Hemlock Golf Club gaining attention in Michigan

By Dave Berner, Senior Contributor

LUDINGTON, Mich. -- Golf course names are many times linked to the location, the land on which they sit, the owner, or a marketing idea. But then there's the course that gets its moniker from the very obvious. If you know your trees, then you'll know why Hemlock Golf Club was given such a name. The beautiful evergreens are everywhere.

However, after playing this Northwest Michigan newcomer, you may want to rename it. Something like -- A-Lotta Sand Golf Course -- might be appropriate.

Hemlock opened in June of 2002 and from the start was visually stimulating. It was clearly sculpted out of the native sand dunes, the dense woods, evergreen forests, and the natural waste areas. It's nature's mix that gives this course its unique flavor and creates a stunning layout.

There is no doubt sand is a key element to Hemlock. Architect Ray Hearn used it to frame holes and present challenges. But he also used the land as it came to him. There's nothing architectural forced about Hemlock. Some of the holes are naturally flat, others gently rolling, others a bit on the hilly side. But all of it is in tune with the way Hearn found the land.

Playing Hemlock

The front nine at Hemlock is relatively flat and opens with a number of holes that are good-chance birdies. But before you put a peg in the ground on the first tee, don't get too ambitious. Unless you are a 5-handicap or better, stay with the white tees. As Hemlock's golf professional Butch Leonard tells everyone who comes to play for the first time, "The white tees are plenty of golf course to handle."

Hemlock does not yet have a slope and rating, but it can stretch out as along as 7,044 yards and from the blue tees still plays at a very tough 6,742 yards. The middle tees are more manageable for most golfers at nearly 6,300 yards. The forward tees come in at 5,775 yards.

The holes to remember on the opening nine are No. 2, No. 3 and No. 9.

No. 2 and No. 3 are short, very short, par-4s that call for laser-like shots off the tee. The third hole is one of the more memorable on the golf course. It is just a measly 261 yards from the white tees, but there is just as much sand as there is fairway and there is no better hole at Hemlock to test your course management skills.

The ninth hole is a long-ish dogleg right that features sand all down the right side. You need a strong drive and pinpoint irons to play this well.

The back nine has more rolling terrain and one of the most unique holes you'll play anywhere. The 12th is a 508-yard, par-4 with a sand waste area right down the middle of the fairway. The hole gives you two options to travel. If you go down the right side you have a more open first and second shot, but a blind approach to the green. If you head for the left side, the going is much tighter, but your approach to the putting surface is clear. This is a marvelous hole with a wonderful risk-reward design and striking visuals.

The finishing hole is a beauty. It's just 312 yards from the middle tees, but the drive and the approach to the green need to be made with precision. This dogleg left is guarded by trees on the left, water on the right, and water on three sides of the green. Easy does it.

New Golf Destination

Hemlock Golf Club is helping to establish a wonderful new hotbed for the game.

Located just a couple of miles north US 10 in Ludington, Hemlock joins Manistee National, Thoroughbred Golf Course, Heathland and Arcadia Bluffs to form a new, top-quality array of courses that are all within 45 minutes of each other.

Much of the golf talk in Michigan centers on the northern part of the state, but this new region for golf is fast becoming the focus of conversation. There's even been some preliminary rumblings of creating a "golf trail" in the area so all the courses could benefit from promotion and marketing, and allow for a simple way for golfers to plan trips and make tee times.

Hemlock Golf Club is one of the best new courses in Michigan and one of the most interesting to play.

The Ludington Area

Northwest Michigan is a great place for families. The Lake Michigan shoreline features incredible sand dunes, beaches and lighthouse tours. Plus there's plenty of traditional summer fun in the area including boat rides, fishing and quaint places to stay.

Big Stable Lighthouse
Tour through lightkeeper's home.
(231) 845-7343

Lake Michigan Carferry
Four-hour cruise on the S.S. Badger
(800) 841-4243

Therapy Too Charters
Lake Michigan boat rides and sunset cruises on a luxury yacht.
(800) 845-6095

Ludington Area Charterboat Association
(800) 927-3470


Scheonberger House
409 E. Ludington Avenue
(231) 843-4435

Beautiful neoclassic mansion built in 1903. Exquisite woodwork, fireplaces, private baths. Minutes from Lake Michigan.

The Inn at Ludington
701 E. Ludington Avenue
(231) 845-7055

An 1889 Queen Victorian mansion. Private baths. Walk to beach.

Days Inn of Ludington
5095 West US 10
(321) 843-2233

New 61-room hotel with complimentary continental breakfast.

Dave BernerDave Berner, Senior Contributor

Dave Berner is a long-time journalist for CBS radio in Chicago and has freelanced for CNN, National Public Radio, and ABC news. He created and produced the popular radio feature "The Golf Minute" for CBS-owned radio station WMAQ in Chicago along with writing a regular column for Golf Chicago Magazine. He is also author of "Any Road Will Take You There: A journey of fathers and sons" and "Accidental Lessons: A Memoir of a Rookie Teacher and a Life Renewed." Follow Berner on Twitter @DavidWBerner

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Hemlock Golf Club

    M Kennedy wrote on: Feb 25, 2006

    I agree with all that Mr. Berner said about the challange and beauty of the course but the best feature may be the fabulous greens.