Blackheath Golf Course Review
Blackheath Golf Course
Oakland Township, Michigan
Teacher’s Comments: Unusual for Michigan. Fun. Slow.
Blackheath is an unusual course for Michigan. Almost totally devoid of trees along its interior, Blackheath channels the heathlands courses architect Kevin Aldrich saw on a visit to Scotland.
I give Blackheath props for billing itself as “heathlands,” and not “links.” Links are properly courses in the “linksland” — sandy ground, covered with grasses near the sea. Heathlands, on the other hand, are inland landscapes covered with gorse, heather and other grasses. Michigan is nowhere near the sea, so …
Blackheath features lots of mounding, with quite a few very large faux dunes that block line-of-sight off the tee or collar balls on their slopes around the green. At the center of the property is a small hill, over and around which several of the holes are routed. This gives holes in the interior some elevation for additional interest. I particularly liked the par threes on the hill: seven, twelve and fifteen. Seven runs from an elevated tee along the hill’s ridge; twelve and fifteen run from tee across ravines to greens level with the tee box.
As you might expect, Blackheath has a lot of bunkers (I counted 65), more than a few of which are of the deep, pot style.
Fairways are mostly generous, but always seemed to have bump to kick the ball left or right. When combined with the occasional blind shot and the bunkers, these make local knowledge a decided advantage.
Two holes on the course struck me as odd: the par three third and the beginning of the par 5 fourth. Three is tree lined, and carries over a marsh, looking very much like a typical Michigan hole. Four begins in a copse of trees before opening up; as this is on the outside of the property, trees are on the left the entire length. I am a little surprised that the interior trees here were not cut away to keep in spirit with the rest of the design. Cutting back the trees on three, and substituting large mounds to make a small amphitheater around the hole would make it much better. Perhaps they ran into issues with environmental rules.
From the tips, Blackheath stretches to 6, 768 yards and plays to a 73.0/137. The blue tees at 6, 127 are at 70.8/124. As usual with most courses, I suggest the bogey golfer tee it forward for the maximum enjoyment of the round.
Conditions on the day I played were good. The greens were healthy and smooth, and the fairways in decent shape. There was quite a bit of clover in the fairways. Areas off the fairway were scraggly and brown, but that is how a heathland is supposed to look. I think there is actually a lot of opportunity on the course for more heathlands grasses, but these areas have been mowed, perhaps in the interest of speeding up play.
Pace of play on the day I was there was an issue. I teed off before eight am on a weekday, and already the place was backed up. I wonder how it would be during peak hours.
The “clubhouse” at Blackheath is wanting. It is just a carpeted area of the cart barn. Very seedy.
In the end, though, Blackheath was a unique enough experience that I would be willing to go back for another go.
The Blackheath Golf Course Review was first published July 12, 2016 from notes taken in June 2016.
More photos from Blackheath follow: