New Michigan Courses Part I -
by Lynn Janson
What makes a golf course great?
I have been asked countless times during the last ten or so years my opinion as to the quality of many different courses, new and classic alike. While it's flattering to think someone might actually care what I think it can also be awkward, because when it comes to golf courses I've earned a reputation for saying exactly what I think instead of the polite or politically correct response.
I had heard the rumors and talk of a super course being built on the Lake Michigan shoreline just south of Arcadia on M-22 but I was a bit skeptical, (as always) to say the least. I was interested enough, however, to stop by and check out the project on several occasions during its construction. But it wasn't until my first round there in early September that I completely understood the magnitude and special nature of Arcadia Bluffs. I was on the eleventh hole that day when Bill Shriver, the general manager and director of golf came out onto the course to ask me what I thought. My response was, "It's everything I've heard and more."
So, what makes a course great?
It has been my hobby and passion (as well as an important part of my vocation) to play great golf courses. This endeavor has taken me to the British Isles five times and across America. I have played what many people and myself consider to be among the finest layouts in the world: courses like Muirfield, Royal Portrush, Royal County Down, Royal Troon, Turnberry, Royal Dornoch, Ballybunion, Cypress Point, Pebble Beach, Crystal Downs, Pine Valley and many more. All of these courses have several things in common that make them truly great. They all (except for Pine Valley) have magnificent site locations on a large body of water with breathtaking views (all eighteen holes of Arcadia Bluffs overlook Lake Michigan and one wrong step on some of them will land you in it.) They are all built on sandy soil.
(Arcadia Bluffs is all sandy soil allowing for proper drainage and for fast and firm course conditions and perfect turf, thanks to golf course superintendent Paul Emling.) And each one seems to belong or fit naturally into its own environment. All of these great courses have their own special character that makes a round of golf fun, one in which the player is always looking forward to the next hole and next shot regardless of what happened previously.
Arcadia Bluffs has its own special and unique character. If "minimalist " (the latest buzzword in golf course design) means a course with minimal earth-moving and uncomplicated construction then one would be hard-pressed to call Arcadia Bluffs a "minimalist" design, as every hole is so dramatic it will blow your headcovers off. However, what course designers Warren Henderson and Rick Smith have achieved is a project that not only fits the environment, it enhances it to the point it appears they were helped with some divine intervention. Even the cottage style clubhouse belongs exactly where it sits, making the dining experience almost as special as the round.
The course allows the player to make a decision on almost every shot as to whether to bounce the ball onto the green and play the contours, or carry one of the dramatic sod-revetted (sod-wall) bunkers and buffet a shot against the wind (which you can count on plenty of) and have it land softly on the putting surface. It is as dramatic as it is fun. The course is enjoyable for both "the long and short handicap player alike," to borrow from Alister Mackenzie on what defines a great course. At full length (7,240) it requires a healthy self-image, especially because it's almost always windy. From the middle (6,531) or forward tees (5,139) it is very manageable because the greens are huge and chip and run shots are encouraged. I've heard complaints about the unmaintained rough, the long fescues and dune grasses (even from my own mouth at times) but the fairways are extremely wide and the firm turf allows for plenty of run, appropriately so to accommodate the windy conditions. The greens are huge; their ocean-like swells and undulations would be too much if their surfaces were smaller but they're just right on this course. The green complexes look genuinely Scottish and coordinate with the fairways and surrounding contours in natural settings. You won't see bunkering like you'll see here unless it's at Carnoustie or the Old Course at St. Andrews. Most of the bunkers that come into play are intimidating stacked-sod that provide a player with a satisfying sense of accomplishment when successfully avoided; when bunkered, a sideways or backward line may be required. Warren Henderson combined the sod-walls with a style often referred to as sand-faced or sand-flashed, with natural dune-like grass capes and tongues cresting and crashing like waves on the sea over the sand below. In my opinion, you can travel the world and not experience finer bunkering.
Arcadia Bluffs has eighteen great holes, not a weak one among them and all most enjoyable, which makes it difficult to choose a favorite. If I had to choose, however, I'd pick the third: an unbelievably unique par-five with a dramatic carry over rugged bunkering off the tee to a mammoth fairway. You then face a choice of routes either left or right of deep fairway sod-wall bunkers followed by a short-iron or pitch (on days when it's not reachable in two) to a green that slopes away from certain approach angles. You play these shots while feeling like you're on top of the world looking down on Lake Michigan. It's not close to being the toughest hole at Arcadia Bluffs but it is indicative of the fun of the entire course.
As to how Arcadia Bluffs ranks among the great courses of the world, who's to say if one of something is better than another? Maybe you're like me and can't tell a fine wine by taste from any other wine--that doesn't mean you can't have an opinion on what you enjoy. But as someone who's played a wide array of golf courses I definitely have an opinion as to what is common, what is fine and even what is extraordinary. And I think Arcadia Bluffs will prove to be worthy of world-class stature, a must-play course for every serious player and an equally delightful experience for those less intense about their game. After playing it, I'm sure you'll come away with the same exhilarating and privileged feeling that has captured me.
A member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame, Lynn Janson is the Head Golf Professional at Egypt Valley CC in Ada, Mich.
Editors' note: In the past year, Arcadia Bluffs has been involved in litigation with the state over soil run-off problems during its construction phrase. Corrective measures were undertaken by the course. At press time, an independent engineering firm's report on the matter had not been released.
By Dean Holzwarth
In the heart of Michigan, falling coins and screaming winners can be heard daily inside the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant. While the casino brings people from across the country to the small college town in search of quick cash, Mount Pleasant has also developed a reputation for its numerous, superior golf courses.
PohlCat and St. Ives are two of the most notable golf destinations, but a fresh face is looking to make its mark this summer. Buck's Run, an 18-hole, par-72, public course, is scheduled to open in July. Head golf professional Jim Zeh is betting on the new course to hit the jackpot as the one of the newest arrivals to hit the area.
"It's going to be the best golf course in the area," said Zeh, who is also the general manager. The course promises to give both the average and skilled golfer an enjoyable round of golf. "It will be challenging, but it will work with everyone's abilities," Zeh said. "The average golfer will love to play it."
Four sets of tees allow golfers to choose their own test. The black tees measure 6,756 yards and the red tees 5,090, but most golfers will play from the gold or white tees at 5,920 yards and 6,291, respectively.
The Chippewa River runs through this Jerry Matthews-designed course which possesses a variety of scenic pleasures. There are no side-hill fairways as players meander over gravel and sand quarries while wetlands and hardwood forests present numerous obstacles to overcome. Three separate lakes also are utilized throughout the course. The largest lake was once a rock quarry, and is now surrounded by two holes of the front nine and three holes of the back nine.
"It's a beautiful place and the condition of the course will be excellent by the time we open," Zeh said. Zeh also said there are no signature holes to date, but each will offer its own stunning personality.
Additional features will include a spectacular 18,000 square-foot clubhouse on a hill which overlooks the course. The clubhouse will offer a bar and grill as well as a fully-stocked pro shop and banquet facility that seats 250.
A wide range of practice facilities include two large putting greens, a driving range on five acres, with a target green, sand and an 18-hole, par-54 putting course that is connected by a unique bridge.
Prices are yet to be determined, but for more information call (517) 773-6830. Buck's Run is located on the east side of Mt. Pleasant about five miles east of Route 27, off M-20. Take Chippewa Road north and the course is located at 1559 South Chippewa. It's two miles east of the Soaring Eagle Casino, seconds north of Highway 10.
The website is www.bucksrun.com.
By Dean Holzwarth
The golf boom in Manistee is about to reach new heights and the word is spreading about this growing Northern Michigan golf destination. Advertisements throughout the state will soon appear inviting everyone to "Golf Manistee" and experience the finest the city has to offer.
In addition to golf, a new casino in Manistee was built last year, and a lively downtown atmosphere prevails on the water. While Arcadia Bluffs is only a short drive from Manistee, Cutters' Ridge is the newest golf course to grace the area and it is targeted for a Memorial Day weekend opening, or perhaps even earlier.
Club professional Doug Bell is hoping to turn golfers on to the new Jerry Matthews-designed course as well as to Cantooke Valley Golf Course, located adjacent to Cutters' Ridge, which opened in 1994. "Nobody even knew about the other course," Bell said. "But it will be really hard to find two really good golf course like the two we have here."
Matthews, along with Carter Construction (the same company that built St. Ives), helped to provide the background for a spectacular golfing experience. It will have the same feel as St. Ives with narrow fairways and good bunkers.
The course is all bent grass, with 60 bunkers strategically placed around the greens. A few spotted fairway bunkers will disrupt less-than-perfect tee shots. There are many wetlands for golfers to venture over and around, as well as elevation changes.
Cutters' Ridge will also attract the average golfer who is becoming frustrated with the longer courses which lead to higher scores. The back tees measure 6,707 yards and the front only 5,037 yards, but most golfers will play from the middle tees which are measured at 6,114 yards.
"It's not a long course, but it will be a fun golf course to play," Bell said. "It's not going to beat you up with length. We made several interesting short holes and we have a really good mix. It's the first in a new wave of shorter course."
The 18-hole, par-72 course features only three par-3s and three par-5s with an array of unique par-4s. The par-4s provide the challenging signature holes. No. 11 is a straight par-4, measuring 420 yards. A long carry is needed for an uphill shot toward a visible green. No. 5 is another par-4 measuring 393 yards with a true dogleg right. A slight ridge is cut into the fairway with a tributary hazard stretching across the fairway. A well-placed second shot could be swallowed by a well-bunkered green. The final hole on the course, the par-4, 429-yard, 18th hole has a wicked, intimidating look to it.
"It's a very deceiving hole," Bell said. "A lot of bets will change hands on this hole." The tee shot will need to carry over the back edge of a large elevated landing area with a marsh on the right side. If you can avoid trouble off the tee, a second-shot to the green could provide birdies on the finishing hole.
Prices range from $50 during the week to $60 on the weekends and golf packages will be available for the two-year-old, 42-room, The Inn at Manistee National Forest.
Cutters' Ridge is located five miles south of Manistee, off US-31.
By Jim Heil
What was once a sand depository for the Port Huron-to-Sarnia train tunnel project, has become the newest golf venture in rural St. Clair County.
Situated about 10 miles west of Port Huron, Fore Lakes Golf Club is planning to open its 18 holes for public play by late April -- two years after local trucking entrepreneur Angello Torello and his family began an ambitious reclamation of the site. "They like golf so they decided to put this project together," said course superintendent Dave Pawluk, who was brought on board in August of 1998, after routing nine new holes at Pine Knob Golf Course in Clarkston. "It was all done in-house."
Sand was extricated to create four lakes on the site, the largest of which fronts seven holes. The abundance of water gives Fore Lakes 95 percent irrigation coverage.
With water or wetlands in play on 15 holes, golfers cross hazards on a series of eight wooden bridges, spanning from 75-300 feet. Five tee settings stretch Fore Lakes from 4,350 yards to 6,564 yards, with landing areas up to 50-55 yards in width. The Providence bentgrass greens are fairly large at 8,000-10,000 square feet, with some undulations. There's even three island greens at Fore Lakes, including one built off-course for hole-in-one contests.
Rolling terrain, wooded areas and some 60 bunkers accent the finished product.
"The golf course is set up so that if you hit a good shot, you're rewarded with a better shot on your next one," Pawluk said. "It looks a little bit intimidating when you first look at it, but the golf course is very friendly to play."
Fore Lakes starts with the longest hole on the course, a 544-yard par-5. Golfers must carry a water hazard off the tee to reach a long, wide peninsula fairway. They can then opt for a wetlands carry of 200-225 yards to the green, or play it safe down the
fairway. "It would make a good golfer want to go for an eagle or birdie," Pawluk said.
Another challenging hole is No. 8, a 403-yard par-4 that finishes with an island green. Water runs along the left side of the hole, but Pawluk said golfers can range anywhere from a driver to a 5-wood off the tee and still be within a wedge to the green.
All of Fore Lakes' par-3 holes will challenge any caliber of golfer, Pawluk said. A couple have postage-stamp-size greens, and No. 6 has water on both sides of the fairway. With the exception of No. 14, at 142 yards, the par-3s average about 200 yards from the back tees.
Fore Lakes finishes with a 514-yard par-5, which may become the longest hole on the course if its proprietors opt to push it back another 40 yards this spring.
A two-story clubhouse with a log-cabin theme could have its lower level finished in time for the April 21 opening. An upstairs banquet facility will overlook the main lake.
The practice facility at Fore Lakes will include a driving range and putting green.
Fore Lakes has a slope rating of 127 and a course rating of 71.1. Green fees for 18 holes, including cart, are $34 on weekdays and $42 on weekends.
By Jim Heil
Denny Spencer admits the site of Gateway Golf Club initially left him scratching his head. The property, situated just a mile north of Detroit Metro Airport in Romulus, didn't have any of the natural features that golf course architects like to incorporate in their designs. Many of the trees had been removed, and the land was as flat as one could imagine.
With a championship layout becoming the drawing card for a residential development of 600-plus homes, Spencer essentially started with a blank palette when Jerry Matthews' Natural Course Design was hired to create something out of nothing.
"A lot of times what'll happen is when you have a certain budget, you just simply can't move a lot of material around," said Spencer, who is the vice president of Matthews' firm. "On a site like this one, it takes a lot more soil movement and I think a little bit more creativity to try to create features that at least have the appearance of being natural."
Spearheaded by developer Resco Inc., the project was built on some 420 acres of land acquired from a local hospital, initiating a housing boom that Romulus hasn't seen in 30 years. An estimated half million yards of earth was moved to creat fairway contours, green complexes and retention ponds at Gateway. Subtle elevation changes from tee to green help break up the flatness and define target areas. The end result might become one of the urban wonders of the Midwest, considering the scarcity of available land for new golf courses in America's cities. Gateway's front nine is scheduled to open for public play on June 15, with the back nine expected to follow on Aug. 1.
"We were actually mowing nine holes before we closed down for the winter, so we're in great shape for the spring," said Resco's David Hyde. This isn't the first time Resco has teamed up with Matthews. The Lansing architect and Plymouth's Ray Hearn were hired to design Twin Lakes Golf Club in Rochester Hills, which was ranked among the "Top Ten Courses You Can Play" by Golf Magazine in 1997. Like Twin Lakes, the greens at Gateway are getting much of the attention.
"If I were to point out one feature that I think will stand out on this golf course, I think the green sites are quite interesting," said Spencer, a former Senior PGA pro. "We really worked hard at making each one of them a separate character." The greens average in excess of 8,000 square feet. The mounds framing them gently bleed down onto the putting surface, accent the changing contours and help golfers block out distractions surrounding the golf course.
"I really like highly defined targets," Spencer said. "They speak to the golfer that this is what the golf course is demanding of you." Gateway's design had to satisfy the Wayne County drain commissioner, so 13 storm-water retention ponds were built around the course. The ponds release the water into the municipal sewer system periodically so that it isn't overtaxed.
"From our standpoint, they're aesthetically pleasing but they really don't create much of a golf feature," said Spencer, making the exception of an island green on one hole. Gateway has been fortunate to have owners willing to pay for the materials needed to build something special on a flat site, and a contractor (MJC Golf) talented enough to pull it off, Spencer said.
Hyde expects the par-72 course to measure close to 6,700 yards from the back tees and have a slope rating in the low 130s. Ninety-five percent of the homes, ranging from condominiums to single-family dwellings priced from $150,000 to $225,000, will front either a hole or a pond, Hyde added.
Spencer struggled when asked if he has a favorite hole at Gateway. "I like it all--it's like trying to choose between your children," he said. "I think it's going to be a nice, fair, well-defined place to play."
Green fees are expected to run around $50 at peak times and $30 off-season.
by Mike Terrell
PGA Professional Chuck Olson was looking for exceptional land in Leelanau County to build a golf course. The first place he looked was Bahle Farms, perched in the highlands above Grand Traverse Bay between Suttons Bay and Traverse City.
"I knew when I looked at it if we could come to terms that this would be an exceptional golf property," said Olson. "This was Leelanau County at its finest."
Offering unsurpassed views of Grand Traverse Bay, the rolling Leelanau countryside and the village of Suttons Bay, it's easy to see why Olson felt like he had found the mother-lode of golf property. It had been the homestead and working farm orchard of the Bahle family since 1870, who also own and run the largest department store in the growing village.
The course opened for limited play last fall and received rave reviews.
"We had a little over 5,000 rounds from mid-August through closing last season, which was about two months worth of play," said the former Traverse City Country Club professional. "We hadn't planned on opening until this spring, but the course grew in so fast we decided to run with it. We think the word-of-mouth from those players will be a big enhancement this season."
And, it's no wonder why. Nick Edson, Traverse City Record Eagle sports editor, loved the course when he played it last fall.
"It's a great course that combines beauty and challenge, which are probably overworked golf course phrases up here. But, in this case it's an accurate description. From the white tees it's a fun course. From the black tees, it's all the challenge a good player can handle, and the views are spectacular on just about every hole. It's the kind of course that will demand a lot of repeat play. I know it will from me."
Featuring a lot of elevation changes, 14 of the holes will play downhill, according to course architect Gary Pulsipher, also a partner in the business.
Golfers love holes with spectacular views, and they'll find a lot here," said the golf course architect who has worked on other northern Michigan courses like Matheson Greens, The Crown and Cobi Pines. "Small greens, tree-lined fairways and strategically placed bunkers will put a premium on shot making rather than brute strength."
Four sets of tees-ranging from about 6800 yards to just under 4900 yards-will allow the course to be competitive for a wide range of golfers.
One of the things that Edson raved about when he played the new course last fall was the condition of the greens and fairways. "It didn't play like new. They were already on a par with some of the finest in northern Michigan. I was amazed for having just opened."
"We didn't have to move much terrain at all," added Pulsipher. "That's why this course feels like it's been here a long time. It has."
The Bahle family spokesperson, Karl, indicated that was one of the things that intrigued them on the initial proposal. "They weren't looking to remake the farm and land. The terrain was already there, and they recognized it. The other thing, since we were all going to be limited partners, was that everybody was in this for the long haul. From conception to infinity, nobody walked away when the course was complete. It preserves the beauty and intent of the land, which has been in our family for well over a century. We are very pleased with the way the project has turned out."
The course winds through working orchards of wild grapes, blackberries, cherries and apples.
Karl recalled that when his grandfather Lars arrived in Suttons Bay in 1870 and bought the farm "that he supposedly wanted to eat fruit in every season, so he planted a ridiculous number of things, most of which are still growing on the land."
The handsome clubhouse, which overlooks the ninth and 18th holes, offers scenic views of the countryside.
Besides Olson and Pulsipher, there's turf expert Steve White, who's also a limited partner. The three have worked together on other area courses.
The Leelanau Club at Bahle Farms is located three miles south of Suttons Bay. For more information about the club or to reserve tee times, call 231-271-2020 or click on www.leelaunauclub.com for a look at the course layout.
By Greg Johnson
The new Moss Ridge course near Ravenna is an able place -- as in playable and affordable. And those two things might not even be the best thing about the Bruce Matthews III design that completed all 18 holes last August and is set for its first full season and a probable "grand opening" July 4.
The best thing might be the versatility of the course, which features four sets of tees, just enough water to keep things interesting, no unmanageable forced carries, rolling hills but not severe hills and if you like walking, that's possible too. "The basic goal of the owners (Richard Kent & Associates) and what they asked Bruce Matthews to design was a course that would have an excellent playing condition, but the biggest thing is that it would be player-friendly," said Mike LaFrance, general manager and the head PGA golf professional.
"It's a place where the average golfer will find it nicely-conditioned, nice scenery and not be totally scared of playing the place."
Matthews built a course that measures 6,943 yards from the back tees as well as 6,357, 5,837 and 5,096 from there other sets of tee pads. It features bent grass fairways, tees and greens and promises private club amenities at a public facility. It's located on Apple Ave. in Ravenna, five miles from the junction of M-37 and M-46, less than 30 miles from Grand Rapids. Clubhouse construction continues, and it will include banquet room for up to 400 people. Plans call for the development of about 60 home sites around the area, but ownership wanted the golf course in first.
"The quality of the course was the first priority," LaFrance said, "and we feel like that's happened given the reaction we received after we opened first 10 holes, then all 18 last year. People found it playable, enjoyable and pretty, the things we wanted to hear."
The course is built on the former Thomas Moss Apple Orchard Farm, and the late Moss was involved in the start of the project in 1995. The course is named in his honor, and the orchards are among the things golfers will play through on the site. Water can be found along four holes, but little of it is in play. Hills are part of the design, but they are gentle hills. The sand traps, large and fairly numerous, are designed so that golfers can with a proper shot get out of them rather easily. "You almost have to cold top it to hit it in any water, the sand really defines the course but doesn't make it impossible to get around, and the red tees never see water or really tough bunkers in their way," LaFrance said. "Even in the orchard areas, you can find the golf balls and with some skill and luck, get in on the greens. You won't need a lot of golf balls, here. It will still be a challenge, but you don't have to worry about hitting it in some impossible place."
The course starts with what LaFrance calls a pair of comfortable holes, then offers up a challenge with a 601-yard par 5 that is sometimes against the wind. Some downwind holes follow, however, and golfers should be ready to take advantage of the "scoring holes" of 13 through 17. No. 18 is a strong 438-yard par 4.
"There are some long holes, some short holes, a real nice mix," LaFrance said. "I really think from the back tees its a challenge, and yet it should be comfortable for all golfers provided they choose the right set of tees to play from."
Once a golfer reaches the greens, except for the No. 6 hole, they should not find undulations that are especially taxing.
"It won't be a place where golfers feel like they three-putt their way around," LaFrance said. "They will be very nice greens, and if you make good putts, you will be rewarded."
Gary Spahr, the former superintendent at Cedar Chase in Cedar Springs, is the new super. He was brought on early during the design phase to work with Matthews, who also designed Cedar Chase. The opening rates this year will top out at $39 for 18 holes with cart, or $29 for 18 walking. A cart will be needed by some golfers, but only because distances between some of the tees are significant.
By Jim Heil
Opulence surrounds the Arnold Palmer-designed Northville Hills Golf Club. Skirting the fairways of the new golf course are homes priced from $400,000, some with conservatories, solariums and sun rooms that overlook the holes.
Despite the cost of enjoying such a view, the golf course itself is open to all.
"The design intent was to provide golfers with a challenging golf course that's very enjoyable to play in four hours," said Martin Fuchs, the director of golf operations at Northville Hills. "It was designed for Arnie's Army."
Located just minutes from I-75, I-96 and M-14 in northwest Wayne County, the project is one of seven undertaken nationally by Toll Brothers, which incorporates Palmer's signature work with high-end homes. Northville Hills has 468 single-family housing units available.
Formerly the site of a county-run mental health facility and children's home that had fallen into disrepair, Northville Hills underwent its reclamation on a 240-acre layout starting in March of 1999, with the major work completed in September. "We just have some detailing work and some cleanup to do, and we re anticipating opening up in the summer of 2000," Fuchs said.
One of the unique features of Northville Hills' golf operation is that it is part of a nationally recognized and funded stormwater management program. Toll Brothers worked in conjunction with JJ&R, an Ann Arbor engineering firm, on the project. "Throughout the golf course are numerous water treatment basins and newly constructed wetland areas to process all the water that comes off the housing development," Fuchs said. "As the water makes it way through the golf course property, it discharges cleaner than when it comes in." The filtered water from the golf course eventually enters the nearby Rouge River, satisfying government demands to clean up the waterway.
Wetlands and ponds present hazards on many of the holes, with the wide-open design of Northville Hills featuring only a smattering of trees. The presence of "Michigan heather" helps define the holes and gives them a links feel, Fuchs said. Expansive fairways and massive greens--averaging 8,000 square feet - also help characterize Northville Hills. Each hole has four or five tees tee settings, stretching the par-71 course from 5,166-6,907 yards.
"There are 40 acres of fairway," Fuchs said. "The fairways are very wide and they're designed to keep the golfer in play, if you're off line a little bit to the left or the right." Carries over water and wetlands will challenge golfers to try for birdie or eagle, but there's bailout areas for playing it safely. Simply getting par will be enough to satisfy most golfers, as the shortest holes have little room for error.
"I think we have four of the toughest par-3 holes in Michigan," Fuchs said. "If you're short, you're dead."
A practice facility will include a 55,000-square-foot driving tee, a private teaching tee and a generous green equal to any on the course. Off-course amenities will include a 7,000-square-foot clubhouse complete with a pro shop, men's and women's
locker rooms and a casual dining area with seating for outings, banquets and meetings.
"We're anticipating a soft opening in July," Fuchs said of the course. "It all depends on the weather conditions."
Call (734) 254-9102 for information on greens fees, corporate memberships and golf outings.
By Dean Holzwarth
When Quail Ridge Golf Course first opened last fall, avid golfers received their first glimpse of a unique, 18-hole championship golf course in the West Michigan area. Although the golf course was just beginning to mature when it opened on Aug. 28, management is anticipating a busy first full season of golf when spring returns.
Quail Ridge assistant golf professional John Borg, said golfers who made a visit to the course in the fall will witness a few changes this year when the course reopens this spring.
"The course will definitely be in better shape," Borg said. "The fairways will be in perfect shape and the greens will be faster than last year because we'll be able to cut them more frequently." Don't let the prediction of fast greens frighten you, however. Quail Ridge is certainly a golfer-friendly course, designed by architect Ray Hearn.
The course features five sets of large tee boxes on every hole to accommodate the varied abilities of players. The black tees measure 6,883 yards and the other tees measure 6,500, 6,114, 5,453 and 4,709 yards from the red tees.
Spacious fairways and greens will attract the average golfer, while a host of challenging holes will test the skilled golfer. "This course won't overwhelm the average golfer," Borg said. "It has big greens and big fairways so it's very golfer-friendly. You won't lose a lot of golf balls on this course."
It is a rolling, natural golf course with some shots over the wetlands, but elevation and natural slopes add a great challenge to several holes. The start is gentle, but the course toughens up on the back nine. There are 42 bunkers scattered around the course and there are four holes on which golfers will need to carry their ball over wetlands.
The signature holes of the course include a trio of par-4s and an extremely long par-3.
The front nine loosens golfers up for an enjoyable day on the links, especially on No. 2, a 358-yard, par-4 with birdie opportunities galore. A decent tee shot onto a large fairway will leave you with a 9-iron or pitching wedge to a two-tiered green.
As you approach the end of the front-nine, No. 8 offers a difficult tee shot over water with trees lining the fairway. A large bunker guards the front part of the green on this par-4, 406-yard hole. No. 12 is another challenging hole, which slopes toward the wetlands and is a long par-4 (438 yards) from the back tees. A carry over the wetlands is vital for a meaningful approach shot to the green. Borg calls it the hardest hole on the course and is the No. 2 handicap hole. No. 15 is a 248-yard par-3 from the back tees and offers a testy little tee shot over a large bunker protecting the green. A long iron or 3-wood will be almost necessary to reach the green.
Randy Erskine, a five-time Michigan Open champion, is the head pro at Great Oaks Country Club in Rochester Hills. He headed this project with 15 other investors who are members at the north suburban Detroit club.
Rates at the course will be $45 during the week and $55 on the weekends. A golf car will be mandatory.
The course is located near Cascade, just minutes from Grand Rapids. Take Cascade Road east to 36th Street. Turn left and pass Buttrick. The course entrance is on the left, at 8375 36th SE. For tee times call 616-676-2000.
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