White Eagle – A St. Croix Masterpiece
By Gordy Ginsberg
White Eagle helps anchor the Northern end of the St. Croix River golf trail and I couldn’t think of a better place to experience the wondrous rolling and wooded terrain than this championship layout. Designed by Gill Miller (Willingers and Legends Club), this fantastic layout takes advantage of all the natural features found across the river from Stillwater and just a few miles North of Hudson, Wisconsin. Mature forests, changing topography, and more than a few deer were ever present companions during this eighteen hole excursion.
Like all great courses, it is very challenging, and playing from the correct tees is critical for an enjoyable round. Playing anywhere from 4,995 yards to a monstrous 7,178 yards (75.2 rating/142 slope), White Eagle can accommodate every level of play. But be warned, choose the wrong tees and you may be in for a long day doing battle with holes named Big Dog, Watering Hole and Psycho Drama.
While the first few holes, and the finishing holes on each side, are more open and level, the interior holes offer a rollicking trek through a wooded Wisconsin wonderland. The constant array of uphill and downhill holes requires you to bring every shot in your arsenal and probably some you wish you had. While other designers are often unable to tame such terrain and end up with gimmicky holes, that is not the case here. This course flows naturally through the wide assortment of hills, valleys, flats and forests.
It starts innocently enough with a fairly flat and wide fairway on the 385 yard (blue tees, 6,646 yards. overall) Par 4 first. The approach shot is across a marshland to a well protected green. The second hole picks up where the first left off, a tee shot across a wetland to a fairway two hundred yards in the distance with a small bailout area to the right. Welcome to Taking Flight and Big Dog. Par these opening holes and you are on your way to an amazing round of golf. Bogey or worse on these holes and you are still in for an amazing round of golf.
After the 590 yard fourth, Bruteforce, the course rises and falls among tree lined fairways. There is the nice downhill Par 3 fifth, dubbed Soaring Eagle, that plays all of its 200 yards despite the elevated tee. My favorites on this side might have been the seventh and eighth holes. These short Par 4’s (355 yards) both play from elevated tees down the fairway and back uphill to their respective greens. Seven is a slight dogleg left with a very deep bunker protecting any shots short and left. Eight is quite similar but with a gentler approach to a larger green and a bit more sand protecting par. Leaving the eighth green takes you back up to the open flatland and the Par 5 ninth. It is guarded on both sides by water off the tee and bunkers around the green.
Whether fixing your bruised ego at the turn or bragging about your best nine ever, be prepared to go nine more holes before making final judgment about your day. The back side is equally interesting and demanding. It starts with a fairly flat Par 3 that stretches 180 yards and is guarded by sand and water. An opening par on this hole would be a great start to the inward nine. The eleventh through fourteenth holes are a long cart ride away and worth the scenic ride. The four holes are all wooded and start with a Par 5 that plays slightly uphill and to the right before falling away to a green surrounded by trees. The thirteenth is a steep downhill Par 3 of 163 yards to a fairly small green protected in front by a pond. The fourteenth is a very testy dogleg playing from an elevated tee to a fairway that bends down and to the right. The approach is uphill to a deep green well protected by bunkers. Par here is an excellent score.
The three finishing holes at White Eagle will really test your staying power with demanding shots the entire way. The Par 5 sixteenth, Staircase, starts with a tee shot to a landing area off in the distance on a fairway that dips and bends left out of sight. Hitting the fairway is only half the story here. While the fairway bottoms out below you, it then rises steeply on the other side with a series of flat landing areas contoured into the slope. Your second shot is a challenging one across the bottom of the fairway to one of the landing areas. From there, a short iron to the green seems like a relief.
The seventeenth hole plays 389 yards but driver off the tee may not be an option. A large wetland pinches the landing area from the left leaving only a few dozen yards of dry land if you decide to hit driver. Playing safe and laying up leaves a longer iron into this very strategic hole. Gamble from the tee and it may pay off in birdie or end in a watery disaster with one hole to play.
Waterfall is the name of the eighteenth and this large cascading water feature is a good aiming point off the tee. The hole plays uphill and into the wind and plays every inch of its 386 yard length. Off to the right of the green is the multi-level waterfall and beyond the putting surface is the clubhouse. This is no place for a case of nerves as you do your best to finish with par on one of the best layouts in our area.
Make the drive to White Eagle and experience what the St. Croix Valley has to offer. It is an easy ride from anywhere in the metro area and well worth it!