Ever-improving Timber Ridge Golf Club a solid play in East Lansing

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Timber Ridge Golf Club began life in 1989 as one of the best new courses in the nation, according to several national publications. Then maintenance issues arose.

Timber Ridge Golf Club
In 2002, new ownership committed to making Timber Ridge one of the best golf courses in Michigan.
Timber Ridge Golf ClubTimber Ridge Golf Course - 10thTimber Ridge Golf Club - 14th hole
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Timber Ridge Golf Club

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Timber Ridge Golf Course was carefully carved from a mature tree nursery that was planted in the 1940s. As a result, the course enjoys more than 60 varieties of trees throughout. The designer, Jerry Matthews, wanted to not only preserve the trees but also work with the existing hills and wetlands so that the course blended seamlessly into the natural environment.

18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6620 yards | ... details »

In particular, dense undergrowth resulted in many lost balls and slowed play. Even worse, the thick stands of towering pines lining just about every hole and surrounding so many greens impeded the circulation of air to the bentgrass greens. Sultry summer conditions soon caused heat and mold damage, and conditions overall began going downhill.

In 2002, however, new ownership and a management team committed to making Timber Ridge one of the best in the state. The new team decided to invest in some major reworking of specific trouble spots on the course to improve both conditions and playability.

For example, along the left side of the first fairway, they removed a wide swath of trees, opening the dogleg left a bit, so that short or pulled tee shots don't automatically translate into lost balls and lost strokes. The once tree-filled area is now rough -- heavy rough -- so not being in the fairway is still penal. But it's penal to the player who hit the shot, not to the foursome behind him, who no longer have to wait for errant shots to be tracked down in the woods.

The very same improvement is also responsible for the vastly improved condition of the green on the par-3 16th, which is nestled down in the trees and fronted by a pond. The once-thick trees along the first fairway used to keep air from moving over this putting surface, causing severe headaches for the grounds crews, who used large fans to keep it cool and dry. Now, with those trees gone, the 16th green is as impeccably smooth as the others on the course.

Finally, aside from the first fairway, a number of other spots around the course were grubbed out, and gnarly underbrush was replaced with Georgia pine straw. Now, if you happen to hit one awry, you'll still be able to find it and, quite likely, be able to play out off of the straw.

Pro Dan Bankson reports nothing but positive feedback on the changes from players both new and old. "No one has said that we made it too easy," he said. "The course is in better condition now, I think, than it ever has been." He's not just boasting, either.

Although a bit slower, Timber Ridge's hand-mown greens are equal in quality and condition to those found at some of the top-ranked public courses in the state.

Despite all the improvements, greens fees at Timber Ridge have only increased a few dollars over last season. After all, as Timber Ridge's slogan says, "It's about the golf." And playing a tough yet playable, well conditioned course at a reasonable price is what golf is about.

Kiel ChristiansonKiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

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