I’m thrilled to continue the Hooked On Golf Blog Product of the Year awards, this time with the Best Golf Course award. To qualify for the Best Golf Course award, a course has to have been reviewed and/or played for the first time in the calendar year (2014 for this year). There were many new courses I played this year, from Greg Norman’s Emerald Reef Golf Club in the Bahamas to the Alister MacKenzie design at the University of Michigan, to Paako Ridge in New Mexico.
Factors which go into my decision include course architecture, playing conditions, amenities, vibe, location, staff. In short, the overall experience from when one arrives to the time he/she finishes up the last frosty beverage at the 19th hole.
The two finalists came down to New Mexico’s Paako Ridge and Michigan’s Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club. Both are amazing tracts of land, and both courses have NO homes on the course; not the center of real estate developments. That scores big points with me. Both courses had fantastic conditions when I played. Based on the serenity, the amazing amenities, clubhouse, and the fact that they offer 27 holes, Shepherd’s edges out Paako Ridge for the Hooked On Golf Blog 2015 Best Golf Course Award.
Shepherd’s Hollow is northwest of Detroit about a 45 minute drive, and well worth it. Tip o’ the hat to Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club for winning this distinguished award. Can’t wait to get back there.
Full Hooked On Golf Blog Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club review.
More Hooked On Golf Blog Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club photos.
Other Michigan golf course review.
This past summer the Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour was in fabulous Michigan for some amazing golf. Michigan has become a golf home away from home. The courses there are fantastic. I’d much rather play there than Florida or Arizona, though there are some great choices there as well. I lean toward more elevation change, more interesting terrain, and love the trees.
For this past summer’s Michigan golf trip, the temporary world headquarters for the HWT was the MGM Grand in Detroit. I know what you’re thinking. “Detroit?!?”
I’ve not spent any time in Detroit until this year. It is certainly an area which has seen better days, but there are still great reasons to visit, top notch lodging, and dining to be had, like at the MGM Detroit.
MGM Grand Detroit is an Art Deco style design featuring 401 rooms/suites. This luxury resort opened in 2007 and is one of a small number of casinos in the Detroit metro area.
The gaming space is very large, clocking in at 100,000 square feet. All of the possible gambling games one might want to participate in are there, including 4,000 machines and almost 100 table games. Having been a very heavy gambler back in the day, it was quite something for me to spend 4-5 days there and not even wager a nickel.
The hotel/casino is located in the heart of Detroit, walking distance from many downtown attractions and restaurants. Tiger Stadium, the home of the Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers, is a short walk from the hotel. I was able to catch a Detroit Tigers game. Kansas City came to town and thumped the Tigers. Despite the loss, Tigers Stadium was really a great baseball stadium and the atmosphere was fantastic.
The rooms/suites at the resort are very spacious and well appointed. The service level of the rooms is great, with turndown service and a nice robe with slippers prepared every evening.
The shower and bathroom is very large and nicely constructed with slate tile floors and a cool flare to the design. There’s even a screen built into the mirror in the bathroom (see image below).
There are many restaurants and bars in the resort, including Wolfgang Puck Cucina and Wolfgang Puck Steak. I had the pleasure of enjoying both and they’re as good as you’ve heard.
Also located inside the resort is a great sports bar called TAP, which is packed on a nightly basis. TAP serves great food, stiff drinks, and provides viewing of dozens of sporting events via countless screens.
The resort is home to large 30,000 square foot meeting/event space as well as multiple lounges and entertainment venues.
Finally for those like me who like to relax, there’s an on-site spa, pool, fitness area, steam rooms, and private jacuzzis.
MGM Grand Detroit is an upscale, high quality, clean, classy, safe hotel in the heart of Detroit. Whether in the area for business or some of the great golf in Michigan, MGM Grand Detroit is a great choice for accommodations.
University of Michigan Golf Course Review
Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club Review
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 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.
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.
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.
Hooked On Golf Blog University of Michigan Golf Course photo gallery.
Other Hooked On Golf Blog Michigan golf reviews.
I don’t normally post press releases here on HOG. Those go to the HOG sister site and golf newswire HOGWIRE.biz. But this time around I feel it necessary to post here. My love for Michigan golf is well documented and one of my top four favorite golf course architects is Tom Doak (the other three being Baxter Spann, Coore/Crenshaw, and Old Tom Morris).
Tom Doak is going to be designing a course at Michigan’s Forest Dunes which will be reversible. One day it might play clockwise and the next counter-clockwise. This is such a great concept, and one which makes two courses out of one layout. This concept is not new. The Old Course in St. Andrews Scotland is reversible and has played in reverse hundreds, if not thousands of times.
Here is the press release below:
For Immediate Release
August 4, 2014
Tom Doak Comes Home to Design a Golf Course for the Ages
Roscommon, MI – After two decades spanning the globe from New Zealand to China designing world-class golf courses, Traverse City resident Tom Doak, is coming home to create a course at Forest Dunes Golf Club in northern Michigan that legendary golf architects could only dream of doing.
Doak and his Renaissance Golf Design team will design and build a reversible course – two distinct layouts using the same greens but playing clockwise one way and counter clockwise the other way.
“This is a concept I have thought about for 30 years,” Doak said. “You need the right site and the right client to understand the appeal of it. At Forest Dunes we finally have both.”
Doak said when he first met Forest Dunes’ owner, Lew Thompson, an Arkansas-based trucking magnate, Thompson said he wanted a new course but it had to “wow” him.
Thompson wanted a second course that would keep golfers staying on the property an extra night or two after they had played the club’s Tom Weiskopf course, already ranked by national magazines in the Top 100 best courses in America.
The double dose of Doak should accomplish both of those goals.
“The appeal of a reversible course is people would want to play it both ways. You are getting two golf courses in one,” Doak said.
Thompson is the managing member of a partnership that owns and operates The Bridges, a Jack Nicklaus course in Montrose, on Colorado’s Western Slope, halfway between Grand Junction and Telluride.
He said with the tough competition from the great number of very good golf courses in northern Michigan he wanted a course that would stand out.
“I told Tom when I first met him that if it’s just another golf course, it’s not going to do me or Forest Dunes any good,” Thompson said. “If you can wow me then we can build it. He wowed me.”
Doak said the Forest Dunes site is perfect for the double dip course because the land has small undulations and is not hilly.
“It is not a super dramatic site, but that’s better for this concept,” he said. “If you were playing over ravines in one direction, you’d probably have to play blindly out of them the other way around. You can’t have woods behind the green, or you’d have to play over the trees from the other direction.”
Doak said the most difficult part of designing the reversible course is thinking about the greens. “They have to work from both directions,” he said. “You can’t have severe greens.” Crowned greens or ones that fall away can work, as can tiered greens that go side to side, he said. “You just have to think about all of it at the same time,” Doak said, joking about the headaches such concentration could trigger.
To avoid migraines, he will have one of his senior associates, Brian Slawnik, think about the design for one direction and he will think about the other direction.
Doak said the idea of reversible course is not as revolutionary as it sounds. Many Scottish links, including The Old Course at St. Andrews, were played in reverse in winter to spread out the wear and tear of divots. Architects including Tom Simpson and Alister MacKenzie designed private estate courses with a handful of reversible holes. But, as far as Doak is aware, there is no 18-hole course in the world today that is played in reverse on a regular basis.
Doak said he plans to begin shaping holes in late September and depending on weather he expects to have three to six holes ready for irrigation before the snow flies.
“We are just tickled to have the chance to work close to home and to do something special,” he said.
Thompson believes the reversible course will be the ultimate feather in Doak’s distinguished architectural cap.
“I think Tom will be very hands on with this course,” he said. “This is a huge deal for Tom and it’s a win for him and for Forest Dunes.”
Doak’s last northern Michigan design is the Black Forest course at the Wilderness Valley Golf Club in Gaylord that opened in 1992. He also designed the Lost Dunes course in Bridgman before going on to designing 31 courses around the globe, including five that are recognized in the Top 100 courses in the world.
About Forest Dunes
Nestled on 1,300 acres of heavily wooded land within the Huron National Forest, Forest Dunes has become one of the country’s premier golf experiences. In this pristine setting, 1973 British Open Champion Tom Weiskopf designed one of his top layouts featuring rugged native dunes, scruffy sand areas and water features. The course is consistently ranked among the best courses by the leading golf publications. Golf Digest ranks it No. 23 among the top public courses, GOLF Magazine has it No. 72 in the Top 100 and Golfweek lists it No. 97 on its modern list. Matt Ginella of Golf Channel’s Morning Drive also ranks it 10th among his favorite public courses.
In addition to the award winning Forest Dunes course, the property features the beautiful Adirondack style Lake AuSable Lodge with 14-rooms and six lakeside cottages, as well as Sangomore’s restaurant.
For more visit www.forestdunesgolf.com or follow them on Twitter @forestdunesgolf.
On my recent Hooked On Golf Blog World Tour stop in Michigan I had the pleasure of playing the Arthur Hills designed Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Club. Humidity was 100%. It was so humid driving there that we had to use the windshield wipers, despited it not actually “raining.” The rainy and cloudy conditions made capturing decent photos difficult. It also made capturing pars and birdies difficult.
Despite the gray skies, I’ve posted a Shepherd’s Hollow Golf Course photo gallery here for you to check out.