My Top 50 Golf Courses in America

When my brother and his wife bought me a golf ball cabinet about ten years ago, I started collecting logo balls from all the different courses I played. I hadn’t started my foray in to golf writing at the time so its contents grew slowly but steadily, consisting primarily of muni tracks around Waukesha County.

I started WiscoGolfAddict in 2011, and during that year played 59 different courses including three of my first private clubs. With 2012 came my first out-of-state golf trips: Myrtle Beach with my cousins Frank and Jeff, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with a group of friends. It was also the year I played my first Tour courses, including Erin Hills, Blackwolf Run’s River course, Chambers Bay, University Ridge and Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread. I played 126 rounds in 2012 at a total of 52 different courses.

While I’d consider 2012 to be the year that opened my eyes to world-class golf, I’d also consider it to be the year that opened my eyes to the way golf can drain my bank account. An audit of my post-season golf charges that year was just shy of $10,000.

My first media event invites started coming in 2013, first for a pre-event media day at the John Deere Classic at TPC Deere Run, and soon after a weekend trip to Madden’s Resort on Gull Lake in Brainerd, Minnesota. Exciting things with my golf writing were starting to snowball, and they have only continued to this day.

Through my writing I have experienced amazing public and private golf courses around the country, built out a wonderful network of industry experts and friends, and am continuously learning about all the things that make golf great – especially from the design and architectural side.

The experts (Doak, Fazio, Coore, Crenshaw, Jones, Staples, Trent Jones, Jr, …) may score 80-95 on a scale of 100 for their course design knowledge. I can’t claim to know more than 10-20, which is probably still generous, but the path to learning is filled with playing new styles of courses and constantly picking up on the both subtle and not-so-subtle nuances that architects institute in their designs. It’s an adventure I hope to enjoy for years to come.

While Golf Digest, GolfWeek and Golf.com release their best courses in the US lists on an annual or semi-annual basis, I have just one: This running list of the 50 tracks I consider to be the best in the country… out of the hundreds that I’ve played.

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1. Pacific Dunes (Bandon, OR)

Architect: Tom Doak (2001)
Yardages: Black-6633, Green-6142, Gold-5775
Slope/Rating: Black-142/73.0, Green-133/70.7, Gold-129/68.6

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The Top 50 Golf Courses in America (click here for the list)

The Country’s Best Non-Wisconsin Golf Courses… That I’ve Played

My brother and his wife bought me a golf ball cabinet (shown at the bottom of this post) about ten years ago, and I started collecting logo balls from all the different courses I played.

I filled the cabinet years ago, and when I had to start replacing really good golf courses in order to add new ones I figured it was time for a new cabinet. Researching options online, I saw some good looking cabinets but nothing that really screamed to me – especially not for hundreds of dollars.
I decided to create one. During a week where my wife was on the road for work, I spent over 30 hours in the basement backroom constructing, painting, sanding, staining, allowing it to dry, drilling… Over and over again until I had a 203-ball cabinet that is everything I wanted it to be.
I’m sure this one will eventually fill up, too, but my golf ball display case now has room to grow.
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From left to right, top to bottom: Row 1: Lake Breeze (FL), Kettle Hills, TimberStone (MI), Bristlecone Pines, Horseshoe Bay, Wild Ridge, Wild Rock, Castle at the Bay, Stone Creek (OR), Chambers Bay (WA), Lawsonia, Pumpkin Ridge (OR), The Wilderness at Fortune Bay (MN), Blue Mound CC, Muskego Lakes, Kettle Moraine, Devils Head Row 2: Vail (CO), Mee-Kwon, Willbrook Plantation (SC), The Legend at Bristlecone, The Bull at Pinehurst Farms, TPC Deere Run (IL), Kiva Dunes (AL), Pine Hills CC, Bandon Dunes (OR), Whistling Straits, Streamsong (FL), WGA logo ball, The Classic at Madden’s Resort (MN), Rolling Hills, Whispering Springs, Drugan’s Castle Mound, Wanaki, Quit Qui Oc Row 3: Paganica, Rock River Hills, Hartford, Deer Creek, Baraboo CC, West Bend CC, Geneva National, University Ridge, ThunderHawk (IL), Dismal River (NE), Sand Valley, Pacific Dunes (OR), Kiawah Island Ocean Course (SC), Milwaukee CC, Chicago Highlands (IL), Hawk’s View, Edgewood, Morningstar, Lake Arrowhead, Arrowhead HS Row 4: West Bend Lakes, Atlantis (Bahamas), Tuckaway CC, Kiawah Island Osprey Pointe (SC), Strawberry Creek, Bandon Preserve (OR), The Harvester (IA), RTJ Ross Bridge (AL), The Prairie Club (NE), Johnsonville Sausage, Old Macdonald (OR), Bandon Trails (OR), SentryWorld, Big Fish, Washington County GC, Golden Sands, Songbird Hills, Willow Run Row 5: The Preserve at Deer Creek, Rainbow Springs, Grand Geneva, River Club (SC), Fire Ridge, Harborside International (IL), Racine CC, SentryWorld (old), Blackwolf Run, Erin Hills, North Hills CC, Torrey Pines (CA), Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread (IL), World Woods (FL), Bulls Eye CC, TPC Tampa Bay (FL), Blackstone Creek, Old Hickory Row 6: Western Lakes, Fox Hills, Nagawaukee, Juliette Falls (FL), Sweetgrass (MI), Ozaukee CC, Greywalls (MI), Peninsula (AL), PGA Championship at Whistling Straits, Westmoor CC, Bishops Bay, Ironwood, Christmas Mountain, Oakwood Park, Dretzka Row 7: McCall CC (ID), Broadlands, Missing Links, Brighton Dale, Shepherds Crook (IL), Fairways of Woodside, The Oaks, True Blue (SC), Hawk’s Landing, Trapper’s Turn, The Bog, Chula Vista, New Berlin Hills, Silver Spring, Lake Jovita

I have been blessed to be able to play some great golf courses over the past half decade, both in Wisconsin and out. This listing is dedicated to the top ten golf courses I have played in the country, outside of our great state.

This does not mean that these are the top ten courses in the United States, of course – merely the top ten that I have played.

Living in Wisconsin gives a lot of great reasons to stay in-state for golf, but the Winter provides an even better excuse to play outside of it, as well. Without further adieu, here are my favorite non-Wisconsin courses in the country.

1. Pacific Dunes (Bandon, OR):

Yardages: Black-6633, Green-6142, Gold-5775
Slope/Rating: Black-142/73, Green-133/70.7, Gold-129/68.6
Golf Digest: #2 US public, #18 US top 100, 18 toughest, #1 Oregon
GolfWeek: #2 US modern, #1 US resort, #1 Oregon
Golf.com: #1 US public, #20 world, #12 US top 100, #1 Oregon
Architect: Tom Doak (2001)

Maybe the most awarded public course in the entire country, Pacific Dunes is the crown jewel of the Bandon Dunes Golf Resort property. Chocked full of spectacular views from the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the winds and elements that come in to play at Pacific Dunes help create a truly European golfing experience right here in the United States.

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The beautiful par four 4th at Pacific Dunes

Pacific Dunes Website

 

2. Bandon Dunes (Bandon, OR):

Yardage: Black-6759, Green-6247, Gold-5751
Slope/Rating: Black-130/73.6, Green-129/71.1, Gold-122/68.7
Golf Digest: #7 US public, #37 US top 100, #33 toughest, #2 Oregon
GolfWeek: #8 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #8 US public, #63 world, #34 US top 100, #2 Oregon
Architect: David McLay Kidd (1999)

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Maybe the country’s best drivable par four – the 16th at Bandon Dunes

Bandon Dunes Website

3. Kiawah Island, Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, SC):

Yardages: Tournament-7356, Ocean-6779, Dye-6475, Kiawah-6202
Slope/Rating: Tournament-144/77.3, Ocean-138.73.6, Dye-134/72, Kiawah-132/70.9
Golf Digest: #21 US top 100, #3 US public, #1 South Carolina, #44 world
GolfWeek: #15 modern, #1 South Carolina, #8 resort
Golf.com: #6 top 100 you can play, #25 US, #1 South Carolina
Architect: Pete Dye (1991)

Site of one of the most dominant PGA Championship victories in the history of golf (Rory McIlroy decimated the field in 2012), the 1991 “War by the Shore,” and of course the upcoming 2021 Ryder Cup, the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island is an esteemed Pete Dye design on one of the most beautiful pieces of land in the country.

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Hole 2: Par 5 (543/528/501/495/419)

Kiawah Island Golf Resort, Ocean Course Website

4. The Prairie Club, Dunes Course (Valentine, NE):

Yardages: Tour-8073, White-7525, Blue-7099
Slope/Rating: Tour-135/75.0, White-133/72.4, Blue-128/71.7
Golf Digest: #35 US public, #3 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #82 US modern, #2 Nebraska public, #21 US resort
Golf.com: #74 US public, #1 Nebraska public
Architect: Tom Lehman (2010)

Maybe the most underrated course on the entire top 100 courses list for every major publication, the Dunes course at The Prairie Club in the Sand Hills of Nebraska is a world-class Tom Lehman design that rewards and punishes golfers over its 8,000-plus yards of links golf.

The highest rated track at one of the most unique, remote golf destinations in the country, the golf and resort at The Prairie Club are well worth the travel time.

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The par three 7th on the Dunes course at The Prairie Club

5. Old MacDonald (Bandon, OR):

Yardages: Black-6944, Green-6320, Gold-5658
Slope/Rating: Black-133/74.1, Green-127/71.3, Gold-119/68.2
Golf Digest: #12 US public, #55 US top 100,  #3 Oregon
GolfWeek: #6 US modern, #5 US resort, #2 Oregon
Golf.com: #10 US public, #88 world, #45 US top 100, #3 Oregon
Architects: Tom Doak and Jim Urbina (2010)

Designed by Tom Doak and Jim Urbina, and opened to the public in 2010 as Bandon Dunes Resort’s fourth course, Old MacDonald pays homage to arguably the greatest golf course designer of all time, Charles Blair MacDonald. “What would C.B. MacDonald have created on this magnificent parcel of rural land alongside the Pacific Ocean?” Doak and Urbina’s design is masterful in its simplicity, with wide open fairways but the hardest green complexes I have ever seen. Paradoxically, Old MacDonald’s greens are the largest greens in the world.

Old MacDonald offers a unique experience: True and spectacular links golf in the United States.

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The par four 14th at Old Macdonald

Old MacDonald Website

6. Streamsong, Red Course (Streamsong, FL)

Yardages: Green-7148, Black-6584, Silver-6094, Gold-5184
Slope/Rating: Green-130/74.2, Black-125/71.7, Silver-119/69.4, Gold-122/70
Golf Digest: #18 US public, #100 US greatest overall, #4 Florida
GolfWeek: #30 US modern, #2 Florida public, #12 US resort
Golf.com: #52 US top 100, #12 US public, #2 Florida public
Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2012)

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Tee shot on the par five 18th on the Red course at Streamsong Golf Resort – missing here is the incredibly well constructed green

Streamsong Resort Website

7. Chambers Bay (University Place, WA):

Yardages: Teal-7585, Sand-6513, Navy-7165
Slope/Rating: Teal-142/76.8, Navy-139/75.6, Sand-135/72.4
Golf Digest: #26 US public, #2 Washington
GolfWeek: #29 US modern, #1 Washington public
Golf.com: #64 US top 100, #17 US public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. with Bruce Charlton and Jay Blasi (2007)

Site of the 2010 US Amateur, and future site of the 2015 US Open, Chambers Bay is Scottish golf on American soil… Beautiful American soil, that is, nestled among the cliffs alongside the Puget Sound just outside of Seattle.

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“The Lone Fir” at Chambers Bay – one of four out-of-this-world par threes

8. Dismal River, Tom Doak “Red” Course (Mullen, NE):

Yardage: 6994-4830 (range), club tees-6334
Slope/Rating: Not Available
Golf Digest: #2 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #23 US modern
Architect: Tom Doak (2013)

One of Golf Digest’s best new courses in 2014, and GolfWeek’s #23 overall course in the United States for 2015, the Red course at Dismal River is the perfect complement to the Nicklaus White course at the same club.

A softer course with great angles and beautiful scenery, the Doak course is a must-play for anyone visiting the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

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A look back at the rolling terrain beyond the 18th hole of Doak’s fabulous Red course at Dismal River

Dismal River Golf Club Website

9. Bandon Trails (Bandon, OR):

Yardage: Black-6759, Green-6247, Gold-5751
Slope/Rating: Black-130/73.6, Green-129/71.1, Gold-122/68.7
Golf Digest: #14 US public, #74 US top 100, #4 Oregon
GolfWeek: #21 US modern, #9 US resort, #4 Oregon
Golf.com: #13 US public, #49 US top 100, #4 Oregon
Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (2005)

The perfect complement to the coastal, links courses at Bandon Dunes Golf Resort, Bandon Trails is a masterfully created Coore/Crenshaw design that features out-of-this-world elevation changes among sand dunes, meadows and rich forests.

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The controversial, yet spectacular, par four 14th at Bandon Trails

Bandon Trails Website

10. Streamsong, Blue Course (Streamsong, FL):

Yardages: Green-7176, Black-6698, Silver-6285, Gold-5531
Slope/Rating: Green-131/74.1, Black-127/72, Silver-123/69.7, Gold-122/71.6
Golf Digest: #24 US public, #6 Florida
GolfWeek: #43 US modern, #3 Florida public, #14 US resort
Golf.com: #62 US top 100, #16 US public, #3 Florida public
Architect: Tom Doak (2012)

A slightly “Softer” course than its sister Red course at Streamsong, the Blue course features wide fairways and diabolical greens.

Featuring the signature par three hole of all par three signature holes, the Blue course is a wonderful combination of strategic golf and beautiful scenery in the most un-Florida-like setting of Florida.

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Quite possibly the world’s most photographed par three, the 7th on the Red course at Streamsong

Streamsong Resort Website

11. Shoreacres Golf Club (Lake Bluff, IL):

Yardages: Black-6530, Raynor-6309, Green-5457
Slope/Rating: Black-133/71.4, Raynor-130/70.4, Green-120/66.5
Golf Digest: #99 US top 100, #7 Illinois
GolfWeek: #20 US classic
Golf.com: #30 US top 100
Architect: Seth Raynor (1921)

One of the best back nines ever, and a truly ingenious layout and routing by Seth Raynor make this Illinois gem one of the country’s perennial best of the bests.

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Seth Raynor’s ultimate masterpiece? The back nine he created among the ravines at Shoreacres is amazing

12. Reynolds Plantation, Great Waters (Greensboro, GA):

Yardage: One-7073, Two-6581, Three-6069, Four-5667, Five-5107
Slope/Rating: One-138/74.0, Two-133/71.9, Three-129/69.6, Four-122/67.7, Five-126/70.1
Architect: Jack Nicklaus (1992)

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Reynolds Lake Oconee, Great Waters Website

13. The Classic at Madden’s on Gull Lake (Brainerd, MN):

Yardages: Tour-7102, Black-6717, Blue-6438
Slope/Rating: Tour-145/75.6, Black-141/73.9, Blue-134/72.1
Golf Digest: #63 US public, #10 Minnesota
GolfWeek: #8 Minnesota public
Golf.com: #5 Minnesota public
Architects: Scott Hoffman, Geoffrey Cornish, John Harris and Warren Rebholz (1996)

The Classic at Madden’s has been a perennially top 100 rated course in the United States for the past eleven years, and for great reason.

This course was designed from the tournament tee boxes in, allowing for a challenging and fun track to all skill levels of golfers.

2013 finds the Classic with a new charge: Trying to return the game of golf to walking and/or facilitating their world class caddy program. The signature (if you can say there is only one) hole on the course, the par four eleventh, was voted one of the three prettiest golf holes in the state of Minnesota.

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Consistently voted one of the most beautiful golf holes in the state of Minnesota, the par four 11th is an absolute masterpiece

14. Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club (Marquette, MI):

Yardages: Black-6828, Gray-6685, White-6114
Slope/Rating: Black-144/73, Gray-140/71.4, White-132/69.2
Golf Digest: #9 Michigan
GolfWeek: #66 US modern, #2 Michigan public
Golf.com: #81 US public, #3 Michigan public
Architect: Mike DeVries (2005)

From the first tee on, the Greywalls course at Marquette Golf Club is unlike any course I had ever played or seen. Tremendous elevation changes, picturesque cliffs and rock walls, and exaggerated mounding and undulations make for a “Wild and wooly” golfing experience at this U.P. golfing gem.

Greywalls is anything but fair, but provides one unique and visually mezmorizing hole after another. Rated the number two public course in the state of Michigan, this course is well worth the drive and $130 greens fee.

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Mountain golf in the Midwest? You can’t beat Greywalls at the Marquette Golf Club or “The Perfect Foursome” golf trip in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

15. The Harvester (Rhodes, IA):

Yardages: Black-7340, Blue-6840, White-6430
Slope/Rating: Black-140/76, Blue-132/73.1, White-128/70.8
Golf Digest: #42 US public, #1 Iowa
GolfWeek: #99 US modern, #1 Iowa public
Golf.com: #55 US public, #1 Iowa public
Architect: Keith Foster (2000)

A Midwest new-school gem from Keith Foster, The Harvester is rated perennially as the number one course in the state of Iowa, and top 50 in the country.

Foster masters the use of angles and setting up strategic golf at The Harvester, making it a true shot-makers paradise.

The Harvester features one of the best sets of par three holes I have ever seen – equaled only by courses like Whistling Straits, Chambers Bay, SentryWorld and Blackwolf Run.

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The par three 8th at The Harvester – one of 18 fabulous golf holes 

The Harvester Website

16. Dismal River, Jack Nicklaus / “White” Course (Mullen, NE):

Yardages: Black-7457, Gold-6726, White-6046
Slope/Rating: Black-149/77, Gold-139/73.2, White-135/69.6
Golf Digest: #5 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #168 US modern
Architect: Jack Nicklaus (2006)

One of the toughest golf courses in the entire country, the “White” course at the Dismal River Club is a brute of a golf track! It is also absolutely gorgeous, features some of the greatest use of elevation I have ever seen and is a ton of fun to play.

Reviews of the Nicklaus course have been mixed throughout the years, with some saying it is an unfair course or difficult for the point of being difficult (ie: The sand trap in the middle of an elevated green complex). I disagree, though, I think it offers an unparalleled golfing experience with some of the most unique golf holes in the country.

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The most dramatically challenging tee shot I’ve ever played – the 18th on Jack Nicklaus’s White course at Dismal River

17. RTJ Golf Trail at Ross Bridge (Hoover, AL)

Yardages: Black-8191, Purple-7466, Orange-6783, White-6200, Teal-5312
Slope/Rating: Black-135/78.5, Purple-127/74.9, Orange-118/71.3, White-117/68.7, Teal-123/70.2
GolfWeek: #2 Alabama public
Golf.com: #7 Alabama public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones (2005)

The premiere course on the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail, Ross Bridge is one of the five longest golf courses in the entire world – almost 8,200 yards from the tips and almost 7,500 yards from the first tees in!

The expansive yardage at RTJ Ross Bridge is far from the only jaw-dropping aspect of the course. It’s rolling terrain offers amazing vistas, almost ridiculously elevated tee shots, great conditions and practice facilities, and wonderful shot values.

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17th hole tee shot with the Ross Bridge Resort looming overhead

RTJ Trail at Ross Bridge Website

18. Kiva Dunes (Golf Shores, AL)

Yardages: Gold-7092, Blue-6464, White-5849, Red-5006
Slope/Rating: Gold-132/73.9, Blue-129/70.8, White-119/67.8, Red-115/68.5
GolfWeek: #4 Alabama public
Golf.com: #2 Alabama public
Architect: Jerry Pate (1995)

The former number one rated course in the state of Alabama, Kiva Dunes is the crown jewel of Gulf Shores golf. Designed by former US Amateur and US Open champion, Jerry Pate, the course features great conditions and beautiful scenery, not to mention an incredibly challenging layout just inland of the Gulf of Mexico.

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6th hole tee shot

Kiva Dunes Website

19. World Woods, Pine Barrens (Brooksville, FL):

Yardages: Yellow-7237, Black-6817, Green-6316
Slope/Rating: Yellow-133/75.3, Black-131/72.5, Green-125/70.2
Golf Digest: #66 US public, #23 Florida
GolfWeek: #112 US modern, #5 Florida public
Golf.com: #36 US public, #5 Florida public
Architect: Tom Fazio (1990)

A perennially top 100-rated course in the country, the Pine Barrens at World Woods is a very unique and beautiful golf course, even for Florida. World Woods does away with the typical 4-hole-types in Florida golf (houses left and houses right, house lefts and water right, water left and houses right, or water left and water right) and provides a very different, very secluded environment and wonderfully manicured golf courses.

Cut from pine tree forests, the courses at World Woods actually feature very little water, and replace it instead with sand and a surprising amount of elevation for Florida golf.

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Consistently named one of the most beautiful golf courses in the world, a look at the approach on the par four 12th on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods

20. The Prairie Club, Pines Course (Valentine, NE):

Yardages: Black-7403, White-6824, Green-6080
Slope/Rating: Black-134/75.0, White-128/72.4, Green-115/69.4
Golf Digest: #75 US public, #6 Nebraska
GolfWeek: #94 US resort, #3 Nebraska public
Golf.com: #3 Nebraska public
Architect: Graham Marsh (2010)

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Decisions… Decisions… Challenge carrying the ravine or lay up right on the glorious par five 18th on the Pines course at The Prairie Club?

21. Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Oconee (Greensboro, GA):

Yardages:
Slope/Rating:
Architect: Rees Jones (2013)

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Reynolds Lake Oconee, The Oconee Website

22. True Blue (Pawleys Island, SC):

Yardages: Black-7126, Blue-6812, White-6375
Slope/Rating: Black-145/74.3, Blue-141/72.8, White-127/70.1
Golf Digest: #29 South Carolina
GolfWeek: #6 South Carolina public
Golf.com: #77 US public
Architect: Mike Strantz (1998)

True Blue is a huge course. With seemingly as much sand as there is fairway, the course features dramatic water features and some of the most creative and visually awesome hole layouts I have ever seen – including on television.

True Blue is a must-play for any off-season group planning a trip to the Myrtle Beach area of South Carolina.

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The renowned par three 3rd at True Blue – site of an oft-played Dustin Johnson commercial for Myrtle Beach

23. Pumpkin Ridge, Witch Hollow (North Plains, OR):

Yardages: Black-139/74.7, Blue-131/72.4, White-134/69.7, Green-142/73.9
Slope/Rating: Black-7017, Blue-6537, White-6083, Green-5740
Golf Digest: #8 Oregon
GolfWeek: #151 US modern
Architect: Bob Cupp (1992)

35 minutes outside of downtown Portland, Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge has played host to some major golf events since opening in 1993, including playing host to Tiger Woods’ third and final US Amateur championship in 1996 before turning professional and changing the game of golf forever.

The course is mature beyond its 22 years of play, and with small greens, tight fairways and high fescue is a great challenge for golfers of all skill levels.

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A look back at the tough par four 14th on the Witch Hollow course at Pumpkin Ridge

Pumpkin Ridge, Witch Hollow Website

24. Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread (Lemont, IL):

Yardages: Black-7554, Gold-7144, Blue-6750
Slope/Rating-151/77.8, Gold-144/75.8, Blue-138/73.9
Golf Digest: #53 US public, #11 Illinois
GolfWeek: #134 US modern, #1 Illinois public
Golf.com: #34 US public, #1 Illinois public
Architect: Dick Wilson (1964), Rees Jones (2008)

Host to dozens of PGA events in its storied past, No. 4 Dubsdread is the number one rated golf facility in Illinois, and Golf Digest’s 18th toughest course in the country. The course is perhaps best known for its 98 deep sand traps that were structurally fortified during 2008’s course rework by Rees Jones. The bunkers, located around every green and in virtually every area a drive can land, play a major role in making this the second hardest course I have ever played.

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Insane [yet typical] bunkering on the fifth hole of Cog Hill No. 4 Dubsdread

 25. TPC Deere Run (Silvis, IL):
Yardages: Black-7075, Blue-6530, Green-6274
Slope/Rating: 141/74.4, Blue-135/71.9, Green-133/71.2
Golf Digest: #25 Illinois
GolfWeek: #6 Illinois public
Golf.com: #4 Illinois public
Architect: DA Weibring (2000)

Host to the PGA’s annual John Deere Classic, TPC Deere Run is the true golfing gem of the Quad Cities area. Situated along the Rock River, the course has been the site of some unbelievable heroics in the past couple of years, including Zach Johnson’s fairway bunker shot to two feet in a 2012 playoff, and last year’s hole-out on eighteen by then up-and-comer Jordan Spieth to force the playoff he would later win.

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The par three 16th at TPC Deere Run, host to the PGA’s annual John Deere Classic

Other Out-of-State Courses Reviewed/Photographed:

Craft Farms, Cotton Creek (Gulf Shores, AL):

Yardages: Gold-7127, Blue-6617, White-6080
Slope/Rating: Gold-133/73.3, Blue-124/71.4, White-117/69.1
Architect: Arnold Palmer (1987)

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Approach shot in to the par four 18th on the Cotton Creek course

Craft Farms Website

Harborside International, Port Course (Chicago, IL):

Yardages: Gold-7123, Blue-6589, White-5977
Slope/Rating: Gold-136/74.8, Blue-130/72.3, White-124/69.4
GolfWeek: #14 Illinois public
Designer: Dick Nugent (1995)

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The par three 15th / “Anchor Hole” at Harborside International’s Port course

Juliette Falls (Dunnellon, FL):

Yardages: Viking-7236, Platinum-6729, White-6269
Slope/Rating: Viking-143/75.4, Platinum-139/72.6, White-130/70.4
GolfWeek: #18 Florida public
Architect: John Sanford (2007)

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Dogleg left par four 8th at Juliette Falls

Kiawah Island, Osprey Point (Kiawah Island, SC):

Yardages: Tournament-6902, Osprey-6545, Fazio-6162
Slope/Rating: Tournament-135/72.8, Osprey-133/70.5, Fazio-130/69
Architect: Tom Fazio (1988)

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Hole 11: Par 3 (223/208/179/97/82)

Kiawah Island, Osprey Point Website

Lost Key Golf Club (Perdido Key, FL):

Yardages: Black-6801, Blue-6447, White-6001
Slope/Rating: Black-144/72.6, Blue-135/70.3, White-123/68.2
Architect: Arnold Palmer (1997)

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The gorgeous dogleg right par four 5th at Lost Key

Lost Key Golf Club Website

Peninsula Golf Club (Fort Morgan, AL)

Yardage:
Marsh to Lakes: Tee#1-6976, Tee#2-6472, Tee#3-5774, Honours Tee-5325
Marsh to Cypress: Tee#1-7185, Tee#2-6693, Tee#3-5889, Honours Tee-5315
Lakes to Cypress: Tee#1-7003, Tee#2-6495, Tee#3-5685, Honours Tee-5316
Slope/Rating:
Marsh to Lakes: Tee#1-125/72.6, Tee#2-116/70.1, Tee#3-104/67, Honours Tee-120/70.1
Marsh to Cypress: Tee#1-121/73.2, Tee#2-116/70.6, Tee#3-103/67.1, Honours Tee-115/68.7
Lakes to Cypress: Tee#1-124/72.
Architect: Earl Stone (1995)

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A look back at the par four 7th on the Lakes course at Peninsula Golf Club

Peninsula Golf Club Website

Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek (North Plains, OR):

Yardages: Black-6839, Blue-6386, White-5921, Red-5111
Slope/Rating: Black-147/74.5, Blue-139/72.1, White-136/69.8, Red-132/71
Golf Digest: #67 US public, #13 Oregon, Best new public (1992)
GolfWeek: #7 Oregon public
Golf.com: #56 US public, #6 Oregon public
Architect: Bob Cupp (1992)

Ghost Creek at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club is the top public course in the greater Portland area, and is named for its meandering, shows-up-when-you-don’t-expect it “Ghost Creek.”

The creek runs throughout the property, sneakily in spots that oftentimes seem to be completely safe. The course’s small greens and mature trees provide great protection against scoring, although there are fantastic opportunities to score with terrific drivable par fours and reachable par fives.

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A look at the approach on the tough par four 9th along Ghost Creek

Pumpkin Ridge, Ghost Creek Website

Reynolds Lake Oconee, The National (Greensboro, GA)

Yardage: One-7034, Two-6544, Three-6094, Four-5759
Slope/Rating: One-139/74.0, Two-138/72.0, Three-136/71.1, Four-128/68.6
Architect: Tom Fazio (2000, 2014)

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A great approach shot in to the 8th green on The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee

The National at Reynolds Lake Oconee Website

Shepherd’s Crook (Zion, IL):

Yardages: Silver-6,827/6,769, Black-6,272, Gold-6,002
Slope/Rating: Silver-128/72.1, Black-123/69.5, Gold-119/67.9
Architect: Keith Foster (1999)

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Tee shot on the par four 15th at Shepherd’s Crook

Shepherd’s Crook Website

Stone Creek (Oregon City, OR):

Yardages: Black-6873, Blue-6525, White-5989
Slope/Rating: Black-132/73.2, Blue-127/71.4, White-126/68.8
Architects: Peter Jacobsen and Jim Hardy (2002)

A gorgeous Peter Jacobsen designed course in Oregon City, Stone Creek has one of the toughest back nines I have played anywhere, with several long, uphill par fours. The property runs through a beautiful track of land with tall trees and significant changes in elevation, and was the site of my first ever even par nine – 36 on the front.

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Par three 6th over water at Stone Creek

Sweetgrass (Harris, MI):

Yardages: Black-7275, Blue-6829, White-6439
Slope/Rating: Black-143/75.2, Blue-137/73.3, White-134/71.3
GolfWeek: #12 Michigan public
Golf.com: #17 Michigan public
Architect: Paul Albanese (2008)

A beautiful new links-style course at the Island Resort and Casino in Harris, Michigan, Sweetgrass features some of the most prime golfing conditions I have found anywhere. From the tee boxes to the fairways and greens, every detail of the care and maintenance of this course is held to a high standard that provides a phenomenal golfing experience.

The seventeenth hole was an instant classic for me: A long par four over a marshland with an elevated green and traps everywhere.

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One of the coolest par fours found anywhere: The 17th at Sweetgrass, nicknamed “Turtle”

ThunderHawk (Zion, IL):

Yardages: Black-7031, Brass-6631, Silver-6124
Slope/Rating: Black-137/74.1, Brass-133/72.3, Silver-128/69.9
GolfWeek: #5 Illinois public
Golf.com: #7 Illinois public
Architect: Robert Trent Jones, Jr. (1999)

Part of the Lake County Forest Preserve, ThunderHawk is a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. course near the border of Wisconsin and Illinois. Rated as a top ten course in the country in 2010, I expected a lot from this course and was not disappointed. It helped that I shot the lowest nine at that point in my life with a front nine 39. Play slowed considerably on the back and I finished with an 86, but it was one of the most enjoyable rounds I have ever played.

ThunderHawk compares favorably to The Bull and Blackwolf Run in terrain and layout, and is what I would consider to be a fantastic “hidden gem.”

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Demanding tee shot on the par four 12th at ThunderHawk

TimberStone (Iron Mountain, MI):

Yardages: Forest-6937, Boulder-6533, Timber-5836
Slope/Rating: Forest-148/75, Boulder-144/72.9, Timber-135/69.8
GolfWeek: #89 resort, #10 Michigan public
Architect: Jerry Matthews (1996)

One of the most well-kept golf courses in the Midwest, Timberstone was to me the biggest surprise among the three courses played during our “U.P. Golf Trio” vacation. A converted ski hill during winter time, Timberstone at Pine Mountain has elevation only outdone by Greywalls, and phenomenal tee-to-green conditions that make this one of the best overall golf experiences anywhere.

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The most awe-inspiring tee shot in the Midwest: The par three 17th at TimberStone

TPC Tampa Bay (Lutz, FL):

Yardages: TPC-6898, Blue-6610, Green-6332
Slope/Rating: TPC-140/74.2, Blue-136/72.1, Green-131/70.4

A typical TPC layout with water and deep, white sand traps everywhere, and devilishly fast greens, TPC Tampa Bay is a must-play in the Tampa area.
Architect: Bobby Weed (1991)

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Tee shot on 18 at TPC Tampa Bay

World Woods, Rolling Oaks (Brooksville, FL):

Yardages: Yellow-7333, Black-6873, Green-5943
Slope/Rating: Yellow-132/74.8, Black-129/72.3, Green-121/70.3
GolfWeek: #9 Florida public
Golf.com: #11 Florida public
Architect: Tom Fazio (1991)

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A look back at the long, gorgeous downhill par three 8th on the Pine Barrens course at World Woods

Notable Media Rankings:

 


 

My previous 64-ball golf cabinet got me started with ball collecting, and I want to memorialize it here:

My brother and his wife got me a golf ball trophy cabinet four years ago for Christmas, and so I started collecting logo balls from the courses I’ve played since then. It holds 63 balls, and I’ve gotten to the point where I am now removing balls and replacing them with better courses on a regular basis.

Any time I play with somebody new, I inevitably get into the conversation of “the best course you’ve ever played.” Man, that’s a tough question, but one I am going to attempt to tackle in this post.

My trophy ball cabinet as of July 12, 2015:

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Top Row: Wilderness at Fortune Bay (MN), Stone Creek (OR), The Bull, Milwaukee CC, Erin Hills, TimberStone (MI), Chicago Highlands (IL), Classic at Madden’s (MN), Legend at Bristlecone
2nd Row: Pumpkin Ridge (OR), TPC Deere Run (IL), Lawsonia, Sand Valley, Streamsong (FL), Pacific Dunes (OR), SentryWorld, West Bend CC, University Ridge
3rd Row: Geneva National, Greywalls (MI), World Woods (FL), Whistling Straits, North Hills CC, Prairie Club (NE), Dismal River (NE), Racine CC, Washington County
4th Row: Peninsula Golf Club (AL), Strawberry Creek, Torrey Pines (CA), Bandon Trails (OR), Johnsonville Sausage, Kiva Dunes (AL), Chambers Bay (WA), Wild Rock, Sweetgrass (MI)
5th Row: True Blue (SC), The Oaks, Old Macdonald (OR), Blackwolf Run, Kiawah Island (SC), Pine Hills CC, ThunderHawk (IL), Wild Ridge, Horseshoe Bay
6th Row: Westmoor CC, Ozaukee CC, Cog Hill (IL), The Harvester (IA), Bandon Dunes (OR), Castle at the Bay, Juliette Falls (FL), Hawks Landing, Bishops Bay
7th Row: Bulls Eye CC, Big Fish, Harborside (IL), The Bog, TPC Tampa Bay (FL), Trappers Turn, Tuckaway CC, Hawks View, Grand Geneva

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: Great Value, Phenomenal Golf (MI)

The idea for our U.P. golf trip started coming together last fall. A number of friends from work have made an annual excursion to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for several years, and as a golf enthusiast and writer I had heard about it often.
When my friend, Nick, and I started putting together our Monday night golf league this past winter, the idea was to make an end of the season league championship out of the weekend. As it turned out, only seven league players were able to make the trip, and we added five more friends to make an even dozen.
For about nine months I looked at web sites that featured these three courses, and on occasion would search for golf blogs that showed pictures of them. There are not many out there, which leads me to believe these reviews should be getting a lot of hits.
It is not only because there is little competition for Google click-thrus, but also because of the mystique that these U.P. courses have: Sweetgrass, TimberStone and Greywalls are three of the most beautiful and original golf tracks I have found.
Now I know what you’re thinking: “Three top 15 courses in a state filled with unbelievable golf courses must cost a fortune!” That could not be farther from the truth. In the U.P, everything is inexpensive, and the cost of this trip is well worth the money. For $329 per person, we were provided three rounds of golf, along with a three-night stay at The Island Resort and Casino.
While a casino setting is not ideal for some of us – it can be a bit smoky, is occupied primarily by older people, and has very little else in the immediate vicinity in terms of outside entertainment – it keeps the price of the trip down, and the accommodations are more than adequate.
Some of our group likes to gamble, while others do not. One thing we all agreed on: There has to be a 2013 golf outing to the U.P.
If you are like our group, and hope to put together an outing in the U.P. next year, make sure to get on it quickly. This deal sells out fast, and if late to the party there will be very few weekends available to choose from.
We did not make the four and a half hour drive from Milwaukee to Harris, Michigan, for the casino, though, nor the accommodations. As avid golfers, we made our pilgrimage to this mecca of the Midwest golf world for one purpose: Golf.
For the purpose of playing a lot of really good golf, there are few better destinations.
I took the day off of work on Thursday, and left early on Friday morning to get in a bonus round before the trip started. I arrived in Harris, passing by their sign that congratulates the town’s 2004 high school basketball team at Bark River for winning the runner-up sportsmanship award, and was soon at The Island Resort and Casino. My hotel room would not be ready until four pm, so I made my way to the back of the hotel, to the entrance and pro shop of Sweetgrass.
One of the wonderful things about the U.P. golf trio package is the variety of outstanding golf that will be found. I have talked to a number of people who have made this golf trip who like Sweetgrass the best of the three: It is playable, and not at all gimmicky. The conditions are outstanding: The tee boxes, greens and fairways are all impeccably maintained, and the course is fair and provides countless opportunities for shot-making.
Following my round, I was excited to tell the group about how nice of a course Sweetgrass is. I found my roommate for the trip, Mitch, and a couple of other friends in the sports bar at the casino. We grabbed drinks and dinner, and made our way to the craps table.
Bad idea. Ever since a 50-minute long roll at the Atlantis a few years back in which I won some guy $38,000 (and myself $150), I have always thought I could find similar luck on the tables, but have not. An hour later, I found myself down a couple hundred bucks. My lesson was learned – this would be the end of my craps playing at The Island Resort and Casino.
Friday’s round started out with a selection of teams for a weekend long Ryder Cup tournament. We had three distinct groups of player skill levels, with four players in each category. I was on a team with Greg and Jeremy (A-level), Brian and Andy (C-level), and Nick and me (B-level). Something was in the air this day, as our team won every single matchup, and every single hole.
With a disappointed opposing team, our Ryder Cup tourney was over.
Saturday morning of our U.P. golf trip began with a delicious two dollar breakfast at the Firekeeper’s Lounge in The Island Resort and Casino. Our golf package included a plethora of coupons which can be used for one meal per day, a drink and five dollars in slots credit per day. These helped keep costs down.
After breakfast, Mitch and I made our way “nort” to Marquette. An hour and twenty minute journey, it was an easy drive and we found ourselves at Marquette Golf Club quickly enough.
Greywalls was an unforgettable golf experience. We got in eighteen and a few extra holes en route to the clubhouse, then made our way back to Harris.
Cold and wet from the prolonged rain delay and overcast conditions at Greywalls, I grabbed a [free] drink from the sports bar, quickly lost my five dollars in free slot play, and made my way to the pool and hot tub. I sat quietly by myself as a couple amassing 500-plus total pounds made out and groped each other across from me. Yikes.
Saturday was an early night capped off with an eight-man $20 poker tournament. I played well (for me), and exited in third place after being beaten on the river by Nick’s three sixes. Tough break.
Sunday morning of our U.P. golf trip came early, and so did my departure to TimberStone at Pine Mountain. The area’s only five-star golf course, TimberStone is a 50-minute drive from Harris and is on the way back to Wisconsin and what my friends consider 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 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.
Not only is the U.P. golf trip a phenomenal value, but it features three fantastic golf courses. I cannot say enough how much I am looking forward to next year’s trip. If I could play only one of them, though, which would I play? Probably Greywalls. But all three are great.
I held a little poll of my friends who attended this trip, and here is what they had to say (keep in mind, there are no losers in this scenario):
Favorite overall course: (1) Greywalls, (2) TimberStone, (3) Sweetgrass
Best hole layouts: (1) Greywalls, (2) TimberStone, (3) Sweetgrass
Best conditions: (1) TimberStone, (2) Sweetgrass, (3) Greywalls
Toughest greens: (1) Greywalls, (2) Sweetgrass, (3) TimberStone

Fastest greens: (1) Sweetgrass, (2) Greywalls, (3) TimberStone

Fairest course: (1) TimberStone, (2) Sweetgrass, (3) Greywalls

Most scorable course: (1) Sweetgrass, (2) TimberStone, (3) Greywalls

Best fairways: (1) TimberStone, (2) Sweetgrass, (3) Greywalls
Best tee boxes: (1) Sweetgrass, (2) TimberStone, (3) Greywalls
Best use of elevation: (1) Greywalls, (2) TimberStone, (3) Sweetgrass
Favorite holes: (1) Greywalls 6, (2) TimberStone 18, (3) Greywalls 5, (4) Sweetgrass 17, (5) TimberStone 17, (6) Greywalls 1, (7) Greywalls 11, (8) Sweetgrass 12, (9) TimberStone 5, (10) TimberStone 6
(1) Greywalls Hole 6: Par 3 (188/178/151/137/85)
(2) TimberStone Hole 18: Par 5 (625/595/521/460)
(3) Greywalls Hole 5: Par 4 (312/312/284/251/158)
(4) Sweetgrass Hole 17: Par 4 (427/392/381/337/325)
(5) TimberStone Hole 17: Par 3 (215/195/156/120)
(6) Greywalls Hole 1: Par 5 (579/545/509/477/416)
(7) Greywalls Hole 11: Par 4 (388/388/363/319/269)
(8) Sweetgrass Hole 12: Par 3 (214/193/173/148/121)
(9) TimberStone Hole 5: Par 5 (501/467/416/385)
(10) TimberStone Hole 6: Par 4 (413/385/349/292)

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

Golf Course Review: Greywalls at Marquette Golf Club (MI)

Saturday morning of our U.P. golf trip began with a delicious two dollar breakfast at the Firekeeper’s Lounge in The Island Resort and Casino. Our golf package included a plethora of coupons which could be used for one meal per day, a drink and five dollars in slot credits per day.
After breakfast, Mitch and I made our way up north to Marquette. About an hour and twenty minutes away, it was an easy drive and we found ourselves at Marquette Golf Club quickly enough.
As a word of advice, “Greywalls” does not come up on GPS devices, so make sure to enter “Marquette Golf Club” for directions to the course.
The entrance to the property is a little confusing. I have been hearing for years about mountainous terrain with unbelievable elevation and pristine course conditions. The entrance, though, showed the rolling terrain of the Heritage Course, designed by William Langford eight years after he and Theodore Moreau designed the Links Course at Lawsonia.
I was uncertain we were at the right place, but we continued up the driveway past the quaint clubhouse to the small pro shop. I asked the bag drop if we were at the right place, and he replied that we were and that Greywalls is actually a short golf cart drive away.
The driving range and practice facility are minimal at this time, but Head Golf Professional Marc Gilmore informed me that plans are in the works for new facilities that will be dedicated solely to Greywalls’ course and location. With a down economy, this could be a couple years in the distance, but will happen soon enough.
I cannot say enough how much it would mean to this area’s economy to get the mines opened up again. I will avoid getting on any conservative soap boxes at this time, though.
Marc was incredibly accommodating with our group, setting up hole contests for long drives and putts, and closest to pins on par threes and fours. He and his staff are some of the nicest, most welcoming golf professionals I have met since starting this venture.
While Marc is seemingly soft-spoken and welcoming, the course is not. We left the practice facility about fifteen minutes prior to our first tee time, and began the journey to the legend that would become Greywalls.
Down a long, meandering pathway, the drive led us through dense woods and around bends, up hills and to our first view of the championship course. We stopped beyond the green of the seventh hole, where Marc had us check out the location of the 150-yard marker in the middle of a steep downhill embankment that was littered with rock cliffs and drastic fairway mounding. This is the only 150-yard marker that is not visible from the tee boxes.
My friend, Greg, got out of his cart and asked me if my shorts were still clean. Gross, sure, but almost a valid question considering the circumstances.
Greywalls is “wild and wooly,” Marc explained, and we would find out all about that as the round progressed. Designed by Mike DeVries, the course opened seven years ago and has deservedly received high acclaim from golf critics and enthusiasts, including a number two ranking among public courses in the state of Michigan.
Very little of the 1830’s gold and silver mine land was moved in the cultivation of this course, which is noticeable in every aspect of its layout and results in impressive character that is like nothing I had ever seen.
We got back in the carts and made our way up and around a sharp hill, arriving at the starter’s building and snack shop that is located between the first and tenth hole tee boxes.
If the green area of the seventh hole was not impressive enough, the view from the tiny practice green located here took my breath away. Overlooking deep woods and Lake Superior on the horizon, the vista from this vantage point sprawls seemingly forever.
The picture-taking began. I would go on to take 164 of them, and almost all are frame-worthy. This is not intended to say anything about my photography skills, but instead speaks volumes of the incredible scenery and natural beauty of Greywalls and its terrain and layout.
Putting green at Greywalls
The practice green is quick. Not quite as quick as the greens at Sweetgrass, but very fast… This could be a long day.
My group would tee off first, and the driving area on one is intimidating. A huge downhill landing area is substantially mounded and runs from left to right. It seems we are at the top of the world. Do not be intimidated by this tee shot, though. Swing away with all you’ve got. Find the fairway and then hit anything in the bag that goes straight. The downhill fairway will carry it as long as it needs to go.
Hole 1: Par 5 (579/545/509/477/416)
Look back to the tee boxes on hole 1
Hole 1: Par 5 (579/545/509/477/416)
This is where the first hole gets tricky: The green is highly elevated over its front entrance, and a back pin location was just a few yards from a sharp drop-off to a backside deposit area. The green on one is representative of most at Greywalls: Extreme mounds and edges that will shepherd misread or over-hit putts off the putting surfaces.
Hole 1: Par 5 (579/545/509/477/416)
Two is one of the trickiest holes on the course. Look for the 150-yard marker in the middle of the fairway, and hit to it. Do not get greedy on this tee shot, as the right side drops off severely to the woods, and even if it does hold will leave no shot at the green. With a front-left pin location, the green was quite possibly impossible. The green sweeps from a high left side vertically down to the front right. A huge hollow fronts the right side of the green, and a tall mound defends the left side. I actually hit a drawn eight-iron to this mound during my second attempt at the hole. The ball almost stopped on the side of the mound, rolled slowly down right to the front-left putting surface, then down the hill and off the right side of the green entirely. Do not expect to hit this green in regulation; just be happy if you’re close and hope to one-putt!
Hole 2: Par 4 (425/397/364/322/287)
Hole 2: Par 4 (425/397/364/322/287) at dusk
Three is the first of the par threes at Greywalls, and features a medium-length tee shot over a waste area to a green that is defender by sand and a disaster of a back-side that leaves an almost impossible chip. The sand here is dark – the U.P. sand minerals look almost like stone – but it is actually quite soft and playable.
Hole 3: Par 3 (174/164/146/115/94)
Hole 3: Par 3 (174/164/146/115/94) at dusk
Look to the right of the hole on the third green and see what looks to be the most intimidating tee shot of your life. The fourth hole tee boxes are elevated, and the entire left side is bordered by woods and steep cliffs. A mammoth hill in the middle of the fairway leads to a lower right side fairway, though, that can be played and provides bailout for a soft fade. Use this area, as anything left will not be found on the hillside.
Hole 4: Par 4 (425/379/316/256/256)
While the tee shot on four is intimidating, the tee boxes on five offer a mere sliver of an entrance to a highly elevated fairway that runs softly right to left and provides no room for error. A huge cliff wall makes up the left side of this entrance, but can be carried for an effective tee shot. Driving up the hill to the fairway affords a beautiful view of a green that is guarded on the right side by a majestic rock wall. At just 312 yards from the granite tees, this hole is very scorable if played from the fairway.
Hole 5: Par 4 (312/312/284/251/158)
Hole 5: Par 4 (312/312/284/251/158)
Hole 5: Par 4 (312/312/284/251/158)
Be prepared to be awed by the sixth hole. This is, quite simply, the most beautiful par three I have ever seen. Bar none. At 178 yards from the highly elevated tee boxes, the tee shot plays over a deep chasm that must be carried, to a putting surface that is just two feet above the tee boxes (from the black and blue tees; the white tees would be much more difficult here as the tee shot is then considerably uphill and blind).
I am only guessing here, but the canyon between the tees and green must be close to a hundred feet deep. I would be very interested in knowing what the actual depth is. What I do know is that this hole is absolutely stunning, and pictures do not do it justice. If the tee shot is not harrowing enough, the green breaks as heavily as any other on the course.
Hole 6: Par 3 (188/178/151/137/85)
Hole 6: Par 3 (188/178/151/137/85)
This stretch of holes on the front nine at Greywalls is without a doubt the single most incredible stretch of golf holes I have ever played. Almost every hole has a wow factor that caught me off guard again and again, and I found myself instinctively laughing at the absolute glory that was on display.
The seventh is another great example of this wow factor. The elevated tee boxes look out over a huge fairway that is littered with random cliff and rock formations.
Hole 7: Par 4 (489/432/347/347/304)
Greywalls is majestic and beautiful, but far from fair. Great shots to the fairway are likely to hit rock faces or cliffs, and bounce in any direction, or settle in deep collection areas at the bottom of ten foot tall fairway mounds leaving blind shots from the short grass. Even lies are rarely found, and shots from the fairway are typically played above or below in the stance.
The second shot on the seventh is played down a steep hill that is again beset with large rock surfaces. Avoid this area at all costs, and hope instead for a solid shot over it all to the green.
Eight looks tight from the tee boxes, with woods left and fairway traps and fescue right. It is more open than it looks, though, as the right side is fairly playable, and errant shots hit there can be easily found. Avoid the traps on each side of the bunker here for any chance of par.
I put my drive down the fairway, and was so relieved I forgot my camera on the rocks behind the granite tee boxes. Thunder and lightning was starting to build. The skies were dark, and rain was soon on the way.
Nine ends this unbelievable stretch of holes on the front side of Greywalls. With elevated tee boxes, Lake Superior was again visible on the horizon. The tenth hole fairway can be used for bailing out. The approach here is as delicate as any at Greywalls. The left side of the green area drops off in to almost oblivion, and the right side is lined with tall pines that we would use to wait out thirty minutes of our impending storm delay.
Hole 9: Par 4 (389/389/358/284/284)
Hole 9: Par 4 (389/389/358/284/284)
We were determined to finish off the front nine before taking shelter at the half-way house. This turned out to be a bad idea, as making the turn would mean our rain checks would be cut to nine holes. I drew a beautiful shot to the front of the green and three-putted up the steep vertical slope. We grabbed hot dogs and a beer, and stood under the tallest trees on the tallest point of the mountain. The hot dogs were delicious, by the way. You will not be disappointed in the concessions.
With everything else going on, I realized my camera was still on eight. I found it on the same rock I left it on, and although it was wet, it worked perfectly. It turns out I am lucky sometimes, after all.
A half hour in to the rain delay, we were welcomed in to the snack shop and found ourselves with the starter in a six by six room for an hour with the starter and eight guys from our group. It took another half hour to realize they had whiskey and beer for sale, and our moods then obviously started to elevate as we watched the weather forecast and warmed up.
After a front nine like that, there was no way anybody in our group would be content in heading back to Harris early. Besides, what good is a rain check for a course in the U.P. going to do us in mid-August?
We were happy to see the sun emerge for a minute or two, and soon after the rain came to a halt. My foursome hit the tenth hole tee box, and at last we got the back nine underway.
Ten can be played anywhere right of the rock walls that line the left side of the rough area. A false front runs downhill to the green, but adds ten to twenty yards to an approach that looks much easier than it is.
Hole 10: Par 4 (336/336/320/283/264)
Eleven is a fantastic, and challenging, golf hole. From extraordinarily high tee boxes, the fairway is mounded so drastically that no matter where the tee shot is hit, chances are there will be no view of the green. At 388 yards from the granite tees, there are eight sand traps in play. Drive to the fairway and then hope the second shot is headed in the right direction. The three greenside traps are deep, but the green is huge and can be easily blasted out to from them.
Hole 11: Par 4 (388/388/363/319/269)
Hole 11: Par 4 (388/388/363/319/269)
While the front nine of Greywalls winds through the old gold and silver mine and its cliffs and forests, the back nine is much more open and fair. I say this prior to telling you about a 463-yard par four, of course. The fairway on twelve is long and runs quickly downhill. Use it to get all the distance you can. As the yardage book explains, “This is a brute of a par four.”
Hole 12: Par 4 (491/463/382/350/350)
The green on the thirteenth is probably the toughest area of the hole. A 534-yard par five, it is mostly straight away, but can leave some extremely difficult putts on a putting surface that bends and breaks in all directions.
Hole 13: Par 5 (559/534/514/434/434)
The fourteenth gave our group some pretty big challenges. While the left side of the fairway provides the easiest approach to a tough green complex, the right side leaves a longer shot. My friend, John, found himself on the left side and started noticing something large moving in the bushes just feet from him. Startled, he noticed a two-foot-long porcupine moving through the brush in the opposite direction. Wild and wooly is right – or prickly. The green on fourteen is very highly perched above the approach area, and the only safe shot is to the middle.
Hole 14: Par 4 (449/449/414/401/319)
A long par three, the fifteenth sets up similarly to the third hole. Notice, though, that the wasteland in between drops significantly from the playing level to a deep canyon. This is not a hole to hit a tee shot fat on, like I did. At 202 yards from the granite tees, the third is much less intimidating after getting to the green area and seeing the twenty or thirty yards of fairway that leads to the green area. Don’t be afraid to use it.
Hole 15: Par 3 (240/202/179/129/129)
The tee shot on sixteen is primarily blind, and must be played left of the rock wall that builds up the right side of the fairway. The elevated green requires an extra club to hit, and runs long from front to back. The back side of the green falls off quickly, though, to a very deep sand trap and woods beyond.
Hole 16: Par 4 (371/371/349/319/282)
Hole 16: Par 4 (371/371/349/319/282)
Seventeen looks to be the simplest hole on the course at Greywalls. A short par three of just 137 yards from the granite tees, a lofted iron or wedge can be used, but must be played over the front side sand traps. The front-side pin location was just feet from a steep drop-off in the green that led off the back side.
Hole 17: Par 3 (137/137/121/94/94)
Eighteen is a return to the style of golf found on the front nine. With woods on both sides, the fairway drops downhill acutely. Hit a good drive on this par five (533 yards from the granite tees) to leave a second shot in the 250-280 range. From there, it is bombs away. Take the longest club in your bag on the approach, as the fairway and rough area widens to a hundred or more yards with no trouble to be found. Even if the green is reached, though, it runs 35 yards from left to right, and 32 from the front to back. Mitch hit this green in two, only to find a hundred-plus foot putt over a huge midway ridge that took four attempts to get in the hole.
Hole 18: Par 5 (533/533/463/442/369)
Hole 18: Par 5 (533/533/463/442/369)
As a side note, if you see smoke coming out of the hillside left of this green area, do not approach it. We were concerned by the site, and approached the smoke to make sure nothing was burning – what we found was the entrance of a den about two feet by two feet with smoke or heat of some kind coming out. I have no idea what was in that hole, and I was not about to stick around to find out.
In summation, Greywalls is unbelievable. At $130 a round for regular season rates, it is an expensive course but has options that make it more affordable. As I mentioned, everything in the U.P. is inexpensive. This includes season memberships at Michigan’s number two rated public golf course. U.P. residents can actually purchase unlimited season passes to Greywalls and their Heritage course for just $1,800! It is unbelievable the value that can be found in this fairly remote area.
I was pretty intimidated going in to our round at Greywalls. A friend of mine who is a far better golfer than I am told me that he shot a 104 his first time there, and another friend of ours’ (also a better golfer than me) actually shot a 120.
Needless to say, I was happy to keep my score under 100. I cannot wait to improve on that next season.

Course Wrap-Up:
Location: Marquette, MI
Yardage: Black-6828, Grey-6537, White-5908, Gold-5258, Red-4631
Slope/Rating: Black-144/73.0, Grey-138/70.7, White-130/68.2, Gold-118/67.0, Red-121/67.0
Par: 71
Weekend Rates (with cart): $130