Atlas Valley Golf Course Review
Atlas Valley Golf Course
Grand Blanc, Michigan
Teacher’s Comments: A classic design marred by poor conditions
Atlas Valley is a classic Tom Bendelow design dating to 1912. It was originally built for early automobile tycoons as the Flint Country Club. William C. “Billy” Durant (GM and Frigidaire founder), Albert Champion of spark plug fame were among its members. The Flint CC packed its bags and moved to a new location in 1918, but the original club remains (albeit through several name and ownership changes).
Atlas Valley is a parklands course routed along the heights and into the bottomlands of a valley created by the meandering Kearsley Creek.
The first three holes are on the heights; the second doesn’t have an elevation change, but the right edge skirts a slope that runs down toward the creek. Four dives down into the valley, where you’ll also find five through seven. The approach shot to the fifth green is uphill to the heights. Seven’s tee box is cut into the upslope on the far side of the valley. Eight is an uphill par three back to the heights where nine plays out.
On the back nine, ten is a par three from the heights into the valley. Eleven through thirteen are relatively flat holes along the heights. Fourteen and fifteen play down and up again over a significant depression. Sixteen is a downhill par three into the valley. Seventeen’s tee is back up on the heights, but plays downhill and along the creek. Eighteen starts on the creek and has a tough uphill shot to the green perched on the heights.
I go into this laborious detail because I was impressed with the way Bendelow used the land’s contours. More than half the holes have elevation changes playing into or out of the creek valley. Three of four par threes have elevation changes that will make you doubt your club selection.
The source of all this variety, Kearsley Creek, is ever-present, but should really only come into play on four holes. Two of those are on nice downhill par threes.
On the downside, five of the holes on the heights are rather plain. I found the greens mostly uninteresting pans.
My favorite hole was the par 4 eighteenth. It is not, however, particularly representative of the whole course. It starts on a wooded grove, and requires a tee shot over several horseshoe bends of Kearsley Creek.
The fairway runs at a 90 degree angle to the tee. The green is perched on the edge of the heights, making intricate calculations necessary for the approach shot. Can you get to the top of the hill? Do you risk falling a little short and ending up in the hillside’s face? Is a layup more appropriate?
Another neat hole is the par three tenth. I don’t recall many nines that begin with a par three. It’s a pretty hole and the downhill shot requires some thinking about club selection.
From the back tees, Atlas Valley measures 6, 397 yards and plays to a 71/130.
Unfortunately, conditions on the day I played were not good. I encountered large patches of bare fairways on the high ground, and swamp-like fairways on the low. A couple of the greens needed help as well. It didn’t leave a good impression.
I hope that what I found was an aberration as far as conditions go.
I am very much conflicted about Atlas Valley. I really liked the way the routing used the creek valley. The conditions and relatively uninteresting greens, however, let the course down.
The Atlas Valley Golf Course Review was first published January 6, 2021 from notes and photos taken on a round played August 23, 2021. For all of GolfBlogger’s Michigan Golf Course Reviews, click on the link.
A photo tour of Atlas Valley follows: