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By Jason Deegan/Photography by Michael Buck

With more than 800 public courses across the state, it’s hard for any new golf course to create a buzz in Michigan.

It takes something really special to register on the state’s golfing radar. Three new courses have found a way of generating whispers of excitement – they all have players eagerly waiting their chance to experience 54 new holes of great Michigan golf this summer.

Leading the way is Greywalls, an 18-hole public addition to the private Marquette Golf & Country Club in the Upper Peninsula. It might be hard to get to, but architect Mike DeVries has created a natural wonder worth the drive.

Two other celebrated newcomers, True North Golf Club in Harbor Springs and College Field Golf Club in Okemos, are scheduled to go private in the future, so play them while you can. Their emergence might help offset the loss of two other top courses scheduled to close their doors to the public this summer – Lochenheath Golf Club, a 7,157-yard Steve Smyers design in Williamsburg, and Forest Dunes Golf Club, a 7,084-yard Tom Weiskopf creation near Roscommon.




Many of the Midwest’s best architects bid to land this project – names like Ray Hearn, Canadian Thomas McBroom and Mike Husby – knowing it had potential to turn into something special. DeVries, best known for his work at The Kingsley Club in Traverse City and Pilgrim’s Run in Pierson, won the sweepstakes.

The Marquette club has owned the dramatic parcel of land adjacent to their existing 6,231-yard course for three decades, waiting for the right time to develop it. In stepped DeVries, who crafted a stunning 6,830-yard par-71 with views of Lake Superior and more Kodak moments than a family reunion.

Sweeping elevation changes and huge rock cliffs, some towering 60 to 80 feet above the fairways and greens, will leave players breathless. DeVries said his biggest challenge was keeping players from being too distracted by the scenery to notice how good the course is.

Greywalls just might be the Bay Harbor or Arcadia Bluffs of the UP.

“It is such a spectacular piece of property. I was concerned about overpowering the golf,” DeVries said. “I was really happy with how it came out. I’m real excited. To me, the most important thing is the rhythm and flow of the site.”

DeVries said he tried to design the course like a theatre production, with every hole building to a dramatic crescendo.
Nature will wow players, starting on the first tee with their first glimpse of Lake Superior, and on a clear day, the famous Pictured Rocks in the distance. From there, it only gets better. A 60-foot granite wall stands guard over the fifth green. The 188-yard par-3 sixth plays over a valley to a green sitting in a bowl surrounded by rock outcroppings. The 489-yard seventh tees off on a rock ledge and tumbles downhill.

The back nine rolls through a valley and crosses a trout stream, then climbs again for more Lake Superior views at the 17th green and 18th tee.

“I tried not to create an overload of the senses,” DeVries said.

Head golf professional Marc Gilmore said a new clubhouse is planned for 2007, but there isn’t room for a practice facility on the property.

“This course is going to be unbelievable,” he said.


True North

In an area already crowded with star-studded layouts like Bay Harbor and The Heather at Boyne Highlands, True North, which opened last August, fits the same mold.

A big name designer, Colorado-based Jim Engh, Golf Digest’s 2003 architect of the year, carved the 7,017-yard course from the northern woods with a sensitivity to the rolling natural terrain. The course is the first in Michigan to become a member of Audubon International’s prestigious Silver Signature program. The Silver Signature designation recognizes a club’s commitment to environmental planning and resource management.

Engh, who earned many awards with the Tullymore Golf Club in Stanwood, added “sprinkles” of Ireland to True North with unique bunkering. Water comes into play on five approach shots, most notably the large lake on the 442-yard par-4 ninth.

“Four holes have a natural elevation drop of 60 to 100 feet,” general manager David Mocini said. “I hate to compare to other facilities, but most people would agree they look like shots from the courses at Treetops (Resort in Gaylord).”

Club founders Jeff Brown and Brad McGinnis’ master plan calls for 72 home sites as well. The 6,000-square-foot clubhouse (scheduled to be completed by June) will sit above the 18th hole on the highest point of the property.

Mocini said public tee times, which cost $130 in prime season, might not be available during peak days, so call in advance to see what that day’s schedule is.



College Field Club

College Field Club won’t wow players with scenery but with strategy instead.

When managing partner Cary Campbell became involved in the project on rolling farmland just outside the boundaries of Michigan State University’s campus, he completely revamped its future by looking to the past.

A Davis Love III design plan was already in place, but Campbell hired architects Tom Mead and David Savic of Old Course Design to create a course more to his liking, a playable layout reminiscent of the classics by A.W. Tillinghast, Alister MacKenzie and Donald Ross.

The 6,800-yard course on 165 acres will be the focal point of a 280-home real estate development by Tartan Develop-ment Company, but Campbell, who played college golf at Indiana University, swears it won’t intrude on the golf.

The way he tells it, College Field Club is a mix of all of the country’s greatest courses. He drops names like Shinnecock, Crystal Downs and Pinehurst in talking about its features. Many tees are tucked right behind greens to encourage walking, something few modern courses take into consideration.

“The theme was my idea,” Campbell said. “The theme fit the history of a college town. The land fit the theme. My vision is to tie the housing to the course. I brought in people who could create that.”

College Field Club has few forced carries and isn’t over-bunkered, either. The fifth hole, a 200-yard par-3, is framed in back by a silo. Two bunkers split the fairway of the par-4 sixth. The massive 18th shares a fairway with the ninth, divided by a large waste bunker.

Besides the golf, Campbell plans to make croquet, bocci ball and badminton available to the members, mimicking the golf clubs of years past. He expects the clubhouse and membership to be in place possibly by 2006. Greens fees will hover around $55-60.

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