Tanglewood in South Lyon: The Lion definitely stacks up with the best of suburban Detroit golf

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

SOUTH LYON, Mich. -- About 10 minutes west of downtown Detroit, the suburb of South Lyon is a hotbed of real estate and golf. Driving between Eight Mile road and Ten Mile road takes you past subdivision after subdivision.

Tanglewood golf course - North
Tanglewood's "The Lion" golf course has 27 holes that wind through the upscale residential community at every turn.
Tanglewood golf course - NorthTanglewood golf course - SouthTanglewood golf course - West - hole 6
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North/South at Tanglewood - The Lion

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Opened in 1991, the North and South Courses were Tanglewood's original championship 18-hole course before the West nine was added in 1995. All 27 holes are known as "The Lion." The North/South course has a gently rolling terrain that doesn't offer dramatic elevation changes but it also makes a flat lie hard to find.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7022 yards | Book online | ... details »

West/North at Tanglewood - The Lion

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Tanglewood, also known as "The Lion," boasts 27 holes of championship golf, divided into the North, South, and West nines. The holes are played in three different 18-hole combinations. The North/West Course starts with the gentlest nine before moving on to the newest and arguably the most challenging nine.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6913 yards | Book online | ... details »

South/West at Tanglewood - The Lion

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Tanglewood in South Lyon is home to 27 holes of championship golf that are collectively known as "The Lion." The holes are dived into three nines: the North, South, and West; that are played in three different combinations. The South/West Course is tight, offering little room for error.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 7083 yards | Book online | ... details »

Some look maybe 10 to 15 years old, max. Others are simply a giant lot of dirt, ready to be littered with housing with or without its very own golf course winding through.

With most of these developments, golf courses come in as a complement in hopes of bringing in home-buyers and pushing up asking prices by offering "on-course living."

Tanglewood's "The Lion" golf course has 27 holes that wind through the upscale residential community at every turn. Designer William Newcomb routed the course tastefully through, however. There's usually some kind of buffer, whether its water, dense tree line or tall grass.

Homes do certainly have their presence and during the summer you're sure to hear kids roughhousing several backyards. The homes aren't "cookie-cutter" either, so scenery doesn't get too mundane.

The Lion is semi-private and has about 120 members, but Tanglewood likes to consider its facility more public than private. Guests to the club will get a little taste of private club service, with alert bag-drop attendants, who have already run off with your clubs before you can even get out of your car.

There's a six-pack special on beer that gives you a free beer per five, as well as a big bag of ice to keep them cold. There's also a friendly, knowledgeable morning starter who directs play between the three nines and offers pointers to first-timers.

"Service is No. 1 here," Head Professional Brad Stedry said. "The atmosphere is a little more upscale and conditions of the course are always in good shape."

The Lion opened its original 18 holes, later named the North and South Courses in 1991. The West course was added in 1995. Despite increased competition each summer, The Lion is perennially voted among the top public courses in metro Detroit and is a favorite among seniors.

The course's land rolls gently, never offering any dramatic drops but rarely flat from tee to green. Many holes are bowl-shaped and corral errant drives away from backyards and back into play. There are a variety of wetlands, however, especially on the South, where it seems there's a pond or marsh hovering around most greens.

"The course definitely puts a price on staying in play," Stedry said. "Seven holes on the West have water and the South has a mix of water and trees."

Many holes at The Lion have little room for error, off the tee especially. O.B. is in play on most tee shots and creeks and ponds come into play often as well.

Length at is modest and a variety of short par 4s can make things interesting. Par 4s range from the mid-300s in yardage to the mid-400s, so everything from your wedges to long-irons will be tested.

Greens are also heavily guarded and pins, at least the day we played, were tucked almost unfairly. A shot to the center of the green is almost bad in most places, resulting in a putt of 30 to 40 feet.

The greens have been known to be quite soft in the past few years. Last year a new superintendent was brought in and one of his top priorities was to try and soften the greens, according to Stedry.

Today, the greens are on the soft side, but still roll fast and fair. Approach shots can leave a crater in the greens if they've seen a lot of rain recently.

The South and West Course's are said to be the most popular at Tanglewood and the newer West course comes with a few little gimmicks. The sixth hole is the "Michigan Hole," with its lower-peninsula of Michigan-shaped green and geographically correct replica of the Mackinac Bridge that ushers players to the championship tees on the seventh hole. The seventh hole, while hard to distinguish while on it, resembles that of the upper peninsula of Michigan.

The fun of the sixth hole, however, isn't in the bridge and green as much as the drive. The hole is just 350 yards and plays downhill just enough to tack on a little extra roll.

It also faces east so it plays downwind usually as well. There are a series of mounds off to the left separating the sixth and seventh fairways and also corals shots hit left, which happens often because a pond plays all down the right side which also comes into play on the first green on the West. A good drive winds up just a chip shot from the green however, taking water out of play on the approach completely.

The Michigan-shaped green is also one of the biggest on the course and features a beach-like bunker which runs into the pond on the left, which resembles Lake Michigan. The entire Great Lakes green complex is surprisingly accurate and thorough. The West's best hole may not even be the sixth.

The par-4 third may be the most intriguing. The hole also plays just 350 yards from the back tees, but gets more and more complicated the further you go. The fairway is wide and forgiving if you hit an iron, but bunkers get more and more intrusive and steep, until the green is guarded heavily with them and there's marsh behind it, adding to the complexity.

Weekend pace of play in peak summer months is more of corporate scramble than secluded country club. The round lasted more than five hours. Two reasons may have been the severely tucked pins, often no more than minimum distance off the fringe, and heavy winds that often made two or three clubs difference.

Tanglewood: The verdict

Tanglewood is one of Newcomb's best metro Detroit designs and still holds its own among the heavy competition in the area. It's an area favorite and the tee sheet can be stacked on weekends.

The West nine is the best of the three, but not by far. Conditions are good and service is above average. There's a good consistency in all aspects of the course.

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.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • First sentence inaccurate

    DT wrote on: Oct 5, 2010

    I assume you are getting from Downtown Detroit to South Lyon in 10 minutes with an airplane or helicopter. Most people take cars as that is a 35-40 minute drive.