Famed golf course architect Tom Fazio has one design in Michigan, the Premier Course at Treetops Resort in Gaylord, Michigan. The Premier Course is one of five courses at Treetops Resort.
Premier Course Overview
The Premier Course is a 6,832 yard, par-72 layout which fully takes advantage of the very interesting northern Michigan terrain with its dense forest, large elevation changes and great views. The course opened in 1992. Current prices for play vary depending on the season, ranging from $65-$145.
Speaking of the season, Treetops is also a ski resort in the winter, so the course is obviously not open all year. Generally, the course is open from April 30 to October 31.
Tom Fazio tees almost always present an aesthetically pleasing look. Premier targets frame up nicely from the tee, typically with the dense northern Michigan forest lining each side. There is a wide variation of hole shapes which asks the better player to be able to hit draws, fades and the ever difficult straight ball.
From the par-4 first tee the player experiences an immediate dose of the elevation changes. Right off the bat there’s a very large drop which tempts you into swinging even harder with your driver. No need though, a regular swing will gain extra yards due to the elevation change.
Driving on par-4′s and par-5′s isn’t extremely demanding. The fairways are wider than they can look from the tee. That being said, if your driver is off enough, be ready to work on your “punch out of the forest” shot or your provisional tee shot.
Tee shots on the par-3′s can be very demanding, as well as scenic. Check out the par-3 11th above. This one was a solid 4-iron from the tips which I hit well. In fact that was my shot of the day, getting the ball to finish about 8 feet from the cup. I’d rather not discuss the birdie putt. Nice par though. :-) Below is the par-3 8th with a huge elevation drop of what I’d guess to be 80-100 feet. The ball is in the air forever.
I expected the fairway shaping to be “Fazio-esque” like many Fazio tracks I’ve played. You know what I’m talking about, that sort of half-pipe shape. I was pleasantly surprised that many of the fairways did not have the half-pipe shaping, simply due to the great terrain. No need to shape the holes excessively.
Hitting the right part of the fairway can be fairly important on this track if one wants a clear shot at the green on doglegs. Fairway placement is also important when it comes to finding lies which are even enough to make the 2nd shot easier.
The Premier Course greens aren’t too crazy, though a couple of them have some extreme slopes like the par-5 12th or the par-4 15th. Many greens are partitioned off into two separate halves with a slope in the middle, making approach shot placement and distance control important. On a couple of the more extreme double tier greens, two-putting can be very difficult.
Shaping around the greens includes some collection areas and shaved areas which allow for short game creativity either with the Texas wedge or a lob wedge.
Bunkers guarding some of the greens can be very tough and rugged as shown in the photo below, especially with the long grass surrounding them. Smart players will be doing their best to avoid the greenside kitty litter.
The amenities at the Treetops Premier course are shared with the other four courses. There is a large clubhouse with locker rooms, restaurant, pro shop etc. The practice range is large as is the practice green.
A very short drive down the road is the Treetops Resort lodge.
Since my trip to Michigan I’ve become a big fan of Michigan golf. Golf in Michigan is far from the boring and flat golf Florida offers, and much more like golfing in my home mountains of Utah. I love the elevation changes and the dense, plush forest. If you are thinking of a golf vacation in Florida, Arizona or somewhere farther south, consider changing your plans to travel north to the cool mountain air of northern Michigan and the golf mecca which resides in the small town of Gaylord.
In looking back at my experience on the Premier Fazio course, I’d have to say the strength of the course is the par-3 holes, especially the signature 11th.