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To the pros on the PGA Tour, par 5s are sacrificial lambs just waiting to be slaughtered. Eagles and birdies are required.

To most amateurs, the par 5s generally play much tougher. Stringing two solid shots on a difficult hole can be a challenge for most players, let alone three good shots on a tough par 5. Double and triple bogeys – the dreaded Michigan snowman – can ruin anybody’s round.

We’ve scoured the state in search of Michigan’s toughest, and most memorable, par 5s. Securing a par on any of them will feel like a birdie most of the time.

Elk Ridge #18, Atlanta. When Elk Ridge was built in 1991, this No. 1-handicap hole was one of the first 600-yard par 5s in the entire state. Holes playing 600 yards are more common today, but this finishing hole still stands out. It’s as flat as a parking lot but has more curves through its tree-lined corridor than Angelina Jolie. Better players will attempt to draw their tee ball off of the only fairway bunker 251 yards down the right side. A deep wetland hazard fronting the green doesn’t allow even the longest hitters a shot to get home in two, taking some strategy out of the hole. Instead, it yields a dramatic approach to the green for bogey golfers. Two bunkers will gobble up any attempts struck without conviction.


Hawk's Eye

Hawk’s Eye #7, Bellaire. A great thinking man’s hole. This 547-yard, No. 1-handicap hole doesn’t require sheer power to conquer it, just solid ball striking and placement. The tee shot will set up your fortune, good or bad. The fairway is split, with a severe drop-off to thick rough along the left side. An ideal tee ball up the right side to the widest part of the fairway might tempt you to go for this peninsula green in two. More often than not, the risk isn’t worth the reward, however. A large, skinny front bunker is an acceptable miss, but anything too hot, too long or too left will sink into a large pond, along with your chance for a decent score.

Thousand Oaks #10, Grand Rapids. The 640-yard tenth hole is the longest hole on the course by 110 yards and the second toughest to make par. Its strength is its length for nothing really makes it overly tough other than the distance; a pretty sure bet that you’ll use three strokes before you get to putt. The game of golf on a Rees Jones’ designed course is played on the ground, where most greens can be accessed with pitch-and-run shots; a pretty handy shot skill if third-shot club selection requires something more than a short iron and you’d like to be putting in three. Bunkering on this hole gets more penal as you get closer to the green.

Arcadia Bluff

Arcadia Bluffs #11, Arcadia. This 633-yard monster is crème de crème. The tee station towers over the cavernous fairway; the green backs up to a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Although the hole is long, it plays downhill all the way. The backdrop of Lake Michigan gives the appearance that it is longer than the yardage. General Manager Bill Shriver says the green can be reached in two shots but he cautions, “If you venture out of the fairway it makes for a very tough hole.  Once in the rough, you quickly find yourself in gnarly native bunkers, long fescue and uneven footing in the mounds.”

Pilgrim’s Run #13, Pierson. Lore has it that Dark Valley, the 580-yard behemoth thirteenth hole, has never been reached in two from the gold tees. That’s partly owed to a moderately deep left side fairway bunker that catches 280-yard pokes, a forest that catches tee shots hit too long on the right side, and a green that mounds up like a buffalo hump. Every shot should favor the right side of the fairway. The elevated green slopes from back left to front right. When the flagstick is placed on the forward right side of the putting surface, shots that fall short will roll back to the fairway. Shots approaching the green from the left side of the fairway can be particularly tricky.

Blackshire #2, Oscoda. Likened to Pine Valley in New Jersey, Blackshire’s version of Hell’s half-acre is the No. 2-handicap second hole. This black beauty boasts one of Michigan’s most demanding par 5s, measuring 589 yards from the tips with a vast waste bunker that spans the entire length of the fairway from tee to green. This is not the type of hole you expect to be on the green in two strokes. You’ll need all of your skill to score par and a decent drive just to clear the bunker from the tee station. Stay left of center in the fairway to allow for the easiest approach to a narrow, undulating green.

Hemlock #12, Ludington. Dune Beast aptly applies to this 583-yard two-fairway monster. A 150-yard-long island hazard splits the fairway and first-time players may think taking the right side offers a fair approach. What you gain in landing area, you lose in preparation of your second shot because there’s virtually no way to avoid an ocean of sand that begins another 150 yards from your drive and continues to the green. From the tips, most players can avoid the island hazard by going left. Avoid a crooked ball flight on your second shot and you should be able to get inside of 150 yards of the flagstick. The only true opening to this green is from the left. If you’re there in three feel blessed. Now all you need do is two-putt. Yes, it is the No. 1 handicap hole.


Thornapple Pointe

Thornapple Pointe #5, Grand Rapids. If you can shape shots with long irons and 3-woods and hit them for distance, too, this is your hole. Measuring 633 yards, a long drive will place you near the edge of Thornapple River, eyeing a green some 250 yards in the distance. You’re thinking, “I can’t bomb a drive 380 yards!” This is where the risk-reward factor comes in. Take your second shot out over the river and back to dry land – avoiding a large oak tree on your left – and you’ll shave 80 to 100 yards off the length of the hole. Frankly, no matter how good you are, you’ll have difficulty ever kissing this green in two from the tips. Best play is to place a second shot to the left side of the fairway something near 100 yards of the green. From there, you can wedge or run your way in. The green is longer than it is wide.


True North

True North #8, Harbor Springs. The second of back-to-back par 5s and the third on the par-37 front nine, this 562-yarder designed by Jim Engh seems to climb up a fairway to heaven – the green perched some 75 feet above the tees. It plays dramatically uphill the entire way, making the hole play even longer than the yardage implies. Golf experts hired by John Deere named it among the toughest par 5s in the Midwest. The fairway is wide off the tee with no bunkers to fear, but it pinches tight at roughly the 150-yard mark, demanding a precise lay-up. Even if you’re in prime position after two shots, par is no gimme. The green is tucked behind a front bunker with some tricky pin placements.

Coyote Preserve #16, Fenton. Course architect Arnold Palmer was the king at his swashbuckling, go-for-broke style, but even his royal highness would probably play this 589-yard hole with the brakes on. You could end up losing a ball on every swing on this monster, rated the No. 2-handicap. Requiring a long carry over a ravine, the tee shot can visually intimidate players into a timid swing. A hook will find the woods, a slice the ravine of no respite. If you had a caddie for the second shot, he’d offer this nugget of advice … stay long and left to find a hidden flat spot down a slight hill in the fairway near the precipice of the ravine. Any farther back and you’ll be forced to attack a blind green surrounded by treacherous hazards: that dastardly ravine and four deep bunkers.


Little Traverse Bay

Little Traverse Bay #15, Harbor Springs. Short of the view from the eleventh hole at Arcadia Bluffs that looks out toward Lake Michigan, the vista afforded the golfer on Little Traverse Bay’s fifteenth hole is hard to beat. Some 100 feet below the tee station on this 626-yard giant is the green, and beyond that is Crooked Lake. It’s a breathtaking panorama of color in the fall that can beget some colorful language if you’re not careful. Big, accurate hitters can bomb a 350-yard tee shot with visions of getting home in two but the wiser approach is to play this beauty as a true three-shot par 5. The elevated, multi-tiered green is guarded by four bunkers and favors a left side approach.


Timberstone #18, Iron Mountain. This 625-yard hole might be Michigan’s best version of high-altitude mountain golf. The views from the tee, cut from the upper regions of Pine Mountain, span up to 15 miles in every direction. Don’t get distracted from the task at hand, though. The hole, named Double Black for a reason, rumbles down Pine Mountain so steeply so fast, course designer Jerry Matthews had to create two tiers in the fairway just to give golfers a playable semi-flat lie. Watching your tee ball fly through the air against a backdrop of treetops can be intoxicating. It’s just 71 yards between tiers; the key is hitting it far enough down the mountain to find a flat lie. A front pond and back bunker stand as sentinels to protect a razor-thin green that’s just 20 yards deep. A par will cap a great day at a memorable course given 5 stars by Golf Digest.



Yarrow #1, Augusta. The boldest hole on the course greets you on the first tee, a true three-shot par 5 measuring 580 yards. More bravado than brute, (“No. 1 plays longer than it is,” says General Manager Toby Hilton) driver and mid- to long-iron is the best way to play this hole. The tee sits at one of the highest points on the course. Sixty feet below is the 120-yard wide fairway. The best play on your second shot is to lay up about 100 yards from the green. Get too close and you’ll be in a fairway gully looking up to a 40-yard deep putting surface you can’t see. On the green in three and two putts is a score to be savored.

Tullymore #16, Stanwood. Choosing the best par 5 on most Jim Engh-designed courses is like picking among four Miss America pageant winners. Can you really go wrong with whomever you choose? They’re all beauties. The 608-yard sixteenth hole is certainly the longest, and toughest, three-shotter at Tullymore. From an elevated tee, the hole is shaped like a crescent moon with water and wetland guarding the left edge, forcing players to take precise angles or lose precious distance. The hole climaxes with a harrowing approach over a pond and bunker to a horse-shoe green. Left-side pins are for suckers only. It’s one of most extreme-shaped greens in Michigan, one that personifies Engh’s mission to spice up the game, not design cookie-cutter holes.

Eagle Eye #4, Bath. If you survive this hole, you’ll have a better understanding of Pete Dye’s influence on Eagle Eye designer Chris Lutzke. Most golfers will walk away from Eagle Eye remembering the island green at No. 17 or the fabulous bookend par 5s at the ninth and 18th holes, but it’s this 591-yard devil that has earned its No. 1 handicap rating. Fighting the prevailing wind, players must bang a ball between an elongated waste bunker on the left and a cluster of four bunkers on the right. Mounding and several fairway bunkers line protect the entire right side of the hole. Laying up to roughly the 100-yard mark will take the pond on the left of the green out of play. From there, step up confidently to stiff a wedge into a narrow green, surrounded by three more bunkers. Just don’t flirt with the left side or your ball could trickle into the hazard.

Forest Dunes

Forest Dunes #5, Roscommon. Nicknamed Mason Trail, players need to blaze their own trail wisely to manage this 602-yard bear of a hole, which is 40 yards longer than any other on the card. The fairway bends left but don’t challenge the corner, otherwise your ball will find the first of three massive waste bunkers, one of the main features Tom Weiskopf used to make Forest Dunes stand out. More sand in the way of five additional bunkers near the green forces players to keep it on the short grass … or else.

Moose Ridge #4, South Lyon. Moose Ridge architect Ray Hearn, well known for his player-friendly, gimmick-free designs, is a nice guy. But he must have been in a surly mood the day he decided to build this 630 yards of torture. The shortest tee box for the men still plays a whopping 538 yards from the gold tees, longer than the tips of many par 5s. Slicers better be wary of landing in the waste bunker along the right side off the tee. It can serve up some squirrelly lies. A narrow fairway twists its way home to a green pinned behind a wetland that probably has a thousand balls in it, considering it’s in play the final 200 yards. A back left pin placement will test even the strongest of wills.


Greywalls #1, Marquette. Architect Mike DeVries doesn’t waste any time introducing players to the wonders of his latest course. Crashing downhill, the No. 5-handicap hole requires restraint and cautious placement, not reckless abandon. Standing on an elevated tee, golfers can soak in panoramic views of the rugged Upper Peninsula. From the tips at 579 yards, play your tee shot along the left side toward the three fairway bunkers or risk dropping off into trouble on the right. A lay up to the final ridge allows for a short-iron approach to a plateau Trying to go for it in two could leave a delicate flop shot from a difficult lie below the putting surface. Be forewarned that the crowned green slopes so severely to the right some members want it softened a bit.


Continued See 5 Gentle Giants…


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