perfectly placed or trouble abounds. At around 6800 yards from the championship tees, this par 72 is a course that will make golfers of every skill level bring their A game or else.
What makes the challenge of Amana even more palatable is that the price isn’t outrageous for a championship level course, and in fact is quite reasonable. During the week you could play 18 holes walking for $40.
Best Deal: Finkbine Golf Course (Iowa City)
Finkbine Golf Course in Iowa City is perhaps the course that offers the best deal in Iowa. It also happens to be the University of Iowa’s golf course and offers an even bigger discount to students and faculty.
It is a beautiful track, replete with tree-lined fairways, fescue, and more. Finkbine plays relatively straight, though 12 and 18 are monster doglegs left and the par 3 13th has water surrounding two island greens.
There is plenty of golf to be had at Finkbine and the price for 18 walking is only $28.
The great thing about Iowa golf is that the season is substantially longer than in some of the states surrounding it. In the southern part of the state you can almost play year round whereas Minnesota and Wisconsin courses hibernate during the long, snowy winters. Take advantage of the great courses Iowa has to offer and check out some of these great tracks while you’re at it.