GolfDude’s Trip Around Lake Michigan, The U-P

The last 2 days were spent in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. To say it is beautiful is an understatement. To say that the people are friendly is like saying the sky was blue. Oh, by the way? The sky WAS VERY blue!

I arrived in Iron Mountain on Monday night, ready to rest and get ready for a long day ahead. I had a 6:50 tee time at Timberstone, a course I have wanted to play for a long time. Decades, even. The course opened to rave reviews in 1997, and I have wanted to find my way up since. So I have been pumped to check this one off my list for months!

I was happy to be paired with Bill, who was visiting from Denver. He had played the course several times before, so I had a helpful guide willing to show me the way around. We teed off first, unencumbered by anyone ahead of us, and we never looked back.

The early tee time allowed us to enjoy some normal Northern Michigan weather before the heat wave kicked in. The bugs were a frustration as I warmed up, but one appliqué of bug spray held them at bay.

Timberstone is a very hilly course, as most courses connected to a ski resort are. Not a good course to walk, in case you were planning on it. The course climbs from the first hole to the 8th tee, where it returns back down quickly, a Par 3 that plays straight down hill.

The fairways and greens were perfectly manicured and true. The course lays out in front of you from every tee box, not a lot of blind shots, which can be the case on some woodsy parklands courses. The woods were slightly unforgiving, as they should be, I suppose. Your ball was lost if it crept into the brush. Accuracy off the tee is at a premium at Timberstone.

As has been the case most of the year, I hit the ball OK but was not able to capitalize – no birdies. My scoring all year has been a challenge, and this round was no different. Another mid-80’s round. I didn’t deserve much better, really, as my ball striking was good but not great.

Bill was a great playing partner. He showed me the way, hit the ball well, and kept the conversation flowing. It was an easy round of golf, the only wait coming on the 14th hole when one of the maintenance crew was placing signs in the fairway and either didn’t see us or ignored us (He ignored us).

I played 8 really poorly, so I didn’t have the finish I had hoped. The 18th is a brilliant Par 5 that plays 623 yards straight down the hill to the clubhouse. It’s a beautiful hole that deserved so much more than I gave it.

I packed up my things and started the drive further north to Marquette. I had a 3 pm call to the first tee at Greywalls. I have heard so many things about the course that I really couldn’t wait to make my way to the tee box. The drive took about an hour and twenty, but was very easy – only 1 State Trooper the entire way!

I pulled up to the bag drop where I encountered Jacob, a very friendly assistant that helped load up my bag and drive me to the first tee – a 5 minute cart ride up the hill, over the river, and through the woods – literally.

The view from the first tee is spectacular at Greywalls. I would soon find out that the views at Greywalls are spectacular – it’s not limited to the first. I played it from the tips, about 6800 and change. I found the first fairway and was on my way. It was then that I realized that I left my Bushnell rangefinder at Timberstone. 100 miles the OTHER way. Looks like the remainder of the trip will be old school sprinkler head counting.

Pace of play was going to be paramount – there was a league shotgun start at 5:45, so I needed to finish ahead of that. With nobody in front of me, that was no problem at all. I didn’t catch up to any groups until the 10th tee. Luckily the 2 foursomes were very nice and let me slide through. I raced around and played well. I finally broke 80 – barely.

This morning I was met at the first tee by Andrew. We had been talking on a Michigan Golf group on Facebook and had arranged to get together for a round at his home club. A sous chef in Marquette, Andrew plays at Greywalls almost every day, so he was a great plating partner to have. He talked to me about details I would not have known, and even showed me the secret stash (in homage to Mike DeVries’ other Michigan gem – The Kingsley Club). Nothing like a shot at 9 am!

If you go to Greywalls to play – and you should go to Greywalls to play – there are a few things that you need to know. First, bring some balls. Golf and, um, other. The front nine has some blind shots and you might lose a few. The greens are scary looking, but don’t run too fast to make them playable. And the people are FANTASTIC.

A quick note on the front nine – it is amusement park golf, to say the least. Very hilly, VERY undulating, and other than the 2nd hole, very fair. Don’t let the views from the tee intimidate you. Pick the right line – if you hit it you will find it. In fact, a couple of stray shots will be rewarded by those hills and swales.

Although it isn’t a very long course by today’s standards, I would strongly suggest that you play tees that are a comfortable length for you. You don’t want to be out there trying to overpower this golf course. It is a shot makers course.

I was reminded repeatedly of Donald Ross designs. Green contours that allow for creativity. Fairways carved to help feed your ball into play. Where Ross did these things mostly for drainage purposes, Mike DeVries uses them for visual purposes. Using masterful shaping and stunning sightlines, DeVries delivers. He truly is one of today’s most underrated golf course architects.

I’m 4 rounds into the trip, and each course has been awesome. I can’t wait to see what is next! Stay tuned!

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