Looking for northern Michigan golf without the drive? Try Devil's Ridge Golf Club in Oxford

By Lisa Allen, Contributor

OXFORD, Mich. -- If you want to play golf in northern Michigan, here's a way to shave off about four hours from your drive. Go to Devil's Ridge Golf Club in Oxford instead.

Devil's Ridge Golf Club - hole 1
The view from the Devil's Ridge Golf Club's clubhouse sets the tone for the course's beauty.
Devil's Ridge Golf Club - hole 1Devil's Ridge Golf Club - hole 10Devil's Ridge G.C. - hole 18
If you go

The quirky northern Oakland County golf course, which is a 35-37 par, is virtually devoid of development. The only dwelling is a red-barned farm with a pasture that juts near a couple of holes. It's not really a "development" but, rather, a "they got here first."

The golf course itself is a tale of two terrains. The first half wanders through lowlands. You'll fish the ball out of all sorts of wetlands and ponds and try to stand on your tippy toes to see over cattails to the fairway or the green.

On the back, you'll often lose sight of your ball as it climbs over a ridge or falls out of view over a cliff. The vistas are straight out of northern Michigan casting. Gorgeous.

On either half of the course, you'll likely hear a few knocks against wood as your ball bounds off a tree trunk.

That sums up Devil's Ridge: Wetlands, lakes, trees and dramatic views of the woods all around. If lack of civilization freaks you out, stick with your center-city munis.

General Manager Brad Keast, who started at the course as a bag boy when it opened in 1995, said there are three reasons to play Devil's Ridge, a golf course designed by many cooks, including Mark McCumber.

"One, it's the up-north feeling, with the elevation changes and woods," he said. "Two, there are no houses. Three, excellent customer service, from the pro shop to the grounds crew and the restaurant staff."

Keast and his staff of 65 make everyone feel welcome, offering a great deal through the week for seniors and women and adding a walking option every day after 5 p.m.

"I like the idea of a family coming out here, and it's affordable," he said.

It also likely will be a weary family. There is a bit of a jaunt between a few holes and those hills will tucker you out.

The tempo of Devil's Ridge Golf Club

You know right from the start this place is beautiful. The clubhouse deck overlooks the first hole and miles beyond.

The four tees give you an elevated shot from which to launch your drive over a wetland, then climb back up on your second shot to the offset, elevated green tucked behind a bunker. It's the first of many holes in which pin placement makes all the difference, and the tone goes from naughty to nice.

After a dramatic descent on the first two holes, the terrain levels out for relentless marsh and pond play from No. 3 through No. 8.

The roller coaster ride starts at 10, which provides just a red diamond on a tree as a target and two small strips of fairway high above as a landing pad.

Keast deemed the 10th the signature hole but with an exception: "You'll probably think it's stupid the first time you play it, but it's a great hole. It demands accuracy off the tee."

The par-5 11th offers a beautifully distracting, miles-wide view of what you would swear is the great woods of the north. The fairway makes a stair-step descent, your ball falling like a game of Chutes and Ladders down the hill. Beware the sand trap pushed to the right on one of the tiers, though.

Devil's Ridge ends with a short test of placement. It's only 335 yards, but keep the ball at least 100 yards from the hole so you can fly over the gully covered with thigh-high grass. Oh, there's a bunker in front of the sharp wall in front of the offset green.

Janet and Vaughn Drobnich, of Rochester, play Devil's Ridge several times a year.

"I like it for the scenery, and it's not a real long course for me," Janet said.

The front tees run to 4,113 yards. "In the fall, it's beautiful." she said.

Vaughn tagged No. 11, with its waterfall-like fairway as his favorite.

Brian Davis played the course for the first time and was amazed by the vistas.

"It's beautiful to see the scenery of Michigan on this course," he said, perhaps a little nostalgically as he prepares to move to Washington state.

He liked the pin placement on No. 17. "It was challenging."

Charles Guzowski, of Royal Oak, likes the surprises. "There are a lot of hidden shots, and I like the approaches. You have to fly the ball to the green and stop it."

Devil's Ridge Golf Club: The verdict

Devil's Ridge is a dramatic, fun course that rewards risk more than punishes it.

The bentgrass, from fairway to green, is flawless and maintenance is meticulous. There are many holes you'll remember and want to revisit time and again.

Heck, just the views are worth the small price of admission. Skip the trek north.

Everything it offers is right in Oxford at Devil's Ridge Golf Club.

Lisa AllenLisa Allen, Contributor

Lisa Allen is a golf, travel and business writer based in Beaufort, S.C. She has edited newspapers, magazines and books in Michigan, Indiana and South Carolina. Follow her on Twitter @LAllenSC.

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