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The Timbers: A Natural Best

By Ken Tabacsko

Mother Nature hasn't shined too brightly on the folks who were hustling to get The Timbers golf course near Frankenmuth ready for this season.

First there was a tornado last summer that destroyed nearly 300 pine trees on the opening three holes. An exceptionally cold and wet spring this year also didn't help.

But despite all the adversity, a lot of dawn-to-dusk work kept the delay to only one month. The front nine opened in early July with the back segment ready for golfers in early August.

"We've had our share of problems," said head pro Barry Christopher. "Our wintery spring kept us from growing grass. You need 52 degrees of ground temperature for it to grow and that came much later than usual."

The course is owned by a group of mid-Michigan investors and is located on a 270-acre plot, 4 miles east of Frankenmuth and 7 miles southwest of Vassar on Bray Road. The layout is about 9 miles from the popular Birch Run (Outlets of Birch Run) exit on I-75. It also is in proximity of the famous Bronner's Christmas store.

The Fortress, a high-profile resort course in Frankenmuth, will give the region a good one-two golfing punch.

The $3.5 million Timbers project will eventually include both condominiums and single family homes. Plans are also underway for a two-story 7,000 square foot clubhouse. Much of the lumber used will come from trees removed to create the course.

The layout was designed by Michigan State University grad Lorrie Viola of Farmington Hills. Reportedly, it's the first in the state done solely, start to finish, by a woman.

The Timbers is marketing itself as an "up north" course not so, well, up north.

"We're calling ourselves Michigan's Natural Best and with good reason," said Christopher. "We have a backwoods feel. Fifteen of our holes are cut right out of the woods; chances are you'll never see another golfer on an adjacent hole."

Beech, maples, oaks, birches and Austrian and American pines fill the gently rolling terrain.

"We've also got plenty of water and lots of wetlands," Christopher continued. "It's a championship level course that will test any golfer. Believe me, it's a challenge."

The course plays 37-35--72 and 6,850 yards from the back tees. Five tees are available to make the course fun for golfers of all skill levels, Christopher said.

"In many cases, from the back tees you don't see the trouble that's ahead," he said. "Every hole requires a lot of thought; if not, you'll get some big numbers."

Water comes into play on 16 holes--11 lakes were created--and on all the par 5 holes, the greens nestle up to wetlands.

"If you're going to go for the green in two you better hit it," Christopher said. "There are no bail out areas--if you're short you're in trouble."

The Timbers pro said the course's signature hole is the par 5, No. 16, a 560-yarder from the back tees.

"It's a dogleg left and from the tees you're looking at six bunkers," Christopher said. "It features an island green, which makes it a very distinct hole. To get par here is certainly going to take your A game."

He said No. 7, a 375-yard par 4 dogleg left, features wetlands and lots of bunkers on the left side. "It's a hole that requires some precise shot-making," he said.

While marketing itself as an upscale course, Christopher said owners are striving to keep prices reasonable. Fees this year are $38 weekdays and $46 weekends, with a cart.

An academy-style practice area will include numerous target and practice greens, bunkers and even areas to practice shots from uphill and downhill lies.

The Timbers is Christopher's first stop as a head pro. He previously worked at Treetops and Bay Valley and competed on mini-tour events. Owners also have plans for an additional 18-hole layout in the future.

Owners of The Timbers Golf Club: Tim & Joyce Zehnder of Bavarian Builders, Inc.; Mike Bergman of Turf Tech Landscaping; Gary & Diane Stochowitz and Mal & Lynn McCuen of Matonek Trucking, Inc.

Call toll free at 1-888-617-1479.

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