New Courses Part I
With apologies to the Chinese calendar,1996 may well be described as the Year of the User Friendly Golf Course. In the 80's, course architecture in Michigan was skewed toward penal design, with humpbacked fairways, deep bunkers, moguls, and perched greens. Oh yes, throw in some water hazards for good measure, too. Owners and marketers then believed resistance to scoring and high slope ratings would pay dividends in publicity which in turn would attract the curiosity seekers with a high pain threshold. And to be fair, some of the designs - The Bear, the original Treetops and the Monument course at Boyne - delivered on what the proprietors had in mind: tough courses in wonderful settings that would get golfers talking.
The downside to the penal trend was that most golfers have difficulty with attacking these courses from 'the air.' In the average golfer's arsenal, a high long iron and a deft flop shot are usually not found. As a result, golfers' scorecards took a beating on these demanding layouts. And high scores and numerous lost balls (not to mention belabored five hour rounds) do not always translate into repeat business. The industry took note and the pendulum began swinging back to the "less is more" design philosophy, best exemplified by such ground-oriented layouts as the Treetops Fazio, the Majestic, Little Traverse Bay, and The Orchards golf courses to mention only a few (please no letters). 1996 will have a record number of new courses coming on board. Most of them are following the 'kinder, gentler' design of generous fairways, approachable, open greensites and fewer moguls and hazards. You'll find a number of them listed here in our annual New Course Reviews, Part 1. Sit back and enjoy the reading - it's always user friendly before you step on the tee.
- Terry Moore
Black Bear, Vanderbilt
Who would have thought a 24 year old 'young whippersnapper' would teach his elders in the design business a thing or two about building a "user friendly" golf course. But that's what Mark Sauger has most admirably done with his new Black Bear G.C. I toured the course last fall and I was mighty impressed with Sauger's course which is ideally located just off busy I-75 in Vanderbilt, just 10 minutes north of golf bustling Gaylord.
A highly touted junior golfer, Sauger got his start in the business literally from the ground up. He's been on a 'dozer moving and shaping dirt around various courses in the country since he's been 16 years of age. Sauger has primarily worked for his father, Reggie, in the construction business but he has also worked for Nicklaus Design including some renovation at Muirfield Village Country Club.
What you'll find at Black Bear is inviting design features such as generous landing areas, a paucity of forced carries, big tees boxes and large greens. Oh yes, most holes have open approaches to the greens. "Mark has done an excellent job in designing the course for players of both high and low handicaps," said PGA head pro Robb Medonis. "Good shots on line will be generally rewarded and the poor ones will still be recoverable. This course is not designed to embarrass anyone," added Medonis.
Sometimes the most embarrassment occurs when players get off to a horrible start on the first hole. Well, the Saugers have a user-friendly remedy for that: a practice hole, at a 165 yards, that will be part of everyone's round. So, when you finish your day here and want to head to the place that serves cold beverages, call it 'the 20th hole.'
A number of holes will be popular at Black Bear. For beauty, the second hole - that can stretch out to a robust 237 yard par three - is a memory maker. Unlike most holes at Black Bear, this is one hole where a full carry to the green is required. But the greensite is neatly settled into a hillside with tall pines serving as pretty backdrop. Medonis feels players will think of it as a "Carolina, Pinehurst-looking hole." Another good-looking hole is the 349 yard par four 8th hole which starts from an elevated tee and swoops down into an ample landing area. One's second shot to a slightly elevated green will be a short iron or wedge. But it's a shotmaker's hole because mis-hits will slide off or over the green.
On the back, the par four 17th hole is another sparkler. It begins with a terrific elevated view of the course and winds its way down alongside the 8th fairway. Downhill it will play shorter than the yardage.
Above everything else, Black Bear was designed to minimize 'train wrecks and disasters' so common with the more penal layouts of northern Michigan. One of Mark Sauger's most telling quotes was this: "A hazard that cannot be seen is not needed." As a result, any problems confronting a golfer at Black Bear will be evident and clearly visible. After seeing first hand this promising and congenial layout, the biggest problem golfers might face at Black Bear will be securing a tee time. It's set to open May 24. Call 1-800-9-BEAR-11.
- Terry Moore
Canton, Shelby Township
In the old black and white detective movies the answer to finding the bad guys, or the missing part of the puzzle, was "Cherchez la femme." Find the woman.
Increasingly in metropolitan area golf course construction these days, the line is "Find the government."
Governments - counties, cities and townships - are the ones with available close-in land and they're turning some of that land into golf courses, very nice amenities for the community.
Canton and Shelby Township are the latest communities to join in The Great Golf Rush. Pheasant Run, Canton
Canton was a suburban bedroom community in western Wayne County with a split personality. The north side, north of Ford Rd., was regarded as upscale and associated itself with the smart, old, established community of Plymouth. The south side was, well, the backwater, the poor relation with a lot of farmland.
Canton began getting its act, and citizens, together in 1988 under the leadership of Supervisor Tom Yack. The idea was to put together a public-private development partnership, a public golf course and private housing. No one else in Wayne County had done it but now, Canton has and the superb 18-hole golf course by Art Hills with very nice housing in the $200,000 to $400,000 range, is on the south side of Ford Rd. With it is The Summit, an 85,000 square foot activities center with a soaring seven-story atrium roof and every recreational amenity imaginable.
The aquatic center has five pools, full gymnasium, full fitness center, banquet area, cable television studio, senior citizens center and offices.
And Canton now is the envy of all of its neighbors.
Canton's golf course, Pheasant Run, borders the activities center and a lot of Canton borders Pheasant Run - it's a six mile trek around the course and the front nine weaves through housing which was the key to the golf project.
There are 750 lots on the first nine and 95 percent were sold, and most of the homes up or being built, when Pheasant Run opened July 1. Single family housing and some condominiums are going up on the second nine but it basically will be green space.
Unfortunately, because of the long transitions between greens and tees, especially on the first nine and from the ninth green to the 10th tee, golf cars are mandatory. They are included in the green fee of $45 daily and $48 weekends and holidays.
But you get a country club feel for the money and head professional David Horstman is a veteran club professional - 16 years at Adrian Country Club.
Pheasant Run starts with one of the best practice areas in the public golf sector, an expansive grass range that is 120 yards wide, 80 yards deep on the tee line and a hitting depth of 300 yards, deep enough for about everyone but John Daly. Oakland Hills would kill for that kind of space. Because of its quality - the balls are good, too - the range is a busy place.
Now for the course. I love it! I had my career round there last summer on a hot day when I made full turns for a change.
Hills and his associate, Steve Forrest, made Pheasant Run a challenge and they also made it fun. There are four tee choices and the degree of difficulty goes up with each one. It's 5,143 yards from the front, 6,121 from the middle, 6,489 from the back and 7,001 from the waaay back which brings all the hazards into play. There are open approaches to the greens and the only all-carry hole is the par 3 fifth over a wetland. The tees there are 114, 145, 157 and 183 yards.
The land is flat so some rolls and humps were bulldozed in and a major tree-planting program will enhance some of the green complexes.
Pheasant Run (sorry, but I never did see a pheasant), starts smoothly with two short par 4s, 348 and 323 from the whites and 360 and 361 from the black (normally the blue on other courses) but then it comes in with the No. 2 handicap hole along the western fence line and follows it with the No. 4, a 502-yard par 5 between houses.
Pheasant Run has a strong finish, the No.s 1, 3 and 5 handicap holes, each one tempting the player to take a big bite from the tee. The 16th, 425 and 380 yards from the middle and back tees, is a sharp dogleg left over wetlands from the middle and back tees to a generous fairway - it's the No. 1 handicap hole. The 17th, 418 and 400 yards from the back and middle, is a water carry from the back and middle tees but again a generous fairway.
The par 5 18th (492 and 478 from the back and middle) takes two right hand turns. It has water all the way up the right side and the adventurous can go for as much as they want on the drive. A really big one would mean a chance to go for the green but it's tucked back on the right side, fronted by water. There's room to play it safe all the way around and no matter how you play it, you'll enjoy reliving those last three holes over a beverage.
- Jack Berry
Lanny Wadkins is a competitor, a winner 21 times on the PGA Tour, eight times a Ryder Cup team member, twice a Walker Cupper, twice an All-American while at Wake Forest.
But when Wadkins put his hand to golf course design, he designed for a fun experience not for World War III.
"When they leave we want them to say they had a pleasant time and they want to come back," Wadkins said last fall after a playing "inspection tour" of Cherry Creek Golf Club in Shelby Township.
Wadkins played with Michigan legend Chuck Kocsis, with golf course builder Paul Clute and Cherry Creek managing partner Mike Bylen who got Wadkins into the project.
"Lanny missed only one fairway, didn't make anything and shot 67 (five under par)." Bylen said. "Chuck shot 71 (beat his age again), Paul shot 76 with an ace on the seventh hole and I had 77."
Obviously, it was a good day. And aside from a spell of the turf disease that struck many courses last year, Cherry Creek had a very good year after opening in July.
"It was very, very well-received," said Bylen who also is managing partner of Pine Trace Golf Club in Rochester Hills. Pine Trace and Cherry Creek were built on land owned by the municipality with Bylen and his partners paying for construction in exchange for a 50-year lease.
Pine Trace, designed by Art Hills, has been a box office smash since it opened and Bylen and his partners put to work at Cherry Creek the lessons they learned at Pine Trace.
Wider fairways, bigger and more teeing ground, a very big clubhouse and the most complete practice facility around are key components at Cherry Creek. Bylen is even having the flags changed at midday so afternoon players can have relatively spike-free putting surfaces . Of course, if everyone would go to Softspikes, that wouldn't be a problem anywhere.
Cherry Creek is on the "Friendly is better" track of current golf course design. Wadkins opted for open approaches to the greens and there are only a few forced carries because of wetlands.
What strikes you most about Cherry Creek is that, because of the mature trees, it looks as though the golf course has been there forever. An especially nice stretch is the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, par 4s sandwiched around a par 5.
Cherry Creek had a good combination going for it: Wadkins' eye for design, Clute's knack for top-notch construction - his company is one of the leaders in the industry, and Bylen's knowledge of public golf and what works.
Pine Trace's driving range is one of the most popular golf spots in the north suburbs in season. Many who belong to private clubs which had inadequate ranges do their practicing at Pine Trace. That was factored into the Cherry Creek plans and the result is a very large range with three bentgrass target greens, two putting greens, a green dedicated to chipping and another to pitching and bunker play.
What's more, Cherry Creek offers a domed range in the winter and unlike some domes, it's bright inside and it's warm and the balls are new. The clubhouse is huge, built to accommodate banquets, weddings and golf - wonder how many bridegrooms will do a quick round before the wedding? And there's a full service pro shop, golf grill and lockerrooms.
Greens fees are $50 weekends and holidays with cart and $45 daily. It's an easy-walking course and walking is permitted before 10 a.m. weekdays and after 5 p.m. Cherry Creek is on 24 Mile Rd., east of Van Dyke.
- Jack Berry
Caberfae Peaks, Cadillac
Before there was an Aspen, Vail, or any "destination" ski resorts in the Midwest, there was Caberfae. Located twelve miles west of Cadillac on M-55, the venerable area was Michigan's first full-fledged ski resort, with its heyday being in the 1960's. Next winter will mark 60 years in skiing for Caberfae.
After suffering through a couple of decades of neglect and questionable management, the resort was purchased by the Meyer family of Cadillac, with brothers Jack and Tim eventually assuming co-ownership. Over a little more than a decade, the resort's skiing has been immensely improved with the development of the two highest lift-served peaks in the lower peninsula (a third peak is now under development). At the same time, the resort has embarked on a plan to transform itself into a year round operation by getting into the golf business.
Last summer the renamed "Caberfae Peaks Ski & Golf Resort" debuted its first nine holes on the "Peaks" course, the first phase of an eventual 36 hole layout. Designed by Harry Bowers, designer of The Rock and a former student of Robert Trent Jones, the course winds through the Manistee National Forest taking advantage of the wilderness setting. Players cross ten bridges, see wetlands and wildlife, and enjoy the cart path, a two-mile nature trail in its own right.
The Peaks plays to 3248 yards from the back tees and 2250 yards from the front tees. Each hole has four separate tee areas, the fairways are bent grass, the mounding is subtle enough to be almost indistinguishable, particularly around the bunkers. The greens offer color-coded flags to indicate where the cup has been placed, and the putting surfaces have a nice mix of flat spots and challenging breaks. All the "little" things have been attended to on this course.
Players will encounter a course devoid of real estate developments or man-made distractions. Each hole has its own unique character. Number two, for example, is a spiffy par three measuring 158 yards. The tee shot is over a sparkling wetlands area to a roundish green guarded by a sentinel pine on its left front. Breathtaking.
Both number three, a 511 yard par five, and number four, a 427 yard par four, are good driving holes, but each has a "quirk." Three has a huge expanse of landing area for your drive, but the fairway narrows to just twenty yards in front of the green. Number four has a 23-yard narrows at the 100-yard mark, plus a bunker shaped like a moose's head (which I have nicknamed the Bullwinkle Bunker) at the right-front corner of the green.
On six, 339 yard/par four, a deep ravine bisects the fairway, so you have to keep your driver in the bag and play a position shot off the tee. The second shot is a left turn over the ravine and up to a green on a knoll.
Seven, 512 yards/par five, is wide and majestic with plenty of width, but the green is tucked into a corner of the forest to the left of the fairway and on the other side of another one of those ravines. There is no way to get home in two, so the premium is on the third shot if you want to bag a bird.
When you visit Caberfae Peaks this summer, you'll see the evidence of their continuing metamorphosis. Now in the third year of a five year development plan, the resort is back on track to be rated with other top golf destinations in northern Michigan.
Caberfae Peaks Ski & Golf Resort, Caberfae Road, Cadillac, MI 49601, 616/862-3300. From the corner of M-115 and M-55, go west on M-55 12 miles and turn right on Caberfae Road.
- Jim Neff
The Emerald at Maple Creek, St. Johns
"Location, location, location." Is the answer to the three most important factors behind successful real estate. Ditto for golf courses. Certainly, The Emerald at Maple Creek has a prime location, being located off busy US-27 between Mt.Pleasant and Lansing. But in addition to a nice spot on the state map, The Emerald has a smart design that will guarantee repeat traffic. On the grounds of the former Clinton County C.C., The Emerald is a completely new course, through the fine efforts of Matthews & Assoc., having essentially turned under the old course to make way for the new. Heading up the course is Ed Kelbel Jr. whose family's been in the golf business for three generations. " I was drawn to this project, " said Kelbel " due to its excellent location and its position as an upscale public facility." Kelbel cites three major reasons why he feels the course will be well-received. "One, will be the conditioning; it'll be like a country club. Second, players will appreciate that off the fairways all the undergrowth has been cleared," said Kelbel. "Finally, the design is challenging yet not too difficult."
In touring The Emerald last fall, I discovered a friendly layout with a number of very good holes. And as far as its penal features--O.B. on the first five holes - well at least they're out of the way early in the round. There are only a few forced carries and most of the green sites have open approaches. The par 71 layout will have four sets of tees (another smart move) and range from 5233 to 6644 yards - reasonable, enjoyable length options. On the front side, I was impressed with the par three 4th hole that ranges from 152 to 224 yards from the three tee areas. A large pond stretches down the right side of this hole while O.B. is all down the left. The good news is a generous green with an open entrance guarded by two greenside bunkers. In the old days of penal design (6 years ago?) that pond would've fronted the green and served as a ball reclamation profit center.
On the back side, I liked what I saw of the dogleg par 4 13th hole. Although the landing area is generous, it's intimidated by majestic oaks that line the fairways. One's second shot is toward a large green, guarded by a single bunker.
The Emerald will be a winner of a course. All the principals behind the project know golf and are committed to making customer service a priority. As evidence, I appreciated the large sign on the 18th hole which says: "Thank you for playing The Emerald!" Little things like that tell volumes. Besides an ample practice facility, there is an impressive 4600 sq. ft. clubhouse with a patio and deck overlooking the ninth hole.
The Emerald is located in St. Johns - home of the annual Mint Festival. It's a good bet this aspiring gem likewise will generate a mint for its proprietors. Call 517-224-6287.
- Terry Moore
Hunter's Ridge, Howell
The Miesle family of Howell and their ancestors have been living on their dairy farm for over 135 years. However, they decided a number of years ago to diversify their holding and hired Jerry Matthews, of Matthews & Assoc., to design for them a first rate golf course. Jerry finished up late 1995 and the kudos are coming in.
There was limited play last year as the front nine did not debut until late July. The back nine came on board the end of September, too late for those 18 hole bookings. For those that remember the dog days of August '95, it might be just as well that such a young course didn't get much play. The course did hold up well in the heat. You can credit that to the good design of Jerry Matthews, moreover, the special attention of Michael Miesle, course superintendent. Michael has served as an assistant superintendent and superintendent for a number of golf courses in Michigan. He cut his teeth on Warwick Hills and did a lengthy stint at Edgewood Country Club in Union Lake.
Michael's mother, Janet, takes care of the books and his wife, Victoria, takes care of advertising and promotion. The patriarch, Joseph, does a little of this and a little of that around the place. Besides, he is still active with the remainder of the farm.
However, with the clubhouse now complete, this is really the kick-off year. Hunter's Ridge is located on 160 acres of rolling terrain about eight miles north of Howell. There is an 80 foot drop on the 17th hole alone, so there are some hills to the property. It plays to 71 par due to five par 3's in the course. There is a number of challenging par 5's, especially the 18th that still plays 525 from the white tees.
The course has its share of wetlands and small ponds. Water does enter into your shotmaking decisions on two-thirds of the holes. Those who have tested the course say it's tougher than it looks. They also indicate that the par 3 17th is the signature hole.
The log clubhouse gives the place a rustic feel to it. The course has a practice green and driving range.
Their business philosophy is succinct: they offer an excellent course for modest dollars, ($32 with cart on weekdays, $35 on weekends).
Sounds like a nice family business. Maybe they can keep the place another 135 years. Give them a call at 517-545-GOLF.
- Art McCafferty
Heritage Glen, Paw Paw
Designed by the ubiquitous Jerry Matthews, Heritage Glen is causing a good buzz among golfers in the greater Kalamazoo area. Located in Paw Paw, Heritage Glen was a promising enough project to lure longtime Moors head pro Dan Hansen to get behind a counter in a temporary trailer/clubhouse. "I wasn't looking to leave The Moors," said Hansen, "but this was a new opportunity and I'm excited about it." Opening in mid-season, Heritage Glen elicited strong support from its early customers. "The reaction has been unbelievably positive," said Hansen. "This market needed an upscale facility."
I played the course last fall on a gorgeous day. I was very impressed how the front side started off in a kinder, gentler fashion. Pace of play is a concern everywhere, and designers could learn a thing or two how Heritage Glen gets play moving from the get-go. But players shouldn't be fooled that the layout is a snap. Following the mild 302 par four 5th hole, golfers will have all they can handle with the 625 (back tees) yard par five 6th hole. This behemoth is a devilish double dogleg that has trouble galore - trees and wetlands - for wayward swings. Smart, accurate shotmaking is required here; it's not the number one handicap hole by accident. The other par five on the front - the 541 yard 8th hole - is another challenging hole. The tee-shot must be accurate as well as one's second shot because the green is two-thirds encircled by water. Play on the par fives will be key to one's score here.
The back is a solid nine holes set amid some beautiful acreage. The 12th hole is a tough par four that from the back tees is 424 yards. But reversing his thinking on the front, the tough 12th is followed by the mild and shortish par five 13th hole. Ebb and flow must be Matthews' motto. Another neat hole is the 15th which from even the back tees is only 332 yards. Accuracy and placement are called for if one's drive is going to be in a good spot to attack the green hidden behind and down huge mounds. Hurray for good short par fours!
Heritage Glen is a sporting layout whose yardage ranges from 4858 to 6596 yards--again customer-oriented in terms of length. A new clubhouse will be opened by next season although the temporary facility is a functional with a pro shop and snack area. Another plus is a first-rate practice facility with target greens, practice bunkers and short game area. The superintendent is Dan Litigot who's off to a great start in providing country club like conditions. All in all, Heritage Glen is a welcomed addition to area golf courses in the Kzoo area. Its appeal will surely attract players from all over the state. Call 1-616-657-2552.
- Terry Moore
Munoscong Golf Course, Pickford
Jim Christensen, GM of Munoscong, says the new nine that they added late last year have been accepted beyond expectations. He's right, the word is out on the street. We talked to a number of golfers during our trek to this Upper Peninsula tri county area and they were unanimous in their praise of the new holes. Incidentally, while they have been integrated into the old nine, the new ones shouldn't be hard to identify.
And if Jim is at the desk when you check in, make sure you pay particular attention to the 5th green when you play the course - he designed it. Better yet, have him tell you about how all the new greens were designed. It seems that seven of the greens were designed by individual members of the club; one was designed by the greens keeper and the final hole was designed by all of them. ìHow would you like to be Architect for a Day? Sounds like a real opportunity for a golf course nightmare. Well it isn't. They really pulled it off. It's a very nice golf course and certainly worthy of your golf dollar.
- Art McCafferty
Pierce Lake, Chelsea
Washtenaw County jumps into the golf business this spring with Pierce Lake Golf Course and designer Harry Bowers is button-busting proud.
"I think it's my best work in southern Michigan," said Bowers whose first big assignment was The Rock on Drummond Island off the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula.
"I've finally got a course I don't have to make any excuses for," Bowers said.
The public gets its shot May 1. Nine holes probably could have been played last fall but it was decided to give the course plenty of time and open all 18 at once.
There's been plenty of anticipation. The southern end of the course borders I-94, just east of the Chelsea exit and golfing drivers have been watching the progress from the beginning. No one is more anxious than Bowers, a Michigan State alumnus who broke into the business working for legendary Robert Trent Jones and Jones' design chief, Roger Rulewich.
When a designer is on the entry rungs of the business, when he doesn't have the clout of Jones, Tom Fazio or Pete Dye, he does some things he would prefer not to and doesn't do some things he'd like. He may argue some but in the end, someone else is paying the bill and the young designer does it the way the check-signer wants it. That has been Bowers' plight.
But Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation director Fred Barkley gave a fairly free rein. The county gave him a nice piece of land next to Pierce Lake. Ironically, Pierce Lake is well out of play. The land is gently rolling, it drains well, there's some wetlands (hey, this is Michigan), some hardwoods and some open land that once was a cornfield.
Bowers came up with a course that should please all abilities with wide fairways, open approaches to the greens and no heroic carries. It measures 6,853 yards from the championship tees, 6,286 from the back, 5,490 from the middle and 4,730 from the front.
"The county didn't skimp on the budget - it was $2 million" Bowers said. "We only moved about 90,000 yards of dirt and that primarily was mounding on three holes. We dug an irrigation pond and designed two holes around it.
"There isn't a lot of bunkering and what there is is mainly for esthetics. We have from four to six tees on every hole and the tees probably are the biggest in the state."
Bowers said that's the result of a lesson he learned at another project where the trees were small and were chopped up rapidly.
Pierce Lake's greens will take the traffic too - they average 7,200 square feet. The tees and greens are bentgrass, the fairways are bluegrass and the roughs fescue for better definition.
Bluegrass is less expensive to maintain than bentgrass and, for higher handicap players, it provides a little bit of cushion under the ball. The county wanted to use as little chemicals and water as possible and bluegrass and fescue were the answer.
Pierce Lake winds up with a par 3 which is unusual although not unheard of. Grosse Ile Golf & Country Club, designed by Donald Ross, ends with a hefty par 3. Originally Pierce Lake's 18th was the ninth hole but the nines were reversed with the object of speeding play. Time will tell, pun intended.
With Pierce Lake done for Washtenaw County, Bowers now is working on Wayne County's newest course which borders the Rouge River between Inkster and Merriman roads. It's an extremely sensitive environmental area and there has been a long permitting process. Work was scheduled to begin March 1.
- Jack Berry
St. Ives, Stanwood
Not even a steady rainfall during our round dampened our enthusiasm for this new course in Stanwood, located about an hour north of Grand Rapids. And if you don't care to believe me then take it from my playing partner, a priest no less, who confessed it was his favorite new course in Michigan. How's that for testimony! Can I hear an amen, St. Ives?
St. Ives is the dreamchild of the people behind the Canadian Lakes resort and development. It was designed by Matthews & Assoc. and opened late last year. First time visitors will be surprised as to the rolling and woodsy topography - more mindful of northern Michigan - that serves as a wonderful setting for a golf course. If you want to get away from it all on a course, then be sure to head for St. Ives. Standout holes are numerous.
On the front, I liked the third hole - a 378 blue tee par 4 - that starts with a terrific view from the tee. Don't get too enchanted because the drive must be accurate to a tight landing area. The green is elevated (more on that feature later) so you're advised to use more club to get there. Another beauty, and a favorite of head pro Kevin O'Brien, is the par three 8th hole that even from the back tee is only 169 yards. The greensite was well-chosen, set downhill and surrounded by tall hardwoods. A wetland must be carried but due to short length it shouldn't be much of an obstacle.
The back side is even stronger and more picturesque. The toughest hole is the par four 14th hole which is the number two handicap hole at 397 yards from the blues. A big drive is required but not too big since a huge wetland begins at 264 yards. Then one is faced with a daunting long second shot - a long iron or fairway wood for sure - to an elevated green. It's one heckuva hole; a bogey is a par here.
To me the next stretch of holes - 15, 16, and 17--are some of best holes designed by Jerry Matthews. 15 is a short but tight par four at 346 yards that is a scenic test. Its followed by a lovely par three with an elevated back tee. From here the course opens up with some just stunning views. The par five 16th hole is lined on the right by a lake so drives and subsequent shots must err left. It's a good three shot hole to a large green guarded by water. Just a super golf hole.
As good as St. Ives is, I do have some quibbles with it. For one, there is an over preponderance of elevated greens. A few are OK; but at St. Ives you get more than you really desire. Although great for drainage, an elevated green denies the player the pleasure of watching one's ball roll onto the green. But who knows maybe the ground left no other choice. Secondly, I think the course starts out too tough for public play. In the first four holes you'll find the number one, three and fifth handicap holes on the card. Moreover, at the second hole--a pretty par three--a wetland must be carried by some eighty or more yards. The end result will be some backups in the pace of play early in the round.
But as my clerical playing partner quickly reminded me, there are far more positives than negatives at St. Ives. The fairways are generous, the greens have open approaches, and the setting is memorable. Even non-believers will surely be converted by the beauty and strength of St. Ives. Call 1-616-972-8410.
- Terry Moore
Tanglewood Marsh, Sault Ste. Marie
If you're looking for a sequel to Marsh Ridge Resort, this might well be the course.
Jack Specter and Al Hellow, a couple of local educators, have teamed up to bring the Sault area a new golf course this year. Al, a retired school teacher, owned the land and Jack, soon to retire, brought the expertise.
Specter has been a superintendent in the North country for many years, having held positions at Marquette Country Club and Kincheloe before settling here. In fact, his father was involved as a superintendent type at Marquette while Jack was growing up. Jack was responsible for bringing on the back nine at Kincheloe before he left.
At the time of our visit last fall, the course while open was still not finished. On a tour of the course, Jack Specter pointed out a number of new tee areas that will have to go in and a substantial number of bunkers that still had to be dropped. Part of the reason for this activity was a result of a storm that hit them last year. The storm packed sustained winds of 80 miles an hour and it took out hundreds of trees. After the storm, some of the doglegs were no longer doglegs as trees were spewed everywhere. It reminds me of a similar occurrence at Timber Ridge just before they opened in 1989, when a tornado whipped through.
The course is cut out of a substantial marsh that abuts to the St. Mary's River near Sherman Park. The design was a challenge for both Specter and the DNR. The DNR was very accommodating. Had they not been, this course would have never been built. Like Marsh Ridge, the golfer will encounter substantial marsh areas and a number of cart rides over wooden bridges. Shotmaking will be the key in playing the course. Golfers will be hitting all types of clubs off the tee. For example, on one par 5 your first shot will be an iron. This type of scenario will be the case with a number of par 4's as well.
Specter indicated he will be able to go in and knock down some of the vegetation and there will be additional areas that will be made more user-friendly when the marsh dries up a little. (They'd just been hit with 5 inches of rain.)
The golf pro, Mark Willis, prides himself on teaching and is anxious to get going this spring. We can tell you one thing, he puts on a mean scramble. The morning we were there, he had frozen water hoses on the greens, a toilet seat on one and all kinds of barriers to thwart the putting game. The golfers were having a ball playing with this setup. (He picked it up in San Diego when he taught out there).
Tanglewood Marsh will certainly be one of the more unusual golf courses you will play. They have only one hole where the marsh does not come into play: the first hole. And for those who have trouble flying the ball, you should either invest in some helium balls or go elsewhere. However, the early reputation of this being a very challenging course will bring many to play it.
- Art McCafferty
Wheatfield Valley, Williamston
George Duke, owner of the 36 hole layout at Hartland Glen, is bringing his no frills golf philosophy to Williamston this summer. Wheatfield Valley is located on Linn Road just off Williamston (exit 117) on I-96. The course will be opening up weather permitting , in late June or early July.
Wheatfield Valley is designed for the mid to high handicap golfer. Duke and Kevin Sustie were the course architects. Sustie will stay at Wheatfield as director of golf while Tom Niemi takes over as greens keeper. Playing just over 6000 yards from the tips, the course is and probably will remain pretty open. The back nine offers a little more roll to it than the front with water hazards and bunkers having been kept to a minimum. There will only be two teeing areas, but they will be huge.
The maintenance building and cart barn will be up this spring with a small clubhouse to follow in late summer. The clubhouse will be big enough to handle a 150 person scramble.
Duke's Hartland Glen has pushed through a ton of golfers every summer. His courses are known for fast play and little trouble. You can score on them and they are easy on the pocketbook. Wheatfield Valley will be of the same philosophy.
For further information you can call 810-887-3777.
- Art McCafferty
Wishbone Glen, Cornwell
Wishbone Glen Golf Course, a William Newcomb course, is coming on line this July. The 18 hole course is located near the intersection of I-94 and I-69 and across the street from Cornwell's Turkeyville. Cornwell's is a turkey based (pun intended) restaurant, that also has a dinner theater. Golfers are guaranteed a great meal after or before their round.
William Newcomb, also a partner in the development, is an architect of great renown. He has designed the Alpine, Monument and Heather course for Boyne, the resort course at Grand Traverse Resort, the new Crystal Mountain nine, Chicago's Fox Run, San Francisco's Shoreline Golf Club, Anchorage Golf Club and Las Vegas' Village Golf Club.
A links type course in design, Wishbone Glen is isolated, has its share of water holes, a huge wetland area and a number of great viewing areas. Newcomb indicates that the strength of this course is in its par fives. "The course has plenty of room, even though there is a great expanse of wetlands. We feel that the par fives give the course its strength. They wander through some moderate terrain, woods and some small lakes. We have some challenging par threes as well."
Wishbone Glen is actually a residential golf community. The course has 60 homesites (21 have been sold) and room for some condos and other on-site lodging. "In our master plan, we do plan on having some on-site lodging for golfers. For now golfers can get golf packages from Stouffer or a number of other lodging facilities in Battle Creek," said Newcomb. "It is a four million dollar property with room for another 18 holes. We feel we will attract our golfers and residents from the Battle Creek and Lansing area. This is a resort quality course."
The course is scheduled to open on July 1. You can call for tee times at 1-616-789-GOLF or look for them on the Web at http://www.webgolfer.com/wishboneglen
- Art McCafferty