Golf Course Review: TimberStone at Pine Mountain (MI)

Sunday morning of our U.P. golf trip came early, and so did my departure to TimberStone at Iron Mountain. The area’s only five-star golf course, TimberStone is about a 50-minute drive from Harris and is on the way back to Wisconsin and what my friends considered to be the “Real world.”
I parked in the lot and noticed immediately one of the most beautiful finishing holes I have seen: What looked to be a ski hill of perfect fairway grass cascaded down the mountain side, leveled off at several points by rock walls and leading to a pristine pond-fronted green just short of the clubhouse.
The bag drop pulled up on a longboard, and politely offered to grab me a cart. I could tell he loves his job, which in this crazy world is refreshing to see. A wood cabin pro shop was well stocked with TimberStone apparel and gear, and I found myself walking out with my usual ball marker and logo ball, as well as a new golf towel to replace the True Blue one that was still soaking wet from yesterday’s adventure in Marquette.
I hit the driving range, which is very nicely done with fresh fairway grass and three target greens, followed by the chipping range and putting green. The practice green has very few areas to practice straight, level putts, and this was characteristic of the greens on the course, too.
Practice Range at TimberStone
I would have never dreamed that a golf course could match the amazing experience of Greywalls. In its own way, though, which in some ways is a bit Greywalls-esque, TimberStone does it. Combining the perfect course conditions of Sweetgrass with some of the dramatic elevation features of Greywalls, TimberStone is one of the most well laid out and maintained courses I have played. Golf.com ranks it as the third best course in the state of Michigan, while GolfWeek ranks it seventh. If it was in Wisconsin, it would be in the top seven here, too, and easily.
From an overhead map view on Google, the course is etched out of dense forest. It is not quite as tight as the bird’s eye view would leave you to believe, but some accuracy is certainly required. The thing that makes this course scorable, though, is that it is not overly long: 6,937 yards from the tips, but much more playable at 6,533 from the boulder tees (second longest). Despite this somewhat pedestrian 6,533 yards, it still manages to carry a colossal slope of 144!
TimberStone severely penalizes errant tee shots, with deep woods and natural grasses. The rough is not overly deep – much less so than that found at Trapper’s Turn or Ironwood, for instance – but has a way of grabbing and opening the club face.
The fairways are the nicest I had ever played on, only to be rivaled later by those at SentryWorld in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. The greens are typically large, and roll very true. In an order of fastest to really fast to fast on our trip, it would go like this: Sweetgrass, TimberStone, and Greywalls, respectively.
The hole layouts at TimberStone are unique and challenging, with eight bona fide signature holes that all deserve to carry their own postcards. Some of my favorites include the fifth, sixth, eighth, ninth, twelfth, sixteenth, and the astonishing seventeenth and eighteenth holes.
The 144 slope rears its head early at TimberStone, with a tree-lined tee shot on one with almost no room for error. The hole turns left at about 275 yards, and finishes with a massive green that is fronted by a long sand trap.
Hole 1: Par 4 (359/339/303/262)
Like the first hole, the second works left to right but has a little more rough to catch errant tee shots. A long par four, it tees up well above the fairway and works back upwards to the deepest green on the course.
Hole 2: Par 4 (434/409/374/333)
Three played a little more to my game: A shorter par five (485 yards from the boulder tees) that runs left to right well within the driving area.
Hole 3: Par 5 (506/485/428/397)
The fourth and eleventh holes are very similar par threes. Each is straight away and tree-lined, and both have elevated greens. The fourth is considerably longer, though, at 173 yards from the boulder tees, while the eleventh is just 140. The eleventh also has two devilish traps that front the green to help defend an otherwise straightaway tee shot.
Hole 4: Par 3 (197/173/159/136)
Hole 11: Par 3 (168/140/120/93)
This is where TimberStone starts getting remarkable. The tee boxes on the fifth shows just trees and a hint of a pond long and to the left. The right side is heavily wooded and is obviously the area to stay away from. Following the tee shot, though, the left side of the woods opens up to a beautiful inland lake that runs the length of this 467-yard par five and leaves a big decision: Go for it with a long iron or wood over the pond, or lay up to an unbelievably narrow fairway that is at most 20 yards wide? The right side of the fairway is mounded slightly, which is somewhat inviting, and the backside mounds of the green lead to deep woods and lost balls.
Hole 5: Par 5 (501/467/416/385)
Hole 5: Par 5 (501/467/416/385)
Hole 5: Par 5 (501/467/416/385)
The sixth plays to the opposite side of this lake, and requires a ridiculously straight tee shot that can be played straight away if long enough to carry the first portion of the water hazard. The right side is gone, so wail away and hope to find fairway. Alike the previous hole, the sixth finishes over water to a putting surface that is guarded in front and back by deep greenside bunkers.
Hole 6: Par 4 (413/385/349/292)
Hole 6: Par 4 (413/385/349/292)
Hole 6: Par 4 (413/385/349/292)
The seventh is a tough little hole. At 342 yards, it is certainly not long, but it is very tight and the tee shot is demanding. Driver is too long to hit here, so take something straight and find the middle of the fairway 200 yards away for a direct approach shot. The green is shared with the twelfth, but separated by a considerable amount of rough, sand, and a back-side green connector.
Hole 7: Par 4 (360/342/300/271)
Eight is a highly elevated par three that measures 185 yards from the boulder tees. This is one of the tallest tee boxes we had seen so far on the trip – it would be eclipsed significantly later in the round. The front of the green on this beautiful par three is sided by sand, while the back and right sides drop
off to a large pond.
Hole 8: Par 3 (211/185/157/132)
Hole 8: Par 3 (211/185/157/132)
Nine is a glorious par four. At 448 yards from the boulder tees, it is long and demanding off the tee. Anything straight will get a favorable bound down the hillside, while finding the tree line will make the hole extremely long. The ninth finishes at the clubhouse, with an enormously wide green that is shared with the eighteenth.
Hole 9: Par 4 (471/448/405/359)
Hole 9: Par 4 (471/448/405/359)
The back nine opens up similarly to the front: A tight par four with woods on both sides. Hit your straightest club here to set up a good approach
Hole 10: Par 4 (405/385/358/319)
After the short par three eleventh, the par four twelfth is a remarkable short par four nicknamed “Amphitheater.” The pond right should be taken out of the picture by any long iron or wood, but driver cannot be played unless considerably drawn. Find the fairway and take an extra club or two for the uphill approach over sand. This is a beautiful par four with all kinds of trouble to be found.
Hole 12: Par 4 (345/325/292/202)
Hole 12: Par 4 (345/325/292/202)
Thirteen, although tight, is a manageable par five. At 490 yards from the boulder tees, trees line both sides of the fairway that draws left in the drivable area. The green is bordered to the left and right by sand traps.
Hole 13: Par 5 (509/490/439/391)
The fourteenth is best characterized by its finish. A short par four (366 yards from the boulders), the green is small and located between trees to the left (which I found) and a lateral hazard that falls acutely to the right. Precision is key on this approach.
Hole 14: Par 4 (384/366/331/298)
Fifteen is a fairly straight-away par four around 400 yards. Like much of the course, there is little room for error off the tee, and the green is short (17 yards from front to back) but wide.
Hole 15: Par 4 (412/399/358/310)
Sixteen is an awesome golf hole, with a wide fairway (for TimberStone) that leads to a huge uphill approach that is well above the deep right-side bunkers and fairway area. The fairway of the approach area runs laterally to this trap, and leaves hell to pay if bunkered.
Hole 16: Par 4 (422/405/370/317)
Hole 16: Par 4 (422/405/370/317)
Seventeen: Wow. Not much else to say.
This is the most highly elevated tee shot I have ever seen, and while the shear height implies at least two less clubs, the wind into our face made it considerably longer. I hit a five-iron on this 195-yard par three, and still wound up short (my five usually goes a little over 200 yards). The ball seems to stay in flight forever on this beautiful, lofted golf hole. The green is no treat, either, with a narrow entrance to a bi-level green that drops from front to back.
Hole 17: Par 3 (215/195/156/120)
Hole 17: Par 3 (215/195/156/120)
Following seventeen is one of the most awe-striking par fives I have ever played. “Double Black Diamond” is played down a terraced ski hill that features a periscope on top that allows those about to tee off to ensure the driving area is clear before hitting. At 595 yards from the boulder tees, eighteen plays straight downhill to a wide green shared by the ninth and eighteenth holes (the fairways are otherwise separated by a tree line).
Hole 18: Par 5 (625/595/521/460)
Hole 18: Par 5 (625/595/521/460)
Hole 18: Par 5 (625/595/521/460)
Hole 18: Par 5 (625/595/521/460)
Boulders terrace the landscaping of this hole in to three distinct fairway areas which require long, straight shots that will bound down the hillside. A small pond fronts the green in right, so aim for the back of the green to stay away from trouble. What a finish!
TimberStone ranks as one of the best all-around golfing experiences I have ever played. The conditions are remarkable, and although it is on the shorter side (6533 total yards from the boulder tees), it plays mercilessly with a second-to-back slope of 144 and rating of 72.9. These numbers are unbelievably high for a medium length course, and tell the story well about the types of shots you will be required to make to score on this course.
Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Iron Mountain, MI
Yardage: Forest-6937, Boulder-6533, Timber-5836, Stone-5077
Slope/Rating: Forest-148/75, Boulder-144/72.9, Timber-135/69.8, Stone-134/71.9
Par: 72
Weekend Rates with Cart: $100

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