Why Davenport Country Club is the best course you’ve never heard of

Davenport Country Club

An aerial view of Davenport Country Club in Pleasant Valley, Iowa.

Andy Johnson/The Fried Egg

Our knowledgeable crew of course-rating panelists have stuck pegs in the ground just about everywhere. Many of those courses you probably know, but some are less renowned. In Best Course You’ve Never Heard Of, we celebrate those sneaky-good designs.


I mentioned to my 89-year-old mother, who doesn’t miss a minute of tournament golf on TV, that I was heading to the Quad Cities. Her reply, “best ice cream shop in the country.” Then I mentioned Davenport Country Club. She was nonplussed. So was every serious golfer I mentioned this to in Chicago. Just flat cornfields. Field of Dreams. Baseball. But not golf courses.

They couldn’t have been more wrong.

Davenport Country Club sits amid an amazing set of hills and valleys, approximately a mile from the banks of the Mississippi River. Many tee shots are hit into valleys or over gullies. A stream crosses the course, coming into play on several holes near the clubhouse.

Davenport Country Club 16th hole
The 16th hole at Davenport Country Club. Andy Johnson/The Fried Egg

Classic Charles Alison bunkering — marking a clear place to miss (or, more correctly, the best place to be) — ornaments the edges of almost every green, though nearly always on just one side.

The finishing holes, cut in and amongst stone cliffs, look as if they could be in New England instead of Iowa. The club has undertaken a big tree-removal program, which is still in process, opening up great vistas of the beautiful, undulating land.

If Davenport CC were in the northern Chicago suburbs, the waiting list to join would be long. It would be a top-five course in most major metropolitan areas. Definitely worth the drive. And don’t forget to stop at Whitey’s Ice Cream shop afterward.

Luke Reese, a GOLF course-ranking panelist since 2018, is the author of “One for the Memory Banks,” a memoir about his love of golf and the friendships and adventures it inspired.

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