Michigan golf Treetops Forest Dunes Lakes of Taylor

By Jeff BarrAugust 10, 2009, 4:00 pm
forest dunes golf michigan
The 10th hole at Forest Dunes Golf Course

GAYLORD, Mich. – Sure, Motown is struggling. And, yes, the state’s unemployment rate is hovering near 14 percent. The winters are cold and the summers are short.
But, don’t write off Michigan just yet. Fruit crops are plentiful, spring is the thing, vacation spots are around every corner, and golf – the reason we’re here today – is as abundant and memorable as it is beautiful and bountiful.
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Top 10 Courses in Michigan
There are approximately 700 public golf courses in Michigan, but quantity is not the top attraction when considering the Mitten State as a golf destination. Quality, particularly in the Lower Peninsula’s upper regions, is second to none.
You may run into trouble when selecting the northern-Michigan Gaylord area as a destination for a golf weekend. Not the brand of trouble that includes bunkers, water hazards, and out-of-bounds, but the kind that makes it difficult to narrow your course choices to a number that you can fit into one weekend. The golf is simply too good, and there is simply too much of it.
Treetops Resort
Web site
(888) 873-3867
Par: 70 Yardage: 6,653
Rating: 72.8 Slope: 140
Price: $115
Over the past few decades, Gaylord has become Michigan’s top golf destination. It happened almost accidentally at first: entrepreneurs with a vision began changing this region immensely. There was Everett Kircher, a ski resort mogul who built a golf resort near Boyne Mountain in the 1950s so folks would have a reason to visit in the summer; landowner Harry Melling, who saw golf’s potential – even in northern Michigan’s short season – and brought in Robert Trent Jones Sr. in 1987 to build the first course at Treetops; and rock-quarry businessman David Johnson, who added golf at Bay Harbor in 1994 as an afterthought to help attract potential homebuyers to a development he was undertaking.
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What to do after golf
Quality courses now abound in northern Michigan. Several resorts near Gaylord are worth visiting, but if you only have one weekend, Treetops is the pick. Treetops golf is pure, and it takes but one visit to understand that golf is the total focus — all other amenities are just extras.
OK, so you’ve narrowed down the resort to Treetops. Now it’s time to choose a course, right? Not necessarily. It’s customary to pick just one course as a site's best, but the layouts at Treetops are so varied and memorable that you should try to play all five. All the tracks are worth the price of admission. If forced to name the best of the bunch, the Signature Course might get the nod. The most unique is the par-3 Threetops Course.
The five courses — Robert Trent Jones Srs.’ Masterpiece (1987), Tom Fazio’s Premier (1992), and Rick Smith’s nine-hole, par-3 Threetops (1992), Signature (1993) and Tradition (1996) — offer eighty-one holes that defy visitors to find a weak link.

Video: Why Michigan is golf's summer capital
Smith’s Signature Course is a classy track that stands up to any public layout in the country. Like all the courses at Treetops, it is a picture of hardwoods, hills, valleys, and great golf holes. The Signature gets the nod when it comes to championship regulation golf at Treetops, but there is another course here that has a certain novelty that stands out, especially in a sport that prides itself on tradition: The par-3 Threetops course can be played in under two hours and it offers surreal elevation changes that make club selection a mystery and views from the tees remarkable.
Threetops was Smith’s first foray into course design, and what at first was considered a “practice run” for future projects is now a real talker in the golf industry. When the course opened, skeptical golfers paid $15 per round and were offered a money-back guarantee. Now, rounds go for $50, and the demand for tee times is fierce. The made-for-television Par-3 Shootout is held every year at Threetops, and has included such royal figures of the game as Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino, and Phil Mickelson.
Michigan’s Golf Mecca
Northern Michigan – or “Up North” to those who grew up in Michigan – has become renowned for far more than the Mackinac Bridge, Boyne Mountain skiing, and legendary stately pines that reach to the sky. Golf is now a firmly entrenched part of the landscape, so much so that the region is known as “Michigan’s Golf Mecca.”
Forest Dunes G.C.
Web site
(866) 386-3764
Par: 72 Yardage: 7,104
Rating: 74.8 Slope: 142
Price: $125
One of the northern residents is Forest Dunes Golf Club, located in Roscommon, a few miles down I-75 from the cluster of fantastic courses in Gaylord. Gaylord formerly was the only destination that came to mind when Michigan golfers headed north. But, thanks to Forest Dunes, they can cut a few miles off their trip if they choose.
Gaylord’s Treetops Resort is still a great place to play, but Forest Dunes has created a worthy stop in Roscommon. It’s a semi-private facility now, but it will be accessible for at least a few seasons to the public at large. So you vacationing players still have time to enjoy the course.
For now, Forest Dunes mixes members with Joe Public, and it seems to be working well. Just as the course features a tale of two players, it also offers a story of two layout styles in one. Several holes present contrasting design styles, giving players the chance to experience distinct experiences as they play the Tom Weiskopf design.
Half the holes play through the thick, upper Michigan woods of pine, bracken, and wildflowers surrounding Huron National Forest; and the others feature more open spaces with sand, brush, and dunes of glacial sand. It is a vexing, yet intriguing contrast.
Forest Dunes unobtrusively blends golf with nature, and has been recognized as one of the game’s top stewards of the environment. The club has been named an Audubon International Certified Golf Signature Sanctuary. The forces behind Forest Dune understand the responsibility of guarding this pristine Great Lakes land.
Weiskopf has recognized the worthy combination of a tough challenge that’s easy on the eyes. He calls Forest Dunes one of “the top three [courses] with which I have been involved in the United States.”
Players can be assured of fairness at Forest Dunes. Weiskopf insists that the fairways be at least 35 yards wide, and he made sure enough trees were cleared to give players an open shot to the greens. It’s not an easy course, but it’s a playable, enjoyable track.
The features at Forest Dunes range from the conventional to the unusual, from the serene to the exhilarating. The par-4 10th hole, named “Decision,” includes a split fairway divided by mounds and sand. The 11th features a 10,000-square-foot, crescent-shaped green.
The course saves its best for two holes near the end of your round. The par-3, 231-yard 16th demands a 200-yard carry over dunes they call “Hell’s Acres.” The 17th is a cozy, 302-yard par 4 that requires several decisions on the short trek to the green.
The course even offers a 19th hole – a 117-yarder with a postage-stamp green. Almost all who play the course take advantage of the extra hole. After playing Forest Dunes, many say 18 just wasn’t enough.
Motown Magic
If you fly into Detroit Metropolitan Airport, there is a way to avoid the four-hour trek to the northern regions of Michigan’s lower peninsula. Try an ultra-quick drive to suburban Taylor, and top-drawer golf waits.
Lakes of Taylor
Web site
(734) 287-2100
Par: 72 Yardage: 7,028
Rating: 73.4 Slope: 136
Price: $30
A couple of automobile companies are bankrupt or government-owned, and there are other troubles that continue to linger in Detroit. But quality golf is not among them. Ten minutes to the east of the city and 10 minutes to the west of the airport, Lakes of Taylor is an exceptional golf experience that adds an addendum to the definition of urban golf.
Masses of natural woodlands and acres of protected wetlands within the surrounds of aged and stately trees provide a cocoon of peace that silences the hubbub of the city. Lakes of Taylor is municipally owned course, but don’t let that scare you off. It’s definitely worth a stop (this 40-year Detroit metro-area resident puts his reputation on the line). The only reminder that it’s a muni is the mind-boggling bargain at $30 a round, including cart.
“When we design a course, we pay a lot of attention to who’s going to play the course and how they’re going to play it,” said Arthur Hills, who designed Lakes of Taylor. “While we like to make it challenging for the championship golfer, we recognize that most golf courses are not planning to have a national championship on them.”
Hills’ words should not be misunderstood. He was speaking about the forward tees. From the tips, there are forced carries of swampy areas and brush-filled danger on more than a dozen holes. This is where Lakes of Taylor makes its name and humbles many skilled players — no matter their hometown or handicap.
“If a championship is the goal,” he said of the course played from the back tees, “this is where we’d start.”
Here are a few reasons:
There are quite a few doglegs, sculpted by mature trees and water hazards, with bunkers strategically placed. If found, the landing areas are fair, with flat lies and solid looks and sound angles toward the pins.
Accuracy off the tee offers open spots from which to approach, but errant drives prove pertinently penal. Roughs are one cut in from the brush, but still, approaching from the rough is almost certain to add one stroke per hole. Cutting doglegs on par 5s is not advisable, unless confidence and good fortune are consistent companions.
And, get with the locals before your round. Inside info on the course is a stroke-saving must, and you can verify if the Taylor players are justified in their appreciative comments.
But, as previous descriptions of the Great Lakes State’s golf indicates, there are courses far from the metropolitan center that also justify the pride of Michigan golfers. Staying near the airport works, as does packing the trunk of a rental car and heading Up North.
And keep your eyes peeled.
You’ll spot plenty of superb places to play along the way.
For tee times in Michigan click here.
Jeff Barr is a Dearborn, Michigan, native and a longtime golf and travel writer who has penned three books on golf and travel. His most-recent book, “1001 Golf Holes You Must Play Before You Die” (Sellers Publishing) is available at book stores and at www.rsvp.com. Barr’s book, “Golf’s Best-Kept Secret’s (Sellers Publishing), is due out in Fall 2009.
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Woods (70) better in every way on Day 1 at Honda

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 8:40 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Consider it a sign of the times that Tiger Woods was ecstatic about an even-par score Thursday at the Honda Classic.

It was by far his most impressive round in this nascent comeback.

Playing in a steady 20-mph wind, Woods was better in all facets of the game Thursday at PGA National. Better off the tee. Better with his irons. And better on and around the “scratchy” greens.

He hung tough to shoot 70 – four shots better than his playing partner, Patton Kizzire, a two-time winner this season and the current FedExCup leader – and afterward Woods said that it was a “very positive” day and that he was “very solid.”

It’s a small sample size, of course – seven rounds – but Woods didn’t hesitate in declaring this “easily” his best ball-striking round of the year.

And indeed it was, even if the stats don’t jump off the page.

Officially, he hit only seven of 14 fairways and just 10 greens, but some of those misses off the tee were a few paces into the rough, and some of those iron shots finished just off the edge of the green.

The more telling stat was this: His proximity to the hole (28 feet) was more than an 11-foot improvement over his first two starts this year. And also this: He was 11th among the early starters in strokes gained-tee to green, which measures a player’s all-around ball-striking. Last week, at Riviera, he ranked 121st.

“I felt very comfortable,” he said. “I felt like I hit the ball really well, and it was tough out there. I had to hit a lot of knockdown shots. I had to work the golf ball both ways, and occasionally downwind, straight up in the air.

“I was able to do all that today, so that was very pleasing.”

The Champion Course here at PGA National is the kind of course that magnifies misses and exposes a player if he’s slightly off with his game. There is water on 15 of the 18 holes, and there are countless bunkers, and it’s almost always – as it was Thursday – played in a one- or two-club wind. Even though it’s played a half hour from Woods’ compound in Hobe Sound, the Honda wasn’t thought to be an ideal tune-up for Woods’ rebuilt game.

But maybe this was just what he needed. He had to hit every conceivable shot Thursday, to shape it both ways, high and low, and he executed nearly every one of them.

The only hole he butchered was the par-5 third. With 165 yards for his third shot, he tried to draw a 6-iron into a stiff wind. He turned it over a touch too much, and it dropped into the bunker. He hit what he thought was a perfect bunker shot, but it got caught in the overseeded rye grass around the green and stayed short. He chipped to 3 feet and then was blown off-balance by a wind gust. Double.

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But what pleased Woods most was what he did next. Steaming from those unforced errors, he was between a 2- and 3-iron off the tee. He wanted to leave himself a 60-degree wedge for his approach into the short fourth hole, but a full 2-iron would have put him too close to the green.

So he took a little off and “threw it up in the air” – 292 yards.

“That felt really good,” Woods said, smiling. And so did the 6-footer that dropped for a bounce-back birdie.

"I feel like I'm really not that far away," he said. 

To illustrate just how much Woods’ game has evolved in seven rounds, consider this perspective from Brandt Snedeker.

They played together at Torrey Pines, where Woods somehow made the cut despite driving it all over the map. In the third round, Woods scraped together a 70 while Snedeker turned in a 74, and afterward Snedeker said that Woods’ short game was “probably as good or better than I ever remember it being.”

A month later, Snedeker saw significant changes. Woods’ short game is still tidy, but he said that his iron play is vastly improved, and it needed to be, given the challenging conditions in the first round.

“He controlled his ball flight really well and hit a bunch of really good shots that he wasn’t able to hit at Torrey, because he was rusty,” said Snedeker, who shot 74. “So it was cool to see him flight the ball and hit some little cut shots and some little three-quarter shots and do stuff I’m accustomed to see him doing.”

Conditions are expected to only get more difficult, more wind-whipped and more burned out, which is why the winning score here has been single-digits under par four of the past five years.

But Woods checked an important box Thursday, hitting the shots that were required in the most difficult conditions he has faced so far.

Said Snedeker: “I expect to see this as his baseline, and it’ll only get better from here.”

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Players honor victims of Parkland school shooting

By Ryan LavnerFebruary 22, 2018, 8:36 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – PGA Tour players are honoring the victims in the Parkland school shooting by wearing ribbons on their hats and shirts.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is located about 45 miles from PGA National, site of this week’s Honda Classic.

“It’s awful what happened, and anytime the Tour can support in any way a tragedy, we’re always going to be for it,” Justin Thomas said. “Anytime there’s a ribbon on the tees for whatever it may be, you’ll see most, if not all the guys wearing it. Something as simple and easy as this, it’s the least we could do.”

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The school shooting in Parkland, which claimed 17 lives, is the second-deadliest at a U.S. public school.

Tiger Woods, who lives in South Florida, offered this: “It’s just a shame what people are doing now, and all the countless lives that we’ve lost for absolutely no reason at all. It’s just a shame, and what they have to deal with, at such a young age, the horrible tragedy they are going to have to live with and some of the things they’ve seen just don’t go away.”

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Thomas' game on track for Masters

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 8:22 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Justin Thomas likes where his game is trending.

He said that on the eve of the Honda Classic.

With the Masters just six weeks away, that’s where trends are aimed as the Florida swing makes its start.

Thomas made another encouraging move Thursday to get his game ready for a chance at winning back-to-back major championships.

A 3-under-par 67 moved him a shot off the lead in the first round at PGA National’s Champion Course.

Thomas, who won five times on his way to winning PGA Tour Player of the Year honors last season, is feeling something special brewing as he seeks to claim his first title of this calendar year.

“I've been playing well all year,” Thomas said. “Just haven't had much to show for it. I feel like I'm close to reeling off a couple tournaments here. I just need to stay patient.”

Thomas put together a strong start playing in a pairing in front of Tiger Woods, a spot that comes with challenges, with galleries on the move setting up to watch Woods.

Thomas, who played with fans causing problems at Riviera last week, said galleries weren’t an issue.

The Honda Classic isn’t a major, but it looks like it will present the sternest test of the year so far.

The Champion Course is always a brute, but it sets up as a particularly grueling test this year, with Florida’s winter winds blowing briskly right from Thursday morning’s start.

“It was a very tough day out there, very windy, tough crosswinds,” Thomas said. “I was a little bummed to see that the weather showed a little bit more wind in the morning than the afternoom.”

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The course is also playing firmer and faster than it typically does.

Thomas, 24, confirmed how solid his ball striking is in a round of six birdies and three bogeys.

“The players know it's a tough golf course,” Jack Nicklaus said earlier this week. “It's going to be a handfull this week, with a dry golf course. This golf course plays much more difficult when it's dry ... and it's a little breezy.

“You're going to see some very interesting rounds. You might hear a couple complaints.”

Not from Thomas, who lives in nearby Jupiter.

“Any time you're even or better on this course, on a day like today, was definitely positive,” he said.

Thomas’ 67 is confirmation his game is shaping up for the test at Augusta National, where he will be looking to add a green jacket to the Wanamaker Trophy he won at the PGA Championship last August.

“I love where my game is trending for Augusta,” Thomas said Wednesday. ”I feel like I'm getting, just very, very slowly, better every week ... I'm improving on the things I need to improve on.”

A victory would be the ultimate confirmation he’s getting major championship ready.

“I'd like to have a chance to win one of these next three events before Augusta,” he said.

Thomas is coming off a tie for ninth at the Genesis Open last week. He was T-17 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open before that and T-14 at the Sony Open before that.

Thursday’s round heated up with Thomas making four birdies in the middle of the round. He chipped in for birdie at the seventh (his 16th hole of the day) to get to 4 under before making bogey at the difficult 17th, where he just missed the green short playing into the wind and left his chip 20 feet short.

“I hit probably one of my better shots in the Bear Trap, that just ended up in a horrible lie,” he said.

Thomas headed home eager to keep his promising trend going.

“It's definitely a little better feeling going to sleep and waking up in your own bed,” Thomas said.

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Hoffmann's goal: Use golf to cure muscular dystrophy

By Randall MellFebruary 22, 2018, 7:17 pm

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Morgan Hoffmann sees more opportunities on a leaderboard than ever before.

His run into early contention at the Honda Classic Thursday gives him more than a chance to win a trophy and a big check.

He sees it as a chance to change more than his life.

Hoffmann has muscular dystrophy.

He shared that news with the world at the end of last year in a heart-rendering fashion.

“Today I know that am so damn lucky,” he wrote about his opportunities as a PGA Tour pro in a first-person story for The Players’ Tribune in December. “Because I’ve found my calling, and it’s one far beyond golf.”

With a 3-under-par 67 at PGA National’s Champion Course, Hoffmann moved into contention to win his first PGA Tour title. He also moved into position to advance his cause.

“Hopefully find a cure,” Hoffmann, 28, said after a round of four birdies and a bogey left him a shot off the lead.

Hoffmann believes that is why he was put on this earth.

“So that when a child is diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, there will be a cure,” he says.

Hoffmann has to overcome some physical challenges to keep playing, and he has been struggling with his game this year, but he says that is more about the dynamics of the swing than the disease. He arrived at the Honda Classic off five consecutive missed cuts and a first-round withdrawal from last week’s Genesis Open.

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“I've lost a lot of speed in my swing, but my swing is still there,” Hoffman said. “I'm on plane. It's not like it's really killing my golf game. This isn't the reason for the last missed cuts. I've been working on a lot of things.”

Hoffman’s type of MD causes degeneration of muscles in the chest, back, neck, arms and sometimes the legs. He has particularly struggled with his pectoral muscles.

With a special diet, he’s attacking his issues. And with the help of his team of family and friends, he’s fighting for the larger cause. He’s aiming to build a wellness center, a kind of health superstore. He’s planning an inaugural fundraising pro-am Aug. 20 in Paramus, N.J.

Hoffmann was shaken by the blow when a doctor delivered the diagnosis in 2016, but his attitude since has been inspiring.

“The doctor wasn't nice,” Hoffman said. “He was like, `Yeah, you have it.’ I went, `Well, all right, I'm speechless . . . What can I do?’ He's like, `There's no cure,’ and he basically hung up. I was pretty pissed off.”

But Hoffman came out of that quickly. He’s excited about the doctor he’s working with today and the health and wellness plan he is following.

“I could become a recluse and feel bad for myself, but what's that going to do?” he said. “I love being out here, and I love playing on the PGA Tour, and that's my dream. To help people, ultimately, is my goal. I think I can do really special things with this platform.”