Gearing up for golf in Detroit: The city's top 10 public golf courses

By Brandon Tucker, Managing Editor

DETROIT - While the metro Detroit area will never mistake itself for the golf Mecca in northern Michigan, there are plenty of courses of varying quality ready to play.

Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club
Top-ranked Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, an Arthur Hills design, rolls through 350 acres in Clarkston.
Shepherd's Hollow Golf ClubOrchards Golf Club in Washington TownshipNorthville Hills Golf ClubMoose Ridge Golf Club - hole 1
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Metro Detroit is defined by five counties: Wayne, Macomb, Washtenaw, Livingston and Oakland. Despite the recent course boom, it hasn't developed into a golfing destination and probably never will, given the competition in the state among its 800-plus public courses. But visitors and business travelers can enjoy some top-notch playing conditions during their stay, especially at the courses we consider the 10 best public tracks in the area.

Scores of prestigious country clubs emerged years ago, many in Oakland County, one of America's richest -- Oakland Hills Country Club, Franklin Hills Country Club and the Country Club of Detroit come to mind. They still represent one of the best collections of private courses in one locale in the country.

If we did an area pre-1990 top 10, the list would be entirely different. All of the courses that make our top 10 were built within the last 15 years. That's when "modern course design," a.k.a. wide fairways, fancy bunkers and huge undulating greens, all became necessities to attract players - not to mention full-service clubhouses with restaurants and learning centers complete with driving ranges and teaching professionals. Needless to say, Detroit's golf scene has received nothing short of a major facelift.

Golf in the area isn't cheap (unless you compare it to the heavyweights up north). You'll be lucky to find a course that doesn't charge at least $50 for a round and that includes twilight and weekday rates. Some courses, like Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club, Twin Lakes and The Majestic charge upwards of $70 or more. But it's all for a grand experience.

Without further ado, here are MichiganGolf.com's top 10 public golf courses in Detroit.

1. Shepherd's Hollow Golf Club (Clarkston)

After gaining acclaim with his design at Bay Harbor up north, Toledo-based Arthur Hills hit the jackpot again in creating this gem that rolls through 350 acres on land leased from a Society of Jesus, an order of Roman Catholic Jesuit priests. Shepherd's Hollow G.C. ranked No. 6 nationally in January, 2002, on Golf Digest's list of "Best New Upscale Courses."

2. The Orchards Golf Club (Washington Township)

Designed by Robert Trent Jones Jr., The Orchards Golf Club, features 93 bunkers, plenty of trees and wetlands. Opened in 1992, it's the oldest course on this list and should be considered one of the founders of the golf course boom in southeast Michigan. If you are in the neighborhood for a couple of days, also check out the Glacier Club in Washington Township and Greystone Golf Club in Romeo for one good weekend of golf.

3. The Majestic at Lake Walden (Hartland)

The 27-hole Majestic at Lake Walden, designed by Jerry Matthews, is best known for its ferry boat ride across the 150-acre lake to hole No. 10 and its secluded, northern-Michigan type atmosphere.

4. Northville Hills Golf Club (Northville)

Northville Hills Golf Club sits on a 926-acre site that was formerly a county child-development center. The county sold the property to multiple developers and businesses, making the way for a great golf course and pricey neighborhood. Besides the more than 650 homes, priced between $400,000 and $1.5 million, the complex will offer senior apartments, a business park, a retail center and parks.

This Arnold Palmer championship layout has a natural appeal with its expansive, untouched wetlands, nature areas and its golden brown, knee-high heather grass. Water comes significantly into play on 14 holes.

5. Moose Ridge Golf Club (South Lyon)

Up-and-coming architect Ray Hearn once again sculpted a great piece of land into a good golf course. Moose Ridge Golf Club rides up and down a prime piece of property in fast-growing Livingston County. It opened in 2000 and continues to gain momentum as an area favorite. In the area, Tanglewood and Lyon Oaks are worth a look, too.

6. Boulder Pointe Golf Club (White Lake)

The land at this Waterstone Development was made for golf with 80-foot elevation changes and 15 lakes scattered throughout its 1,600 acres. Twenty-seven scenic holes, with nines named The Peaks, The Dunes and The Bluffs, and global positions systems in the carts make Boulder Pointe Golf Club a first-class stop. If you're coming from the airport or downtown Detroit, beware. This facility is well off the beaten path, but two other solid public designs, Copper Hills and Devil's Ridge, are close enough to visit in nearby Oxford.

7. Twin Lakes Golf & Swim Club (Oakland Township)

Mediocre golfers will love Twin Lakes Golf & Swim Club's wide fairways that feature few trees. But beware: The real test on this Ray Hearn design, which opened in 1997, is the greens that average a whopping 12,000 square feet in size. Unfortunately, it's ultra-expensive to play golf in the Rochester Hills area.

8. Blackheath Golf Club (Rochester Hills)

Although a little short by modern standards -- 6,768 yards from the tips and 6,127 yards from the blues -- Blackheath Golf Club beats players in other ways with long fescue grasses lining every fairway and green. Kevin Aldridge designed the Scottish links-type course after creating the award-winning Gailes at Lakewood Shores Resort in Oscoda.

9. Cherry Creek Golf Club (Shelby Township)

As good as the golf course is, this 10-year-old Lanny Wadkins/Mike Bylen layout might have even better amenities. Cherry Creek Golf Club Head Professional Brion Hoke told us: "A lot of people think we are private. That's just a misconception."

10. Fieldstone Golf Club (Auburn Hills)

It's not often that a municipal course earns high praise, but Fieldstone Golf Club, yet another Hills design, does. After the city of Auburn Hills plowed under the old 27-hole Arrowhead Golf Club, a better 18-hole course emerged on the 200 acres. It boasts everything to challenge any player from small, elevated greens to carries over wetlands off the tee. Its layout is quirky at times, but overall a serious challenge. So tough, in fact, it has hosted several Buick Open qualifiers.

Honorable mention:

The Golden Fox at Fox Hills (Plymouth), Lyon Oaks Golf Club (Wixom), Pine Trace Golf Club (Rochester Hills), Copper Hills (Oxford), Greystone Golf Club (Romeo) and Dunham Hills (Hartland).

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.


Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Northville Hills

    Mike Lightbody wrote on: May 27, 2014

    Northville Hills is a good design, and could be a great course. However, the people who work there are duds for the most part. In particular the GM is a total failure. All the rangers have an attitude problem and don’t like it if they have golfers on the course in the evening. They appear to be older retirees who just want some discount golf. Currently they have almost half the course covered in temporary greens, but that is never something they’ll mention to someone calling on the phone. Don’t even think about a discount. The food is mediocre at best to top things off. I’m not sure if Northville Hills is subsidized by a bunch of the property owners around the course or what, but the level of incompetence is high when it comes to the facility operations. It’s really sad such a potentially great golf course is so mismanaged

    Reply

    • RE: Northville Hills

      Brad B wrote on: Jul 11, 2014

      Mike I couldn't agree with you more about Northville Hills. The temporary greens are gone now, but management continues to be the worse. Ball marks and divots are never filled/repaird by the course or repaired by the hundreds of people who play in outings there. Overall the course is just ok. I just played the Orchards a few weeks ago and the course was in awesome shape. Greens were rolling great. FYI this list is also from 2005. So things at many of these courses have changed since then. I have played all of the courses on here, and even Shepherd's Hollow had its questionable conditions during the downturn of the economy. Haven't played it since because of that. Mike, I haven't seen you since the days of Churchill golf and the convertible Sebring, but I hope all is well.

      Reply

  • top 10 golf courses

    Barry Blunk wrote on: Apr 1, 2014

    Kensington G.C.(Metropark) is one of my favorites from the well manicured fairways to the excellent (and fast) greens. GAM commented last year as possibly the best maintained public course in the state! prices are very reasonable also.

    Reply

  • ratings

    greg truffle wrote on: Nov 3, 2011

    go ahead and play Huntmore Golf Course in Brighton from the tips and just TRY to break 80..
    Best $25 you'll ever spend in metro detroit golf

    Reply

  • Top 10 courses in Detroit

    Mike Trudel wrote on: Aug 23, 2005

    Although not the biggest Art Hills fan, I must say I was very impressed with Lakes of Taylor. Interesting layout, variety of tees, very good range/pro shop/clubhouse. A real jewel in an otherwise non-descript area of Detroit. Superior course to Twin Lakes, Blackheath and Cherry Creek, just a notch below Shepherds and Orchards.

    Reply

  • Top Ten Courses

    John Sizemore wrote on: Jun 2, 2005

    First, Boulder Pointe is located in Oxford not White Lake. Second, just played Blackheath and I would not even rate that course in the Top 25 courses.

    Reply

  • top 10 courses

    jerad glysson wrote on: May 30, 2005

    i was suprised to see that you guys did not list "the coyote preserve" (in fenton) as on of the areas best public golf courses. i have played just about every course on this list and can say that "the preserve" will give each and every one a run for their spot in the top 10.. i think you guys need to send some staff out to fenton, to check out this hidden gem of a golf course. something tells me you would quickly change your list!!!
    -from one golfer to another- you need to play this track...one heck of a challenge.

    Reply

    • RE: top 10 courses

      Barry Blunk wrote on: Apr 1, 2014

      have also played the preserve. I agree 100% great challenging course!

      Reply

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