Eagle Ridge Golf Course at Yatesville Lake State Park in Louisa, KY has long been on my short-list of must play courses. Its remote location around the Kentucky and West Virginia border has made it difficult to schedule. The list of courses I would have to pass by (Old Silo, Hidden Cove, etc.) in order to get to this place is hard to think about as well. But finally, in early July of 2011, I worked it out and made it down there.
Eagle Ridge is anywhere from 3.5 to 4 hours from Cincinnati, depending on how many times you have to stop. It’s 20 miles off I-64 by Ashland, KY. Despite not being visible on Google Maps until 2010 and having an access road that’s almost a mile long and not on my GPS, I would say the course was easier to drive to than I thought.
The course is primarily known for its epic 13th hole, which plays 200 FEET downhill from tee to green. No doubt, this hole rivals those like TPC Sawgrass’ famous island green par 3 17th for sheer uniqueness and fun playing. My question was: outside of 13, is Eagle Ridge a great course? Or, is it just a good course with one amazing hole? One of my colleagues even feels Eagle Ridge is the BEST public golf course in the state of Kentucky? Could he be for real, or is he just smoking something?
Like Dale Hallow, I felt like the first couple holes eased the player into the round. The 402 yard par 4 first has a very wide fairway, which will accept a fairway wood without a problem. A riskier play is a faded driver which must be careful not to go beyond the fairway or to the valley on the right. Getting it close to the pin is tough on front pin placements due to the knob in front of the green.
The 414 yard 2nd plays significantly downhill off the tee. A mid- or long-iron is probably the best bet off the tee. Those who want to gamble can aim for the sliver of fairway to the right. A wedge or short iron to the green must carry the ravine, but not go too long.
I’m still torn about my feelings on hole 4. It’s definitely one of those holes you really need to play twice to figure out how the land works. Off the tee, the fairway ends with an area of no mans land before dropping significantly downhill.
What I thought was a decent tee-shot ended up in this no mans land. Probably best to take a fairway wood or hybrid instead of driver off the tee. The player can reach in two, but must contend with a creek that runs along the entire right side of the layup and green area.
I did not have any doubts about calling the 577 yard par 5 7th a great hole. In my opinion, best hole on the course outside of hole 13 (getting to that, I swear). It’s a fairly narrow tee-shot for a hole of its length. There’s a little bit of room to the right, but not too much.
Not many will have the opportunity to hit the green in two. Those that try must content with the mountains of bunkers that protect the front of the green. I left a picture with some one ahead of me hitting a shot out of one of these bunkers mainly to show the scale of their size. The better shot is to lay up to the right where the tree really shouldn’t come into play.
Intermission: Well, this used to be an Eagle carving from one of the trees 🙂
An interesting thing to note about Eagle Ridge is that the outward 9 does not end-up at the clubhouse. This is a fairly rare exception with American golf courses, and something I’ve only experienced at Cougar Point at Kiawah Island and The Player’s Course at Foxfire Golf Club outside of Columbus, OH.
I thought the par 3s on the back 9 at Eagle Ridge were outstanding and a great contrast to one another. The first one is the short 135 yard par 3 12th. The front right is semi-blind from a mound in front. The slope to the left of the hole is so severe that if you don’t hit the green, your ball will likely roll out of play. There are bailouts short and long and a little right. Easily a hole where you can make 2 or 5 just as easy.
Let’s be honest though. The reason you play Eagle Ridge is for the EPIC 315 yard par 4 13th. I’ve confirmed via Google Earth that this hole has a two-hundred foot elevation change from tee to green. 200 FEET!!!! No matter what tee-box you’re playing from, you must play this hole from the tips. Do not consider any other option! Hell, hit driver once to just see how long you can keep the ball in the air!
Obviously, this hole has all the eye candy you could ever want from a golf hole, but aside from its looks, it’s got some brains too. Want to shank a short iron just to get it into play? You can do that, as there’s a fairway immediately below the cliff.
Most players will hit a fairway wood to hit the wide part of the main fairway. Other players will take a riskier route and hit driver either to reach the green, or come close. The good news is that if you happen to miss right, you’ll likely get a good kick off the hill and into the fairway.
Not too much trouble around the small green that sloes right to left. Shots that go left have to contend with the pot bunker in front and the creek to the left. All in all, a phenomenal and breath-taking hole. On flat ground, I still contend this hole is a great golf hole. Add the ginormous elevation change and you make it that much more.
The 400 yard 16th is one of the more difficult holes on the course. A forced carry over a ravine from the tips, the user must keep the ball on the left side of the fairway that slopes to the right to maintain a good angle at the green.
The par 3 17th is a 220 yard monster that’ll give you all the par 3 you can handle. You can safely play to the short and right, or you can attempt the full carry across the ravine to the green. Ranks up there with Stonelick Hill’s #17 as one of the toughest par 3 penultimate holes I have ever played.
Remember all those down hill shots you got throughout the round? Well, the closer is the longest 393 yard hole you’ll ever play. All up hill, with many different ridges which make most angles at the green blind.
Unfortunately, I have not been able to play any of the Kentucky State Park courses outside of Dale Hallow and Eagle Ridge/Yatesville Lake. While #13 is worth the trip and price of admission, I found Dale Hallow to be a better golf course as a whole. That’s not to say there isn’t a lot of great golf to be had at Eagle Ridge.
I would recommend a three-day golf trip in the Eastern Kentucky area to play Eagle Ridge. Hidden Cove (at Grayson Lake State Park) and Stonecrest Golf Club are both reasonably close by and are both great courses in their own right. If you’re coming from Cincinnati, you could always split the distance and stay overnight in Mt. Sterling; playing Old Silo before the trek home.
For bombers, Eagle Ridge probably plays a bit short. Even at a par 71, Eagle Ridge only plays to about 6,660 yards; and most of these tee-shots are downhill or flat. Being a rookie, I started out at the #3 tees, but I ended up moving back to the #2 tees (which play around 6,100) for the back 9. There were multiple holes on the front where I was hitting 6 and 7 irons into play. Moving back allowed me to hit more drivers and fairway woods off the tee.
The staff was very cordial. Had good conversations with the welcome staff and pro and they got me right out. Even with a few groups ahead of me, I still played 18 holes in 4 hours 15 minutes. Which, for a 10:30 tee-time on a Saturday, I’ll take.
If you play this course from the right tees, you’ll have a great round of golf that challenges you to think and play the course properly. Easy to recommend this course and certainly one of the top 10 public courses in the state.
Hole 13 – 10
Rest of course – 7