Oak Terrace Resort Spa in Pana is Central Illinois rarity

By July 6, 2010, 6:46 pm


Oak Terrace Resort & Spa
The green at Oak Terrace Resort's 192-yard 11th hole is guarded by a large tree close to the fringe.

PANA, Ill. – With the PGA Tour John Deere Classic returning to TPC Deere Run, the golf spotlight shines once again on Illinois. And although outstanding and affordable golf can be found throughout this topographically and climatologically diverse state, true golf resorts can be somewhat harder to locate. This is especially true of central Illinois, where relatively flat farmland is the norm.

A welcome exception to this rule is Oak Terrace Resort and Spa in Pana, about 30 minutes south of Springfield. Offering nearly every imaginable amenity, from fishing and boat rentals to a lakeside spa to 18 holes of golf, Oak Terrace deserves a vote for 'Most Unexpected' golf resort in the state.

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Golf at Oak Terrace Resort
At just 6,375 yards from the tips, the homey Oak Terrace Golf Course is not long, but it offers plenty of shot-making bang for a reasonable amount of buck. For just $38 weekdays and $46 weekends (cart included), golfers are challenged with a quirky yet enjoyable home-spun design. The layout, devised by resort owners Don and Mike Beyers, can be arguably too cutesy in spots, especially for resort guests who are forced to pull a variety of atypical clubs on short, tight, hazard-ridden tee shots. But at these prices, one can afford to play a couple of practice rounds.

Oak Terrace Golf Course has a bit of a split-personality, with the opening nine consisting mostly of flat holes guarded mainly by long, wispy rough. The back nine narrows considerably as it turns into the woods, and golfers are advised to buckle in for a ride up and down steep hills through chutes of dense hardwood.

The first thing one notices on the front nine is that there is no need to hit your driver on any hole until the 455-yard, par-5 ninth, even from the tips. This also holds for the 412-yard, par-4 second and the 537-yard par-5 third, where OB looms just off the fairway on both sides. At the third hole especially, all that is required is a long iron or fairway wood out to the sharp left-to-right dogleg. After a simple lay-up and wedge, this supposedly 1-stroke handicap hole will yield to an easy par.

By the time you arrive at Oak Terrace Golf Course's ninth hole, and you've all but forgotten you even have a driver in your bag, you are faced with a tough tee shot over a pond, to a left-to-right bending fairway with OB (driving range) right and a pinball machine of small trees to the left. The drive is made all the more nerve-wracking by the kitten-sized bullfrogs thundering in the pond all around the tee box, and five-pound bass splashing and spawning in the shallows. (They should really consider a golf-and-fishing scramble where players compete for low scores and the most bass.)

The back nine is an entirely different beast, where the stretch of holes from the 12th to the 16th have been dubbed 'The Shotmaker's Mile.' It is here that first-time visitors might begin to get frustrated by the extent of local knowledge required to pull the right clubs and take the right lines off the tees. In this respect, the Oak Terrace course is hardly typical of resort-style designs, where the necessity of local knowledge is generally kept to a minimum.

Oak Terrace Golf Course's 340-yard 12th is the first example of the quirkiness of the design. Although the view from the tee through overhanging branches down over a pond to the gently rising fairway is gorgeous, and the distance to clear the pond is well-marked on the tee box, you really have very little feel for what club to hit here – other than being pretty certain that driver is way too much. Thick woods line the right side, and grass and trees line the left, and deep fairway bunkers pinch the fairway about 100 yards out from the green. So you're left with a shot that must carry 210 yards, but not more than 230.

The 377-yard 13th hole is even more vexing, as there is a hidden OB left (where empty home lots are staked out for sale), and the right side is completely dead. Again, a shot of 220 yards is required here, hit with a slight fade to avoid trees that pinch off the front of the tee box.

The 490-yard, par-5 14th continues the string of contorting tee shots. There is a 75-foot drop from tips to fairway, which turns 90 degrees to the left at the landing area. A well-struck 240-yard 5-wood and a 180-yard lay-up left me within a sand wedge of the steeply elevated, sharply two-tiered green. My wedge hit the side of that three-foot tier and rolled back down to the front fringe, where the back-right pin was a difficult 3-putt away.

And if the previous three holes struck you as they did me – a bit overly penal and under-length – Oak Terrace Golf Course's 267-yard, par-4 15th will look like a circus hole. This is especially true from the back tees, which sit atop a levee in Beyers Lake and require a big fade of a tee shot through the branches of an overhanging oak and across an inlet to a green guarded front and right by water. One might argue that a stupid golf writer shouldn't go for the green here, and that my criticism is thus ill-founded; however, given that the cape-style, ribbon-thin fairway borders the far left edge of the lake and is itself lined on the far side with impenetrable woods, a lay-up is no sure thing either.

Because most golfers are left with almost no option here other than sheer luck (I hit a half-dozen clubs, trying a half-dozen strategies, and even well-struck shots came up short and wet or bounced long and lost), I would suggest that this hole could be made much more fun and fair by bringing the tee boxes down to the far end of the water from the green and turning it into a challenging, long par 3 that would require more skill than luck. If nothing else, the woods left of the fairway should be marked with red stakes if the hole stays a par 4, so as to allow for more painless passage to the home stretch.

Amenities at Oak Terrace Resort
The resort's LakeView Spa opened in 2005, and boasts 9,000 square feet with full-view windows overlooking the Beyers Lake. Featuring Kohler fixtures and design, the spa offers a full compliment of treatments, including a beauty salon.

Beyers Lake is a 66-acre fisherman's dream, if the size of the lunker smallmouth bass in the course ponds are any indication. Boat rentals are available at the resort.

Mulligan's Restaurant serves up home-style entrees ($11-$22) in a woodsy atmosphere, with windows looking out onto the course and the rolling landscape. The per-glass wine list is a bit weak, but there are some good bottles available at reasonable prices.

Lodging at Oak Terrace Resort
Oak Terrace Resort offers a number of accommodation options. The Inn at Oak Terrace consists of 37 guest rooms overlooking the golf course and Beyers Lake. The Fairway Townhomes are two-bedroom, two-bath units with kitchens that also overlook the course and are perfect for extended golf outings. Finally, the Lakeside Villas feature two-bedroom, two-bath units, screened-in porch with jacuzzi overlooking the lake, fireplace, flat screen HDTVs, and kitchen area.

In short, the amenities and lodging facilities you'll find at Oak Terrace Resort the best central Illinois has to offer, not only because they are unique in the area, but because they would also be considered excellent anywhere else.

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Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

The Monday morning headline will be …

REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

What will be the winning score?

HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

“It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

“Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.