Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club north of Detroit: A peaceful, but never easy, feeling
CLARKSTON, Mich. -- From metro Detroit, it requires about a one-hour flight to Traverse City and the golf courses of northern Michigan. But just an hour's drive from most Motor City-area residences sits Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, which feels ever so similar to the best of northern Michigan's finest, remote forest golf courses.
Shepherd's Hollow G.C. features 27 holes, with 18-hole combinations that play more than 7,200 yards from the championship tees. The 350 scenic and rolling acres on which the golf course sits once served as a park retreat for the Detroit Society of Jesus, a Roman Catholic order of priests and educators. And yes, many of them are good golfers and play Shepherd's Hollow often.
The golf course is remarkable in a lot of ways, starting with the influence on the land of the Jesuits, who planted trees many of the trees. It also features 160 feet of elevation change.
One added twist: You won't find traditional tee markers. There are five sets here, but only a colored post on each teeing ground indicates their location -- not the two markers between which golfers usually tee.
"That's one thing I'd change in golf," said Michael Bylen, who owns Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club and operates Cherry Creek Golf Club and Pine Trace Golf Club in the Detroit area. "There should be no tee markers. Golf needs to loosen up. Stick the tee down wherever you want."
Given each tee's stern slope rating, any bit of psychological advantage helps. The golf course can play as tough as a 76.1/144 slope/rating for holes 10 through 27, and it still rates 74.1/139 from a box up.
To Midwestern golfers accustomed to playing the Arthur Hills designs around here, Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club doesn't necessarily feel familiar. Few Hills designs possess the kind of landscape you'll find here. Also, the golf course flows more naturally, in contrast to some of Hills' golf courses with sharper definition.
"We wanted every green to be relevant to the ground around it," Bylen said.
On the 22nd hole, a 370-yard par 4, two green locations alternate use.
It seemed an easy decision to let the land dictate, but it results in steeply elevated tees and greens and not many even lies. Among the many knee-knocking approach shots at Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, the toughest may come at the short 14th hole, thanks to a green that sits well above the fairway. Trouble -- blind from the fairway -- surrounds the putting surface.
Few holes offer easy pars, and thick forest lines most fairways to swallow stray drives. Suddenly, that peaceful feeling begins to sink a bit.
Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club: The verdict
For metro Detroiters, Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club ranks as the golf course to play when you can't make it to northern Michigan. It's a better play and less expensive than most of the best up north.
Green fees are almost laughably cheap Monday through Thursday at just $45 before 9 a.m. and $55 until 3 p.m. This is a golf course that would likely push $100 or more if near Traverse City or Gaylord. And the land could well pass off as that kind of remote area. On weekends, green fees jump to $75.
Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club takes on a secluded, upscale vibe that draws a good amount of corporate play from Detroit. The clubhouse facilities include a full bar and restaurant as well as a private lounge area upstairs.
Stay and play: Royal Park Hotel
Not much sits near Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club aside from Great Lakes Crossing, a massive mall a few miles south on I-75. It's best to stay further south in Oakland County. Within a few blocks of downtown Rochester, the Royal Park Hotel rates as the area's top luxury hotel, and it's located in a quiet setting just minutes from everything you need in Oakland County.
On the smaller side with 143 luxury rooms that feature large, oversized king beds, Royal Park provides free Wi-Fi and premium cable channels. Suites are available, complete with kitchens and dining areas for extended business stays.
The hotel's proximity to the Palace of Auburn Hills and DTE Energy Music Theatre makes it a popular choice for musicians and visiting NBA teams. The breakfast will leave you ready to catch rim yourself, or at the very least, to crack a few 300-yard drives in the morning.
July 13, 2010