The Takeaway: Davenport is one of those clubs you want to join the instant you walk off the 18th green. One would struggle to grow weary of playing this absolute gem of a course with its masterful architecture that deserves far more recognition nationally than it gets currently. Grade A-
Designer: H.S. Colt and C.H. Alison in 1924 / Ron Forse 2014 renovation
Phone Number: (563) 332-4050
Course Website: Official Website - Visit Davenport Country Club's official website by clicking on the link provided.
Directions: Get here! - 25500 Valley Dr, Pleasant Valley, Iowa 52767 – UNITED STATES
What to Expect: For years my expectations of golf in Iowa weren't high and so I didn't make a priority of getting to the Hawkeye State. None of the private courses were featured on national magazine Top 100 Courses in America lists and The Harvester, public for nearly its first two decades of existence, was the lone entry on any Top 100 Public Courses in America list. Having spent some time in the land of corn, I was taken back by how good the golf can be. If classic tracks like Davenport and Cedar Rapids were in New York, Chicago, or on the California coast where golden age courses are so highly revered, I'm totally convinced those courses would be household names on rankings lists and commonly among discussions on premium golf architecture. The C.H. Alison designed Davenport course sits on wonderfully undulated property with a creek that runs through the middle of it. The routing features equally great nines, though the closing three hole stretch is what garners the most attention largely due to the infamous "hole of grief" found at the 16th where Sam Snead's tee shot into the creek ended his chance of three-peating at the Western Open in 1951. The quality of the one-shotters is top shelf, the par fives are pure fun, but the thing that stands out most at Davenport Country Club is how well Alison laid the holes out on the property. The seamless transition from hole to hole and the way the fairways traverse the terrain is architectural genius that isn't commonly found. Ron Forse was summoned to restore and renovate the course which was completed in 2014 with care and brilliance. As more people discover this gem, Iowa will quickly become a must-visit destination for golf course afishionados. Lastly, Davenport is a very pleasant walk and is certainly enjoyed at a high level that way, but carts are available as well for those that want to experience the course that way.
By the Numbers
Individual Hole Analysis
Signature Hole: 16th Hole – 426 Yard Par 4 – The most famous hole in the Hawkeye State, the 16th at Davenport Country Club has been known as the "Hole of Grief" even since 1951. Why? This is where Sam Snead hit his tee shot into Spencer Creek and effectively eliminated his chance to win the Western Open; the first fully televised golf tournament ever. A dramatic downhill par four, the tee shot plays to a fairway that is framed by Spencer Creek on the left and a tree covered rock formation on the right. Accuracy is paramount, especially considering the drop from the tee box, to have a shot at conquering this beauty so be committed when you pull the trigger. The approach shot plays slightly uphill to a green that slopes off each edge and features a bunker on the left. The hole is equal parts beauty, drama, and challenge; a combination that is difficult to find.
Best Par 3: 10th Hole – 210 Yards – The uphill 10th is a great use of natural terrain and reminiscent of Royal Portrush's famous Calamity Corner 16th. Playing over the valley that Spencer Creek meanders in the bottom of, players will often underestimate just how uphill this hole plays and will end up in the bunker fronting the right side, or worse yet, down in the valley. A tee shot just left of the bunker is the ideal line to use the contours of the green to work your ball close to the flag, and misses further left of the bunker still present a good opportunity to save par. It is just a great hole and a strong start to the back nine.
Best Par 4: 7th Hole – 426 Yards – Perhaps the most unique hole at Davenport, the split fairway 7th offers an interesting choice off the tee. The safe play is up the left side where a large patch of rough must be cleared enroute to the flat short grass beyond. Up the right side is a semi-blind landing area that sits a good 30 feet below the left side and offers an opportunity to get some extra yards on the tee shot as it bounds down the hill. The trade off is clear; a longer approach shot with a clear view of the green on the left or a short blind shot from the right. The green is plenty receptive from the valley, so don't be afraid to mix it up and try both routes.
Best Par 5: 9th Hole – 523 Yards – A beautiful hole, especially from the tip, and a fantastic risk/reward offering to close the front nine with. Reachable in two, the 9th features a creek that meanders the full length of the right side that comes into player's minds as they decide how aggressive to be. There is forgiveness on the left with the tee shot so there is no reason to mess with the water, but the further left you go the more the water becomes a factor on the second shot as you play right back towards it. Two bunkers are in play, both on the left side, with one being greenside and the other protecting the layup zone. The right side of the green falls off sharply towards the creek so flags on that half of the green should be treated with respect. If you need to birdie coming into the turn, go ahead and get aggressive and see what you can make happen here.
Birdie Time: 6th Hole – 353 Yard Par 4 – A gift to your scorecard is offered here on the 6th. A short dogleg left, a 320 yard drive directly at the green will reach the putting surface while just 275 yards is needed from one tee box up. A solo bunker on the left side of the fairway protects the layup zone while an additional sand pit flanks the left side of the green, but there is plenty of room to drive it in the fairway. With a scoring club in your hand after the tee shot, take dead aim at this receptive green and take back a stroke from Old Man Par.
Bogey Beware: 2nd Hole – 545 Yard Par 5 – There are a handful of dramatic holes at Davenport, but none can quite top what players encounter early in the round here at the 2nd. The tee shot plays to a mostly blind fairway where the right side rises to a crest about 15 feet above the tee box. The fairway then starts moving to the left and descends 50 feet from the high point to a creek cutting across the fairway 135 yards from the center of the green. From the low point, the hole ascends up another 30 feet and provides a difficult and engaging tee shot to a green that hosts a large bunker at the front right corner. With hardly a flat lie to be found on the hole and a roller coaster's worth of undulation to contend with, the 2nd hole is a bogey in the waiting; especially if you didn't warm up first. But it is the most fun bogey to be had on the course and this one was my favorite in the routing!