Eagle Eye soars over golf offerings in Central Michigan

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

BATH, Mich. -- It wasn't until the fourth hole at the Eagle Eye Golf Club at Hawk Hollow that my partner for the day and I knew we were playing a monster.

As he chopped through dense heather searching for his ball and I was shooting for par still 175 yards from the green on this par 5, another twosome had crept up on our heels. To both of us, it was a bit strange since we both consider ourselves pretty swift players.

As I waved them through, they stopped by to thank us for the courtesy.

"Better go ahead," I said. "First time out here."

The two looked at each other, then at us and laughed at us like they had just walked out of a root canal surgery we were next in line for, "Ha! Bet you're having a great time."

As they drove off, one of them yelled, "Don't worry, it'll get better after a few times!"

It's no secret that Eagle Eye, the second 18-hole championship course at Hawk Hollow is a challenge. If the stats aren't eye-popping -- designed by Pete Dye protégé Chris Lutzke and 7,318 yards long -- then when the starter hands you a complimentary course guide complete with yardage from just about everywhere on the property and gives a good couple minutes worth of valuable pointers, you may begin to think an extra dozen balls may have been appropriate for your first time around.

That being said, the course is still a joy to play. It's especially true if you can stomach the occasional big number, which considering nearly every shot from the first tee to final approach has the potential for disaster, is imminent.

Eagle Eye is Lutzke's first solo design (although Dye is given "collaboration" credit) and the Dye influence is evident throughout the course. No hole design is more blatantly Dye than the 17th, a Midwestern links golf homage to his most famous hole: the 17th on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass. Everything on the hole is a pinpoint accurate replica, from the tee boxes to the small bunker in front of the green, to the three-tired, 26-yard green. Only the stadium-style seating behind the green and palm trees enclosing the hole's grand stage are left out.

Five sets of tees greet players but the championship tees shouldn't be played by anyone much more than a scratch handicap (my partner and I, both around a 10 didn't see the tee recommendations on the back of the scorecard until it was 18 holes too late). The forward tees play a fair 5,100 yards.

A general rule at Eagle Eye: The shorter the hole, the trickier it probably is. The third is a prime example: You can reach the green even with a wedge or 9-iron off the tee. The green is one of the smallest on the course, however, and the approach is blind, as large mounds guard the green in front and water lines the right side of the entire hole. On the other holes, green sizes range from large to massive, with depths from 28 yards to 60. The smallest ones can be the trickiest. The 15th, a 394-yard par 4, appears tame at first, since no hazards guard the green. But the crowned green demands precision and any shot that falls just a few feet short or long rolls down the slope to the bottom. The pin can be tucked dangerously close to the edge, even putting chips in danger of hitting your next shot from where you hit the last.

The verdict

Eagle Eye is wrapping up its first full summer of operation a few miles north of Michigan State University after opening last August, and the conditions of the course have matured beyond its age. The greens roll very well and hold approaches, the fairways are spotless and the acres of surrounding heather are thick and tall.

A small disappointment about Eagle Eye is the amount of housing construction going on. Right now, a few houses dot the course but construction material is popping up in more and more areas on the course and don't be surprised if construction noise interrupts several of your shots.

At this point, it appears the homes will have a decent amount of distance away from the course but only time will tell how saturated the course becomes with development.

Subdivisions or not, Eagle Eye is just another elite course to enter the capital area, along with Timber Ridge, Hawk Hollow's original course and Forest Akers, among others.

Lutzke and Dye blend windswept links-style land with modern penal TPC design water and bunkering. The result is a harmonious walk in the park, albeit a difficult one.

Places to eat

Boasting the largest wine selection in East Lansing, Evergreen Grill is an upscale restaurant decorated with the work of many local artists. But given its vicinity to the Michigan State campus across the street, attire is usually a little on the casual side. The restaurant also prides itself on serving entrees not available anywhere else in mid-Michigan. Tel. (517) 337-1200

Mitchell's Fish Market is in the bustling new Eastwood Town Centre just off the Lake Lansing Road exit on US-127. Mitchell's has the best fish and perhaps the biggest selection in the area. Its homemade desserts are worth saving room for as well. Tel. (517) 482-3474

Places to stay

The new Candlewood Suites at the new Henry Center on the Michigan State campus may be the closest thing to a "golf resort" in East Lansing. You can walk right onto the driving range or downstairs to the golf shop in your robe if you need to. And you have 36 holes at your disposal! Tel. (517) 351-7721

Brandon TuckerBrandon Tucker, Managing Editor

Brandon Tucker is the Managing Editor for Golf Advisor. To date, his golf travels have taken him to over two dozen countries and over 500 golf courses worldwide. While he's played some of the most prestigious courses in the world, Tucker's favorite way to play the game is on a great muni in under three hours. Follow Brandon on Twitter at @BrandonTucker and on Instagram at BrandonTuckerGC.

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