Black Lake Golf Course
Teacher’s Comments: One of the best public courses in Michigan. So reasonably priced it’s astonishing.
Note: This is an update to my 2009 review.
We have an embarrassment of riches in Michigan when it comes to public golf courses. According to Michigan.Org, the state’s tourism site, Michigan currently has some 650 to choose from. With so many, it makes sense that Michigan would have more than its share of outstanding golf courses. Forest Dunes, Arcadia Bluffs, Boyne’s Bay Harbor, Tullymore and a few others get most of the well-deserved press.
I have played nearly 200 courses in Michigan (including all those mentioned above) and I believe that Black Lake belongs in the “best course” conversation. The design by Rees Jones, the beautiful Northern Michigan landscape and the stellar conditions make this a not-to-be-missed course.
It also just might be the best value in Michigan golf.
Rees Jones’ design is spirited, tripping lightly across the landscape. It is the golf architecture version of a Hollywood musical routine where Gene Kelly dances with inanimate objects, such as lamp posts, park benches and statues. Jones’ routing and design embraces the landscape’s hills, forest, ponds, marsh, cranberry bogs and a sand quarry. Incorporating these features created holes with lots of twists and turns, and imaginative flourishes.
My favorite hole at Black Lake is the par four fourth. From an elevated tee, the safe tee shot plays to the wide landing left. Bigger hitters may try to fly the bunker and waste complex on the left, but the fairway turns at that point and becomes considerably more narrow. The green is elevated, and open to the front, although it favors the right side. Bunkers on the left also argue for an approach from the right side. This is a hole where it is useful to think from the green back to the tee box to plan the line of attack.
The fifth is as visually striking a par three as you will see in Michigan. A long bunker with numerous fingers extends from tee to green on the left side, and is likely to catch slicers. This hole is featured in the Pure Michigan 18 campaign.
From the tips, Black Lake stretches to 7, 035 yards and plays at a 143/74.8. The blues are in at 6, 736 and a 140/73.4. White tees measure 6, 391 and play at 137/71.9. The more forward silver tees serve as both the most forward men’s and the back tees for women. They’re at 5, 823 and 126/69 for the men, and 142/74.2 for the women.
The starter cautioned that the course plays even longer than the scorecard indicates. A great many of the holes play uphill to the green, adding clubs to every approach shot. Black Lake is as tough a course as you will enjoy.
Conditions on the day I played were outstanding. I saw two greens where tree shading was making the grass struggle a little bit, but that was it. The rest was like playing on a green carpet.
There are a few persistent rumors about Black Lake that need to be addressed: First, while it is the UAW golf course, you do not need to be a union member to play. Rates are very reasonable in any case: $60 on weekdays and $75 on the weekend. That is an absolute steal for the quality of the course. I have paid twice that for courses half as nice.
Second, they do not check to see if you are driving an American car. While that seems to be true for entry to the adjacent Walter and May Reuther UAW Family Education Center (at least, they checked mine), you can just park in the lot with your Japanese import just like anyone else.
In addition to the full sized 18 hole course, Black Lake has “The Little Course,” a fun nine-hole par 3. Practice facilities include an enormous, double sided driving range, four chipping and putting greens and several practice bunkers.
This Black Lake golf course review was first published September 11, 2018, from a round played September 9, 2018.
A photo tour of Black Lake follows: