Calderone Golf Club
Teacher’s Comments: An exceptional value.
I’ve often passed Calderone Farms on my way down I94 to my favorite courses in Jackson, Michigan. From the highway the three holes that you can see aren’t very inviting. And it doesn’t help matters much that it’s located next to a cheesy looking deer farm that calls itself the Michigan White Tail Museum.
But since I am on a mission this summer to review all of the courses within a half hour’s drive of Ann Arbor, I decided to take advantage of Calderone’s off season rates ($25) and give it a try.
I liked it so much that I went back a week later for another round—just to be sure. And the second round confirmed my initial opinion: this is a championship quality experience at municipal golf course rates.
Calderone Farms is a prairie course—and I mean that in the best possible way. Laid out by William Newcomb on 220 acres of glacier sculpted land, Calderone Farms has many of the characteristics of a “links” style course: largely treeless, with windswept fairways lined by thick, tall grasses.
But that’s where the comparison ends, because the land is anything but flat. The glaciers of ten thousand years ago saw to that.
It’s the elevation changes that make Calderone Farms such an interesting course. The holes are routed through small hilly valleys, across ridge lines, down from elevated tees and back up again to the greens. The changes are not severe, but they are enough to make it necessary to do some serious thinking about your yardages, landing zones, and approaches.
I love a thinking-man’s course.
On my favorite hole—number three—your first shot has to carry from a hilltop tee box across a ravine to land on a ridgeline fairway. While the fairway is relatively flat, missing on either side will cause your ball to roll down a steep slope. A good tee shot will take you left and then back to the right side of the fairway, leaving about 140 to the hole. From there, an ideal shot would draw back to the green. If you miss left, your ball will be stopped by a couple of mounds; miss right and you’re back down a hill. (A shot of this hole is the third picture from the top)
The best part of the hole, however, is that it is deceptive. The first time I played it, I was sure that my tee shot had rolled to the right off the fairway down the hill and into the scrub. But when I got there, I was sitting pretty in the short grass. Thanks to the slight dogleg left, the fairway is a lot wider than it appears in the landing zone.
Five sets of tees make this course playable by players of practically skill level, with the back tees coming in at more than 7,000 yards. I played once from the tips and once from the whites; the course was fun and fair from either location. If you realize that you can’t make the ideal shot, there always are plenty of places to bail.
The greens are large and well kept. But they are treacherous, and generally guarded by both sand and grass bunkers. Several have deceptive false fronts.
If you’re going to score well on this course, your short game has to be well-tuned.
Course conditions were good for the spring. Spring rains had not left any of the puddles of water that are common on southeastern Michigan courses. The fairways had more weeds than I would have liked to see, but the tee boxes and grees were immaculate.
The course is walkable, but you have to be in good shape to do so. Between the hills and the distance between the holes, it can be quite a hike. They also don’t have pull carts available, so if you’re going to walk, you need to bring your own. I’m in good shape, but I wouldn’t even think of carrying on that course. (I walked and used my Sun Mountain Speed Cart).
Calderone Farms has a nice practice facility, including a secluded range and a large practice green. The “clubhouse” is a doublewide trailer with a small snack area. There is no pro shop to speak of, but they do have gloves, tees, cleats and balls.
My major complaint with the course is that there are no markers next to the tee boxes. I was told—correctly—that following the cart paths, will lead directly from hole to hole, but it was still disconcerting to get to a tee and to not be absolutely sure that it was the right one. The manager said that signs would detract from the natural beauty, but they could easily place a low numbered stone at each box.
The Calderone Golf Course Review was first published May 14, 2006.