An Evil Golf Green


The sixth at the University of Michigan course has the most unfair green in America. In his book, Grounds for Golf Geoff Shackleford pegged the Alister MacKenzie design as an example of a “humorous” hole design.

I fail to find anything funny about it.

The hole is temptingly short—just 309 to the center, and most of the length is strongly downhill. There are lines of trees left and right, but that really doesn’t cause any difficulty.

All of the “humor” of the hole comes from the snaking, skinny, wishbone shaped green. There’s a bunker complex in the crook, and the fork furthest from the tee is significantly higher than the front. Just to make things fun, there’s a bunker adjacent to the lower fork, and another just beyond the upper.

While the hole could be set in the center portion, on most of the occasions I’ve played, it’s cut in either of the two forks. If the flag is on the upper, and you hit the lower green—or vice versa—it practically guarantees a four putt. There’s simply no easy way to get there from here.

That’s not quite true. On an unfunny hole, having a bunker between you and the hole typically is simply a matter of taking out a wedge and lobbing the ball over the obstruction. While there’s nothing technically illegal about hitting a wedge off a putting surface, I’m sure the club would frown on that.


Last night, the hole was cut on the upper tine of the wishbone (as in the photo). And as you might expect, my approach shot fell short, landing on the lower. I decided to take the direct approach and putt the ball into the sand. Then, I hit a wedge to the upper lip, where I one putted. Bogey.

My other choice would have been a long putt to the center. However, that would have left me with another long, uphill putt to the hole. And there was the danger that I might not have gotten the first putt wide enough. Wider, however, leaves a longer second putt.

One of my playing partners fell into just that trap. He, too, was on the green in two—but on the lower deck. From there, he putted to the center. But it wasn’t quite long enough, and the curve of the bunker and surrounding rough still stood on a direct line to the hole. A second putt distanced him from that and gave him a shot at the hole. Alas, he didn’t hit his third hard enough, and the ball rolled back down the rather steep slope. His fourth put him within a foot; the fifth putt got him in.

The sad thing is: I’ve seen worse results.

The only thing this hole is missing is a windmill.

3 thoughts on “An Evil Golf Green”

  1. At the RTJ Huntsville “The Rivers” course, there are some very unfunny greens.  Wishbone shaped and X shaped, and with somewhat severe undilations and tiering going on.  A couple times I had to lay up for the second putt, the alternative would be a wedge, but I can’t wedge off a tight surface. 

    I played Justin Timberlake’s Mirimichi course on Monday, and we were surprised to find a lot of the greens were somewhat similar to what they were as the old course, which, is not to say they were bad.  But one of the holes was maybe the oddest green I have ever seen.  I was maybe 110 yards from the green, and the GPS was telling me it was 150 yards to the center.  I didn’t believe it and got out the laser.  118 to the flag.  When we got up to the green, what we found was a long, skinny green, 50-60 yards in length, and 10-15 yards wide the whole length.  On one side just a couple feet before it sloped right into a creek running the full length down one side and then in front, and along the other side was a small hill which made a backstop which you could bank shots onto the green (I did).  The hole was up front, but it would have been a nightmare if the hole was in the back.  Off a decent 250-260 yard drive, you could be looking at a 165 yard shot to the pin on a very narrow and FAST green.  I was happy with my par!

  2. U of M’s sixth is certainly a tough green.  However, most golfers typically are hitting a wedge of some kind as an approach.  My expectation with that kind of club is to hit the correct level.  Now if I were hitting a 5 iron, then the green would be ridiculous.

    When the flag is on the upper level and one’s ball is on the lower (or vice versa), the course has a local rule that allows one to drop off the green at the closest point, no nearer the hole without penalty (similar to ground under repair).  This allows one to pitch or chip to the right level instead of taking the circuitous route with a putter.  The same is true of #14, which also features two levels separated by bunkers.

    Unfair?  I don’t think so.  Tough?  Absolutely.

  3. hmmm … I never saw that local rule. I would have saved me some strokes over the years

    And I agree with you on the wedges. Works fine when the flag is on the lower, but for some reason I can’t hit the upper

    Part of the “humor” of the green, I guess


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