Michigan's Grand Ledge Country Club Designed for Comfort
GRAND LEDGE, Mich. - Without a doubt, Mark Twain's crack about golf being a good walk spoiled is one of the most oft-repeated quotes about the sport. Whether you agree or not, you must admit that if nothing else, many newer courses have indeed spoiled a good walk by requiring golfers to ride in carts.
To be fair, many of these courses are simply far too long to walk even if you were allowed, unless perhaps you had a decathalete for a caddie.
And I won't even begin to discuss the difficulty of some of these same new courses, with their borderline sadistic designs that can spoil even a good cart ride for your average duffer.
So every once in a while, it is rather nice to head out to a course where you know you can comfortably walk, work on your game a bit, stay out of trouble, and maybe even shoot low for a change. If this sort of a round sounds like a welcome respite from high-priced, high score-producing courses, check out the Grand Ledge Country Club in Grand Ledge, Mich.
Grand Ledge CC was designed by Steve Lipkowitz, father of current manager James Lipkowitz. It was built in 1958, in an age of persimmon woods, blade irons, and a generally geriatric golfing population.
As such, the course is short--only 6,347 yards from the tips--and can be overpowered by long, relatively straight hitters today. In fact, there was a threesome of 12 years-old playing behind us from the white tees (6,100 yards), and two of them came fairly close to driving the greens on a couple of par 4s.
Other features characteristic of rural public courses built at that time are the general lack of raised tee boxes and the rather small greens. Features such as these are certainly endearing, and can also lead to low scores.
So at only $22 for eighteen holes on weekends ($19 weekdays), Grand Ledge CC provides a fine opportunity to experiment a bit with shot-making, putting, and your bump-and-run game, as few greens are guarded in front by bunkers. Indeed, the course only contains fourteen total bunkers, so you likely won't be practicing many sand shots.
A quick spin around the course yields a few highlights of note. The tee boxes of No. 1 and No. 10 are Siamese twins, and both holes are very similar in appearance, with lovely arboreal backdrops behind the greens.
These bentgrass greens, like most on the course, are small and tilted from back to front, and they are in good shape. Aside from a few rolling greens, they present no difficult reads as long as you stay below the hole.
Delightful Front Nine
Holes 3 through 5 comprise the nicest stretch of holes. No. 3 is a 341-yard par 4 that takes a right-angle right turn 2/3 of the way to the green. If you try to cut the corner, though, you'll most likely end up in thick woods, so choose your club off the tee carefully.
No. 4 is a nice little par 3 (150 yards) that probably calls for one club extra since it's an uphill carry over a swampy pond to the green. Unfortunately, the well-contoured green of No. 4 is also in the worst shape of any on the course, with bald spots, a badly scalped ridge, and a large puddle on the putting surface.
The 387-yard par-4 5th is the most appealing hole on the course. It calls for a tee shot out of a stand of trees and over a pond (which doesn't come into play). A broad fairway bunker/wasteland area lies on the fairway short and left to gobble up any toe-hooks you might hit. The green of No. 5 is one of the few rolling ones and is larger in comparison as well, so you need to be aware of pin placement here, unlike most of the greens.
Finally, the 315-yard 14th presents a tricky tee shot over a pond to a fairway that doglegs left toward the green. Anything more than a fairway wood will roll through the fairway without a skillful draw, but if you come up short, more trees block your angle to the pin. There is, however, a bailout area covered with short rough to the left of the pond. Here your toe-hook will actually be rewarded with a relatively clear and short approach to the pin.
While none of the other holes require special description, you will find just enough variation and character to hold your interest, especially if you're walking and enjoying the fresh country air. Grand Ledge Country Club is, after all, really located out in the country.
So whether you're doing your best not to spoil a good walk, or even just hitting a bucket of balls on the practice range across the road from the course, recall another oft-repeated golf quote: Even a bad day of golf is better than a good day at work.
July 18, 2002