I could move to Michigan, at least during the warmer months. Winter? Not so much. The golf in Michigan is so astoundingly good and interesting. The topography and vegetation lend themselves to such fantastic golf which can compete and even crush competitive golf destinations like Florida, South Carolina, California, or the northwest. The terrain with its great rolling hills and elevation changes makes a great canvas for golf architects to paint their masterpieces.
Secluded is an understatement… click to zoom
One such masterpiece is the Arthur Hills designed Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club, located northwest of Detroit about 45 minutes in Clarkston, Michigan. Shepherd’s Hollow is secluded in a densely wooded area, not near any kind of visible development. Each hole has its own space. Nothing shared. No side-by-side fairways.
Shepherd’s Hollow features 27 holes. Unfortunately I was only able to play 18 of the 27 during the HOG World Tour stop. I MUST get back there soon to play those again and experience the nine I missed.
There are five sets of tees at Shepherd’s Hollow, allowing the course to accommodate players of all ability levels. The tips for each set of 18 runs roughly 7,100 yards. The primary 18 is an absolute beast of a golf course, rating at 76.0 with a slope of 147. A scratch player would do well to break 80 from the tips.
Tee shots at Shepherd’s are impressive. The view from each tee is of a hole lined by trees on each side and landing areas which are anything but flat. Tee placement is crucial to have a chance at par, and on this course pars are good. Nearly every tee shot features some kind of elevation change, requiring good strategy and calculation from the golfer.
I really like the different tee sets at Shepherd’s. Different tees don’t just mean a change in yardage. The angle and even elevation of each tee shot is different based on the play of the day.
A very unique feature with regards to the tees is how they are marked. Rather than having two tee markers sitting on the ground which the player must tee off between, one pole on the side marks the teeing area. See image below:
Tee marker above left, working the tee shot right-to-left above right!
If you manage to hit the fabulous fairways at Shepherd’s Hollow, you’ll be presented with challenging lies and approaches.
The stance may promote a draw but the approach may require a fade. One other course does that very well, Augusta National Golf Club.
Ah the greens. What lovely surfaces these are. Such great conditioning and such fun to putt. Tiers, slopes, and swells make putting a fun (but fair) challenge.
A challenging two-putt prospect…
Hitting the proper area of the green on approach is as challenging, for finding the wrong spot makes two-putting an accomplishment. Once again, not unfair, but very challenging.
The clubhouse and its setting are tremendous. The clubhouse’s classy architecture perfectly fits in with the environment.
I was just entering the 2014 college football schedule into my calendar for my Utah Utes. Tough go for us being fairly new in the Pac-12, but I digress. The 3rd game on the schedule this season is at the “Big House,” also known as the University of Michigan’s football stadium. The place holds something like 12.2 million fans. A few weeks ago I was across the street from the big house playing golf at the University of Michigan Golf Course. What a fantastic place. The course is not quite publicly accessible, but there are several ways one can get a round in on this wonderful layout. If you get the chance, do it.
The course is the home of the Michigan golf teams and is closed for play during competitions. The course is also closed on football days, where it doubles as a parking lot.
Ever heard of Alister MacKenzie? He designed the University of Michigan Golf Course, which opened in 1931. He’s the same golf course architect who designed Augusta National Golf Club (home of the Masters Tournament) with the help of Bobby Jones. One other highly ranked architectural masterpiece he created was Cypress Point.
Having visited Augusta National many times, I could definitely get the feel of MacKenzie’s style and creativity at the University of Michigan course. The way he utilized the rolling hills, angles, and elevation changes on the property is magnificent.
Arthur Hills performed a restoration on the course in 1994, which according to the University of Michigan, “restored the grandeur of the University Golf Course to the ranks of MacKenzie’s other classics.”
Total yardage for the golf course from the tips, also known as the Wolverine Tee, is 6687 yards. The course rating is 72.0 and slopes at 135. These numbers translate to a strong challenge, but not over the top in terms of difficulty. There are three other tee sets for players of varying age, gender, and ability level.
I’m not sure which club I prefer the most on the tees at the University of Michigan Golf Course, my driver or my Nikon. The framing of the holes from the tees is fabulous.
Tee – click to zoom
Tee shots are not extremely difficult, but with the movement of the course, trees lining the fairways, and some deep native grass areas, errant tee shots are one-way tickets to bogey land.
Like Augusta National, the fairways at U of M roll with the hilly terrain. Challenging lies await, producing approaches which are a fine test of shotmaking. The fairways are not overly narrow, but due to the movement of the holes, proper placement is a big advantage on approach shots.
Fairway – click to zoom
There are many “course management” scenarios. On some par-4 holes and even one particular par-5 (3rd hole) driver may not be the perfect club to hit off the tee, but is still an option.
The greens are very fun and unique at the U of M course. First, they are not terribly large so hitting them in regulation is a solid accomplishment.
Green – click to zoom
There are very large undulations and tiers in the greens which can break those medium to small sized greens into even smaller areas. If an approach finds the wrong one, two-putting is a challenge but not impossible.
The shaping and framing of the greens on this course is very pleasing to the eye.
Full supporting facilities in the form of practice areas, pro shop, and dining are offered at U of M.
Playing the U of M golf course was a fantastic experience. I loved the layout, the flow, routing, scenery, and especially the conditioning. I strongly recommend playing the course if you get the chance. I cannot wait to get back and take another shot at it.
Below is a video I captured at the HOG World Tour stop last week in New Mexico at Black Mesa Golf Club. This is a flyover of the fun par-4 14th hole. I call this hole “Island Drive” because it is a risk/reward driveable par-4 with an island of New Mexico desert in the middle of the fairway.
Here’s a video flyover of the awesome par-5 16th hole at New Mexico’s Black Mesa Golf Club, also known as “Stairway to Seven.” I captured this will my “little” multi-rotor helicopter (some call them drones, but the word drone has a negative connotation).
Two days ago the Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour rolled into Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course, about 45 minutes east of Albuquerque, New Mexico. The experience at Paa-Ko was splendid. The course is in a very beautiful area and the holes carved through a fabulous New Mexico mountain desert.
Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course – click to see more photos