Lakes of Taylor Golf Course Review

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Lakes of Taylor
Grade: B
Teachers’ Comments: A fine muni.

Designed by Arthur Hills, The Lakes of Taylor is an upscale muni. It’s quite long, and if length makes a place a “Championship Course,” then Lakes of Taylor lives up to its self-billing. From the back tees, the course stretches to 7,028 and plays to a 74/136. The middle tees, where mortal golfers should play come in at 70.7/122 and 6,386 yards. Even from these tees, this is a long course.

I really liked the Arthur Hills’ design for The Lakes of Taylor. Much of it is open and treeless, lending comparisons to links courses. It isn’t, of course, because there are no seaside (or Great Lakes-side) winds, and it is far from flat. I like to think of these courses as “prairie courses,” for they reflect the glacier-carved, grassy, windy landscapes of the American heartland. The course also features plenty of light woodland, water and marsh — which again are features you see all across Michigan.

(For what it’s worth, Arthur Hills is the architect of another terrific “muni,” Lyon Oaks, in Wixom. On the other hand, I’m not a fan of “The Legacy by Arthur Hills” in Ottawa Lake)

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The par five 10th at the Lakes of Taylor

About half the holes on the course play through what can only be described as “stadium style” mounds — that is, the fairways are bounded by hummocks and hills. If a championship were to be held here, spectators would be afforded great views of the action. On the open holes, the hills offer a visual aid, helping to define the contours of the fairways.

The other half of The Lakes of Taylor’s holes are lined by woods on one side or the other … or both. The woods are not close to the fairways, and it would take a poor teeshot indeed to loose a ball in the trees (As I nearly did on the eighth hole. Fortunately my partner found it and I punched out).

While there are no serious doglegs at the Lakes of Taylor, six of the holes bend to the right at one point or another. Two turn left. Still, all the bogey golfer really needs to do is to aim properly and try to hit it straight. The fairways are generous and the angles gentle, so even an offline shot still has a chance at bogey at least.

Water or marsh come into play on ten of the holes. I counted some thirty sand traps.

My biggest challenge at the Lakes of Taylor was the distance. On a good many par fours, I was faced with the unenviable choice of trying a long shot at a green — which were often elevated or bound by bunkers — or laying up and trying to stick a wedge close. The par four fourteenth is a good example of this. At 414 yards from the white, my tees shot of 230 still left me with 184 yards  around a lake to an angled green tucked into a horseshoe shaped knoll. There’s a lot that can go wrong on a longer shot like that, so I decided to lay up short of the hole and pitch up to the green.

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Lakes of Taylor Eighteenth Hole – Tee Shot

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Lakes of Taylor Eighteenth Hole – Green View

My favorite hole was the par five eighteenth. From the tips, it’s a 510 yard affair; it plays 494 from the middle. A marsh/lake runs along the right side for three hundred fifty yards; at that point, another pond appears on the left.  The tee shot needs to stay left, carrying 177 yards of rough and a sliver of pond. Big hitters (not me) need to be careful, though: A tee shot of 250 or so will find you in a bunker left. The second shot should be a mid-iron to the right side of the fairway. Big hitters will perhaps be tempted to go for the green in two, but it projects sufficiently into the pond on the left to make that a hazardous proposition. The green itself has a hill on the back and right, and slopes downward toward the water.

Perhaps the reason I liked this one is that I managed one of my few pars there that day.

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The Lakes of Taylor 18th Green

The green itself is framed nicely by the pond and the absolutely gorgeous clubhouse/banquet facility.

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The twin greens on the par three eleventh at the Lakes of Taylor

Another hole I liked — for its originality — was the par three eleventh.  The hole actually has two greens, creating very different angles. On the day I visited, the flag was to the right. Two greens — as opposed to one large one — offers a different sort of strategy.

I could go on, because there were so many good holes. I thought just two really pedestrian: the par four fifteenth and sixteenth. Given the way they are situated, and the routing, I think Arthur Hills was just out of options for those.

Conditions on the day I played were good, but not great. The Lakes of Taylor is a serious cut above my home track, but also quite short of the area’s “premium” courses. The mowers left debris that sometimes got in the way, and it was not all grass in the fairways. Both of those are things I ignore at my local buck-a-hole course, but should be addressed a a course with loftier ambitions. The also was a weird thing going on with the tee boxes: on most of them, the teeing ground markers were barely two club lengths apart. That doesn’t leave a lot of room. I confess to adding another club length to a good many of them.

In terms of price and value, The Lakes of Taylor is positioned somewhere between a bargain muni and an upscale public access course. For non-residents, the Lakes of Taylor is priced at $45 riding, and $33 walking on weekdays. On the weekend, that rises to $39 and $52. If you’re a Taylor resident, however, it’s a better deal: $40 riding during the week, and $45 on the weekend.

The bottom line for me, however, is that I would readily play the Lakes of Taylor again. I found it to be a fun and challenging course.

More photos follow.

The Lake of Taylor Golf Course Review was first published June 30, 2015.

Mental Mondays: Play From The Correct Tees

TheFiveInchCoD22aR05aP01ZL-Pierce5a_mdmOne of the reasons scores are so high—and rounds so long—is that too many weekenders play from the wrong tees. Playing from the back tees might be manly, but often makes little sense. If you have to consistently make heroic drives to have a decent chance at greens in regulation, or if you find yourself playing long irons and woods into every par four, chances are the course is too long from those tees.

Forcing yourself to hit those extra yards causes more missed fairways. Drives that fall too far from the green force the use of long irons and fairway woods, resulting in missed greens in regulation, and pile up strokes with costly chips, flubbed flops and multiple shots out of greenside bunkers. Long shots into the green leave players far from the hole, requiring extra putts.

One rule of thumb is to play from the tees that give you a decent chance at using a mid or short iron on the par 4s. That requires that you have a realistic understanding of how far you hit your clubs.

If your typical driver shot is 220 yards, and your six iron goes 170, then on a par 4, you should play from the tees that are closest to 390 from the green.

Another way to assess the proper length is to use the Rule of 28, as described by Chris Mile, owner of the Miles of Golf pro shop in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Mile says that to find the proper tees, you should multiply your average driving distance by 28. That’ll give you the yardage that you should play from; choose the tees closest to that distance.

This means that a player who hits the ball 200 yards on a drive should play from the tees closest to 5,600 yards.

I use the 200 yard drive figure deliberately. Studies have consistently shown that the average golfer drives the ball 200 yards, but THINKS he hits it 30 yards further. And remember that it’s the AVERAGE that counts. Occasionally uncorking a 270 yarder is not the same as hitting for an average of 270. You also have to consider all the times you don’t hit it that far.

This tip is an excerpt from The Five Inch Course: Thinking Your Way To Better Golf. The complete book is available in Kindle and paperback format at Amazon.com.

Michigan Ranked First; Florida Worst By Thrillist

every state ranked

The website Thrillist has ranked every state and Michigan ranked number one.

And that’s without even considering the golf.

The rankings are totally tongue-in-cheek, but are a fun read anyway.

And before anyone in Florida or other sun belt states make a snarky comment about cold weather:

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I play in short sleeves and often shorts in fifty degree weather. Temperatures in the 40s require a sweater. If you hit many Michigan courses when the temperatures are in the 30s, but the snow is gone, you’ll find people playing.

And as for the snow? That’s the water you guys need. We shovel it off our driveways as disposable waste.

Just sayin’

The Greenbrier Classic History and Past Winners

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imageThe Greenbrier Classic was played for the first time July 29 – August 1, 2010 at the Old White Course at The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia. It replaced Flint, Michigan’s Buick Open, which had been a tour stop since 1958.

The Greenbrier is one of America’s oldest resort properties. As far back as 1778, the area’s hot sulfur springs attracted travelers seeking health benefits. Indeed, for the first 125 years of its existence, the resort spot was known simply as White Sulfur Springs. A hotel was built in 1858, which stood until 1922.

The property was purchased and expanded by the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway starting in 1910. It was at that time that the resort became known as The Greenbrier, while the nearby town was White Sulfur Springs. The Greenbrier became a premier destination, attracting twenty six Presidents, foreign dignitaries such as the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson, Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Ghandi, Prince Ranier and Princess Grace as well as innumerable stars such as the always-ready-for-golf Bing Crosby.

In 1913, three years after purchasing the property, the C & O Railroad built the first golf course, the Old White Course. The Old White Course was designed by Charles Blair Macdonald and features several holes modeled after well‑known Scottish holes. Over the years, Sam Snead, the resort’s golf professional emeritus, as well as Arnold Palmer, Jimmy Demaret, Dwight Eisenhower, the Prince of Wales, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and the Rev. Billy Graham have enjoyed golf at The Greenbrier. Jack Nicklaus redesigned the Greenbrier Course in 1977 for the 1979 International Ryder Cup Matches. The third championship course on the property is the Meadows Course, redesigned in 1998 by noted golf architect Robert Cupp. In 1999, the Sam Snead Golf Academy opened offering half‑day and multi‑day classes for golfers of all abilities.

Curiously, The Greenbrier also was the site of a secret underground bunker complex that the US government built to house the Congress in case of national emergency (it figures that Congress would relocate itself to a luxury resort while the rest of us suffer). Now decommissioned and declassified, the bunker apparently houses data facilities and can be toured. The Washington Post article which exposed the secret bunker can be read here.

PGA Tour legend Sam Snead held the position as the resort’s emeritus pro for many years until his death. The resort also hosted the Ryder Cup in 1979 and the Solheim Cup in 1994. Muirfield Village is the only other location to have hosted both the Ryder and Solheim Cups.

In 2009, the resort filed for bankruptcy, and apparently was slated to be bought by the Marriott Corporation. But that purchase was contested by James Justice, whose family holdings included mines, milling and farms in West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina and South Carolina. In the end, the legal argument was settled in favor of the Justice family and they are the current owners of the property. Casino gambling was introduced at the Greenbrier in 2010.

Stuart Appleby won the inaugural event.

Greenbrier Classic Past Winners
YearPlayer
2014Angel Cabrera
2013Jonas Blixt
2012Ted Potter, Jr.
2011Scott Stallings
2010Stuart Appleby

Northville Hills Golf Course Review

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Northville Hills 13th Hole

Northville Hills
Grade: A-
Teachers’ Comments: A premium course at a very reasonable price

I was prepared to dislike Northville Hills. For the most part, I don’t like housing development courses, as the proximity of homes to the fairways and greens makes me nervous. The homes also ruin the views and peace of the golf course setting.

Northville Hills was different, though. The houses were set back far enough, and the angles such that they really did not feel as much of an imposition as many other development courses. After a while, I pretty much forgot the houses were there. Kudos to the Arnold Palmer design team for this.

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Northville Hills provides a variety of challenges. I counted three doglegs left and four right. There also were several holes that jogged left or right (and sometimes both) without actually rising to dogleg status. There were some fifty bunkers. Half a dozen of the holes required reasonable forced carries (mostly the par threes).  A few holes had interrupted fairways; the tee shots were direct, but getting to the green required a lofted shot. Those aren’t my favorite kind of holes, as I prefer open fronts, but it did offer problems to solve.

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Northville Hills 18th Hole

An interesting feature of a good many of the bunkers at Northville Hills is that they were set into the sides of hills or mounds facing the tee box and fairways, rather than in recesses in the ground. It was a nice way to give definition to the course, and to keep the eyes on the fairways, instead of wandering to the homes on the sidelines.

My favorite hole at Northville Hills was the par 4 thirteenth (top of page). Measuring 415 yards, it’s a dogleg right with a split fairway on the other side of a large ravine. A carry of at least 180 is needed to get your ball to the upper tier for a reasonable chance at par. A lesser drive will likely leave a player on the lower fairway. From that position, there’s no direct line, so the play is to play a short iron up, then another short iron or a wedge in. You can still make par that way,  but the approach will need to be close for a one-putt. The front of the green is open, though, so a pitch and run will work.

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Northville Hills’ Ninth Hole

A great risk-reward hole is the par 4 ninth. It measures 418 yards, with a slight dogleg right. In front of the green is a 100 yard wide pond. Thus, an average tee shot of 220 leaves a 200  yard shot at the green — with the last 100 yards requiring carry. It can be done, but the consequences of a miss would be catastrophic. Even a 250 yard drive leaves a risky shot. Golfers have a decision to make there: lay up and then take a wedge into the long narrow green, or go r it and risk a Tin Cup. For my part, I laid up, missed the green long, chipped on and one-putted for bogey. But it still kept double or worse out of the equation.

Conditions on the day I played Northville Hills were simply outstanding. The fairways and greens were like well-cleaned carpets. Sand in the bunkers was debris free. Tee boxes were as well cared for as you could demand. Northville Hills is clearly a premium course.

But the greens fees are not premium. Peak prices at Northville Hills on weekends are $65 including cart. On Weekday afternoons, the price is as low as $42 and after 6, $30.

I was pleased that Northville Hills encourages walkers. Not as pleasing was no price break for not taking a cart. Walkers don’t consume cart resources, so they shouldn’t have to pay for them.

The combination of terrific conditions and relatively modest prices is what elevated Northville Hills to near top marks in my book.

More photos below