Bucks Run Golf Club: A Course to Get Excited About

By Kiel Christianson, Senior Writer

Mt. Pleasant, MI - It seems that a new course opens just about every month in Michigan (well, except for the winter months). As great as this state of affairs is for Michigan golfers, it is not necessarily so wonderful for the new courses themselves: Just being "new" is hardly noteworthy in this golf-rich state.

Bucks Run Golf
Bucks Run Golf
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Bucks Run Golf Club

4 stars out of 5 (based on 3 reviews)
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1559 S Chippewa Rd
Mt Pleasant, Michigan 48858
Isabella County
Phone(s): (989) 773-6830
Website: www.bucksrun.com
18 Holes | Public golf course | Par: 72 | 6914 yards | Book online | ... details »

What is noteworthy, however, is when a course opens with goals beyond simply making a profit, and instead sets its sights immediately on gaining a place on one or more golf oracle's "Best Courses in Michigan" list. Such is the case with Buck's Run Golf Club, a new course with all of the components to be come one of the best in Mid-Michigan, and perhaps the state.

Opened in July 2000, Bucks Run Golf Club is built on the site of a former stone quarry and covers 290 acres of land in all. The centerpiece of the layout is the 34-acre Fisher Lake, which is surrounded by two holes of the front nine and three of the back nine. Along with this large body of water, two smaller ponds and the Chippewa River also come into play on another six of the holes.

Those of you who have played courses built on rock quarries know that the topographical features of the land make for some excellent layouts: elevation changes, deep water hazards, rocky outcroppings. So it's hard to build a bad course around a quarry, but this doesn't mean that it's easy to build a great one.

Jerry Matthews, designer of some of Mid-Michigan's top courses (Hawk Hollow, Timber Ridge, The Majestic at Lake Walden), spared no effort (and, from the looks of it, no expense) in building a course here that will stand out in any golfer's memory.

What makes Bucks Run so memorable?

First, the clubhouse is a first-class, 18,000 square-foot facility with an exquisitely stocked pro shop, full bar and grill, and banquet room that holds up to 250 people.

Yet a lot of upscale courses boast similar facilities, so in order to offer something truly unique, the clubhouse includes a private room upstairs with wet bar, satellite big-screen TV, and full teleconferencing capabilities-perfect for a bachelor party poker game or a more high-stakes corporate meeting.

Second, instead of simply grooming a little island in the middle of the lake for purely decorative purposes, Matthews laid out a par-54, 18-hole putting course on the island, only the second of its kind in Michigan (the other is at Hawk Hollow in Bath), and one of only a handful in the entire nation. If you've never played a real putting course (and we don't mean a putt-putt course-no clowns or windmills here), you really should do so. They are nearly as challenging-and fun-as full-sized courses.

Third, the service at Bucks Run is impeccable. From bag-drop to pro-shop to grill to drink cart (including the most unique drink cart you'll ever see), you will be pampered. And if you are not, let Jim Zeh, GM and Head Pro, know, and he will make it right.

Fourth…Oh yes, the golf! As already mentioned, water is everywhere on this 6,756-yard, par-72 layout. And, truthfully, even though there are plenty of healthy stands of trees and some patches of shaft-bending fescue, the water is really the major concern. The course is player-friendly as long as you a) choose to hit from the tees appropriate to your skill level, b) play smart golf and think your way around the course (e.g., don't pull driver automatically on every hole), and c) avoid the water (duh!).

The bent grass fairways are for the most part very generous (with a couple of notable exceptions, e.g., Nos. 6 and 12), and the four-plus tee stations at each hole allow players of all skill levels to negotiate some fairly tee shots. In addition, there is little or no hidden trouble off the tee. Likewise, the greens are enormous and readable-however, this doesn't make those 40-foot lag putts any easier to get into gimme range.

Like so many new, upscale courses, Bucks Run claims no one "signature" hole, but rather a collection of holes which all stick out in your memory in one way or another. According to Jim Zeh and the crack MichiganGolf.com staff, the following are the best of the best:

No. 6 is a solid par-5 from the tips at 531 yards. What gives this swooping, dogleg right its character, though, is the fact that it really forces you to play target golf rather than power golf from tee to green. The first landing area is only 200-230 yards over brush off the tees (depending on where you drive from).

The second shot is also over a gaping swale filled with water, brush, and golf balls. There is trouble right and left along both sides of this narrow fairway, so precision is key.

The par-3 8th (193 yards) is a great hole that forces you to completely carry your tee shot over the corner of Fisher Lake. Mounds and thick underbrush/rough guards both sides of the green, which wraps around the back side of the left mound. A back left pin placement here would be nearly impossible for anyone who can't hit a 15-yard draw.

And while we're discussing the par 3s, it should be noted that each and every one takes you over water from the tips. So even the relatively easy No. 17-a simply gorgeous, short par 3 (139 yards) at which the Chippewa River races between the tees and the green-gives you reason to pause and consider very carefully what you want to hit and how.

In fact, this picturesque hole could become the "signature" hole if the tee boxes were raised so that more of the river would be visible from the tees.

And finally, the hole that could be the highlight (or lowlight) of any golfer's round, the 469-yard, par-4 18th. This hole brings you back into the impressive clubhouse directly across the widest inlet of Fisher Lake. As with many of the holes here, you need to think seriously and make a decision before you clamber up to the seriously elevated tee: "How much do I want to cut off the corner of the water?"

Feeling timid? Well, you might just want to step up to one of the two forward tees and take practically all the water out of play. A little braver? 210-30 yards of water is the only thing that stands between you and the start of the fairway from the whites.

But beware of playing too conservatively: On a hole this length, a short tee shot will leave at least two good shots to get onto the putting surface, and since water juts out into the fairway in front of the green, the tee shot isn't the end of your worries (Damn that lake, and damn that Matthews!)

So are there any weak aspects of Bucks Run? After all, golf writers hate to seem like they're fawning all over a course, even if it is an outstanding one. Well, two minor blemishes-hard fairways and greens-will fade as the course matures. And some will be sorry to see this go, as the roll you can get on the fairways is quite helpful at times. Another, at least for some, would be the two par 5s where big hitters probably need to hit some club less than driver off the tees.

Many folks actually like the variety, but one can imagine others who want every opportunity to grip it and rip it. However, it must be stressed that there are enough of these opportunities elsewhere on the course (e.g., No. 18) to placate all but the most testosterone-crazed Tiger-wannabe.

All in all, it would be hard to say too many nice things about Bucks Run: From the grand architecture to the pristine surroundings, from the stone-walled tee boxes to the flower beds, from the clubhouse to the driving range, you won't be disappointed.

The price is reasonable as well, especially considering the location (just five minutes away from the Soaring Eagle Casino and Resort) and the quality of the course. And, as mentioned, the service is top-rate. This is indeed a new course to get excited 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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