Timber Ridge Golf Course: Even Better than Before

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

EAST LANSING, MI - One of the most challenging, popular, and picturesque courses in the Lansing area, Timber Ridge, is undergoing a facelift. In the fall of 1999, a trio of new owners bought the course, and they are making every effort to return the course to its past glory as one of the most beautiful and best-maintained courses in mid-Michigan.

Shortly after opening in 1989, Timber Ridge garnered national recognition as one of GOLF DIGEST's "Top 5 New Public Courses" (1989), and one of the "75 Best Public Golf Courses in America" (1990, 1996). However, assorted maintenance problems slowly arose, and the course dropped from the national rankings. In particular, the thick stands of 60-year old pines restricted airflow to several greens, resulting in some inconsistent turf.

The new course owners, whose slogan is "It's about the golf", have spent a great deal of money to thin certain stands of trees and institute a green-care regimen that includes meticulous hand-mowing, one of the very few courses in the area that does not mow greens with tractors. In addition, some of the fairways, renowned-and often cursed-for their narrowness, have been opened up a bit with the removal of some trees.

In the areas where trees have been removed, Georgia pine straw will replace the dense underbrush that used to simply eat up all stray shots. The result is a more player-friendly course, especially for higher-handicap players. After all, "It's about the golf" - it is not about losing balls or waiting on the tee as the group ahead searches endlessly for theirs.

Local golfers have received the news of the changes in Timber Ridge with a certain amount of trepidation, as they don't want to see a good course bunged up. When renovations are complete, however, odds are that most will be pleased with the changes, which will improve the quality of the greens and the pace of play without significantly affecting the course's difficulty.

One of the best aspects of the "new" course is that the original holes 1-9 are back to being 1-9, and the original holes 10-18 are back to being 10-18. For the last couple of years, the order had been reversed. The main reason was that the impenetrable trees guarding the left dogleg on the original No. 1 made the hole so hard that groups would get hopelessly backed up behind people searching for their lost balls.

The unpopular decision to switch the nines made the first hole (the original No. 10) much easier, but it also relegated the fabulous original No. 18 to the best 9th hole in the area. Big whoop.

Now, however, the 18th is the 18th again, thanks to the radical widening of the fairway on the original No. 1. While the dogleg still exists, a pull or hook will end up in the fairway or rough, instead of dead in trees and underbrush. Again, it's about the golf, not about hitting three Mulligans on the first tee.

Other major changes are the new tee boxes on Nos. 2 and 15, and the considerable thinning of trees on Nos. 3, 6, 9, 14, 15, and 16. No. 6 especially is a much better hole than before. A large tree just to the right of the tee box used to put considerable constraints on where your drive could go; now the shot is much more driver-friendly. A number of fairway bunkers on the right side of the fairway of No. 3 have also been nixed.

Finally, you will also notice some changes for the better in the clubhouse. The golf shop has been moved downstairs, and the lovely panoramic views of the course, once blocked by the golf shop desk, are now featured in a comfortable and richly decorated lounge, part of the new Duffy's Irish Pub. Here you can keep an eye on the 18th green and the tees of Nos. 1 and 10 while you relax with a draught Guinness or Harp. Better yet, ask the bar tender to mix them together in the house drink, a half-and-half. At Duffy's, "It's about the beer."

The new owners of Timber Ridge have paid remarkable attention to every detail of the new and improved course and facilities. Nothing has been taken away from the challenge for low-handicappers, while high-handicappers will be less likely to lose every ball and break every club in their bag. Because, when all is said and done, it's about the fun.

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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