By Dye it's all right: Par 3 power saves Eagle Eye Golf Club from being a boring slog
BATH, Mich. - The clubhouse looks big enough to hold several Army battalions, stretching across a mammoth parking lot like a mansion you'd see on the Bayou. At times out on the Eagle Eye Golf Club course, you can glance around and think you have all the Michigan countryside in the world to work with, too.
Which makes what Pete Dye-disciple Chris Lutzke does next seem even more cruel.
For there, you are in this area only five minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Michigan State University's 40,000-plus student campus, where it suddenly feels like you have all this room, on a golf course that often appears to be more wide open than Seth Rogen's views on pot, and your golf balls are flying into tall, thick grass and splashing into ever-prevalent ponds.
Lutzke shows you just how much room he had to work with. Then, he squeezes you. Particularly on the par 3s, the best and most creative part of a golf course that sometimes gets too focused on bludgeoning golfers with distance.
Eagle Eye is not a great golf course. In fact, it's constantly repeated tagline - rated the fifth best new course in America in 2005 by Golf Digest - makes you wonder, more than anything, what a lame year 2005 must have been for new courses. This writer found the nearby Timber Ridge Golf Course to be a better play and a more enjoyable day.
If you're looking for a challenge, though, Eagle Eye will bring it and then some. There are professional loan sharks who don't do as good a job of pummeling someone as Eagle Eye. It's a brute that can sneak up on you, too. You can be a good five or six holes in before you realize what a slog it's become, how much time you've spent on certain holes and how rapidly your supply of golf balls is evaporating. Eagle Eye is anything but a course you breeze through.
The 4 hours and 30 minutes urged pace of play seems a tad excessive when you first look at the suggested intervals on your scorecard. Then, you get out on the golf course and realize an Eagle Eye first timer might need every one of those minutes. That's how maddening things can get on this track with a 145 slope rating.
Pete Dye was given a "collaboration" credit on Eagle Eye, but this is Lutzke's baby, and it screams out as an instance when the disciple wanted to one-up the master in hacker torture.
"Do they want a pint of my blood, too?" visiting golfer Shane Reynolds asked.
Lutzke's par 3s keep you interested, though, cutting through the pain with some striking ingenuity. It starts on the second hole of the day - the shortest and straightest par 3 you'll find at Eagle Eye. It's a 157-yard shot from the tee that most golfers will play it from, right at flag. The catch is the shot's almost all carry over one of the longest bunkers full of dense, ball-catching sand that's ever been created.
Go short here, and you don't just lose a shot. You can get lost.
Eagle Eye Golf Club's par-3 fifth is even more dangerous to claustrophobic swingers. The hole sort of tilts down to the water that runs along the whole left side and up to the big bush hills on the right. Or, at least, it can seem that way from the tee. Forget a plane. You might have trouble landing a remote control toy helicopter in this narrow opening.
Still, the par 3 most people leave talking about is No. 17. It's actually the easiest of the bunch, but it's modeled after the famous island green at Dye's Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, and it's even easier to get spooked out by the water. Even if the green is huge and complete with a bunker below one corner to catch wayward rolls.
It's a fun golf hole, though. If only more fun ran through Eagle Eye.
The verdict on Eagle Eye Golf Club
Eagle Eye has a lot going for it. It's clearly one of the better golf courses anywhere close to Michigan's capital or Michigan State. It couldn't have been in much better condition than it was at the time of this late summer play.
Yet, you may leave this course having expected more. Part of the problem comes in Eagle Eye's greens fee - $85 weekdays prime season. That's reasonable by the standards of most golf meccas, but in a Michigan area that's been hit hard by the downturn in the auto industry, it's pretty high, and its $65 twilight rate is no bargain, either.
For that, you may expect more than a bunch of holes that start to look alike. Take away the par 3s, and Eagle Eye can become something of the same old, same old. Almost every other hole seems to have water on one side and tall, thick grasses on the other side. It's one thing to be tough. Being difficult and monotonous is another.
Eagle Eye needs more holes like No. 15 - a 394 yarder with a green up on a deceiving hill. Hit it at all short, and your golf ball is going to be rolling back down a sloping crest. If you're hitting from just below the hill, your shot may roll back even farther than where it came from.
That's devious and entertaining, a combination Eagle Eye doesn't quite reach.
Eagle Eye is definitely worth playing once. Just don't expect to fall in love.
Michigan State area hotels
There's a Marriott right in the heart of East Lansing that puts you smack dab in the middle of the student nightlife scene (yes, most golfers hate to see trashed coeds), while still giving you a business hotel retreat with a pretty good hotel restaurant in Bistro 43.
January 22, 2009