Michigan's Longest Holes Memorable in More Ways than One

By Jason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

ARCADIA, MI -- Is bigger better?

Not always.

But in the game of golf, where yardage is king, longer is definitely becoming the norm.

As golfers become bigger and stronger, and as equipment, like balls and drivers, and technology allows players more length, golf courses are fighting back.

To keep the better players, and the birdies, at bay, holes are getting longer. So this month, TravelGolf.com decided to seek out Michigan's longest holes.

Now, longer holes don't mean much to the average amateur. After all, most of us are playing from the white tees, and some of us are brave enough to tackle the blues on a good day. But how many of your playing buddies are tough enough, or stupid enough, to tackle a course from the tips?

Thankfully, to keep five-hour rounds from becoming six-hour marathons, not many of us have even considered playing from the tips. We just marvel at them as we whisk by in our cart.

But chances are, since these holes are long from the tips, they're long from any tee. According to Art McCafferty of the Michigan Golf News, only 14 holes in the entire state of Michigan are longer than 600 yards.

The longest is a mere 655 yards, the 13th hole at Island Hills in Centreville. Co-owner Tom Templin says he's never verified that this hole is the longest in Michigan, but "I've never heard anybody tell me there's a longer one."

Templin also says that it isn't the most intimidating hole on the course, either. "We've had people who par it from the tips," said Templin, who is among those players. "But very few have made it on in two. I think there have been a few eagles out there, but not a lot of them."

Golf Digest rated the hole as one of the top 25 holes in Michigan because of its distinct personality -- two fairways are separated by rough and sometimes trees and rock outcroppings.

The left fairway dogs right and the other vice versa to a green slightly uphill guarded by a two-story bunker on the left. In discussions with architect Ray Hearn, Templin said he wanted the right fairway and Hearn wanted the left, so they comprised and created both.

"Seventy percent of people play the right fairway and 30 percent the left," he said. "The right is the way to go, but there is also more chance for hitting it out of bounds."

There's no doubt architects are designing longer courses, but they say the multiple tee option keeps these long holes playable for all handicaps. Tom Doak, one of Michigan's many notable architects, said he isn't necessarily designing longer par-5s as habit.

"It all depends on the land," he said.

Here's a look at Michigan's other long holes and why length isn't the only reason they're so memorable.

No. 10 at Sugar Bush Golf Club (Davison) - Players must clear a pond off the tee of this scenic 646-yard hole. A drainage stream fronts an elevated green.

No. 7 at Hidden River Golf and Casting Club (Brutus) - A 636-yard flat hole with wetlands and water on both side as you approach the green.

No. 15 at Arcadia Bluffs (Arcadia) - This 633-yard test might be the most scenic par-5 anywhere. The fairway funnels downhill, getting narrower the whole time, to Lake Michigan. A native bunker guards the green, which is 27-yards deep.

No. 6 at Heritage Glen Golf Course (Paw Paw) -- This narrow 624-yarder is a double dogleg, and the fairway slopes down towards a swamp. If you survive that, the green boasts two levels and is well-bunkered.

No. 17 at Sleeping Bear Golf Course (Leelanau County) - The course, formerly named Sugar Loaf, is highlighted by this 618-yard brute.

No. 13 at Brae Burn (Plymouth) - The course's whole reputation, and its nickname "The Monster," is based on this 617-yard double-dogleg.

No. 5 at The Donald Ross Memorial course at Boyne Highland (Harbor Springs) - Being the longest hole in the Boyne family of courses in northern Michigan is no small feat.

This 617-yard hole is patterned after another similar hole at another great Ross course, the East course at Oak Hill Country Club in Rochester, NY, a place where Jack Nicklaus learned the game and legendary Bobby Jones won the 1926 U.S. Open. It doglegs slightly right to a turtleback fairway with two fairway bunkers right and six more surrounding the green.

No. 5 at the North Course at Oakland Hills Country Club (Bloomfield Hills) - Although overshadowed by the legendary South course, which has hosted six U.S. Opens, the private North course is also a good track, thanks in part to this 616-yard challenge.

No. 16 at Tullymore Golf Course (Stanwood) - This 608-yard par-5 demands a long carry off the tee. The green features its own demons with a pond, stone dam and skinny bunker out front.

No. 1 at Calderone Farms Golf Club (Grass Lake) - How many courses do you know that start out tougher than a 606-yard par-5 that bends left the entire way? William Newcomb must have been getting a cut of the range balls sales when he designed this eye-opener.

No. 10 at Robert Trent Jones Masterpiece Golf Course at Treetops Resort (Gaylord) - Long and straight is the operative word on this 605-yarder.

No. 18 at the Cedar River course at Shanty Creek Resort (Bellaire) - What's tougher - opening with a 600-yard hole or closing with one? Either one sounds like trouble. This 604-yard monster boasts a green that is protected by water on the right and sand left.

No. 1 at the Kingsley Club (Traverse City) - Don't plan on playing this 601-yard par-5 because this is a private course. But the hole has enough personality worth mentioning. From an elevated tee, players have the option of driving to a broad plateau on the upper fairway or bailing out to a lower fairway. The two are bisected by a series of bunkers.

Jason Scott DeeganJason Scott Deegan, Senior Staff Writer

Jason Scott Deegan has reviewed more than 700 courses and golf destinations for some of the industry's biggest publications. His work has been honored by the Golf Writer's Association of America and the Michigan Press Association. Follow him on Twitter at @WorldGolfer.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Michigan's Longest Holes

    Larry Bodtke wrote on: Feb 25, 2009

    If this article is from 2002 I can see how you missed Michigan's newest longest hole. Try the 670 yard 16th at Beeches Golf Club in South Haven. Designer Bruce Mathews really made this a long one pointing it into prevailing winds.