Detroit Golf Club Review and Appreciation
Detroit Golf Club
Teacher’s Comments: An exclusive club with two classic Donald Ross courses. Home of the Rocket Mortgage Classic
Detroit Golf Club is an old and exclusive golf club located on the north side of the city near the Palmer Woods Historic District. The club boasts of two Donald Ross Courses dating to 1916, and a clubhouse designed by Albert Kahn — “The Architect of Detroit” — whose other famous works include the Art Deco Fisher Building, many of the University of Michigan’s Buildings and the WWII era Willow Run Bomber Plant.
Detroit Golf Club was for many years the professional home of Horton Smith, winner of the first Masters and a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. Another of the club’s professionals was Walter Burkemo, who won the 1953 PGA Championship and is a member of the Michigan Golf Hall of Fame.
I was fortunate to be invited to play (along with other media members) a round at the Detroit Golf Club ahead of the inaugural Rocket Mortgage Classic.
For the day, we played the North Course routing designed by the PGA TOUR for the Rocket Mortgage Classic. Holes had been renumbered, and were out of the order usually played by club members. One hole was borrowed from the South Course. It is all very confusing. There is the regular routing, the routing we were told the PGA TOUR would use a month out, and then the actual routing the TOUR used, which was different from what we were told.
I am a big fan of old school golf courses, and the Detroit Golf Club met all of my lofty expectations.
Holes at the Detroit Golf Club start by looking relatively easy, and then ramp up in difficulty with the approach and on the greens. Fairway bunkers are strategically place to pinch landing zones. Nearly all of the greens were elevated, which for the most part were the only relief on an otherwise flat course. Mature trees line nearly every hole.
Detroit Golf Club is a design that rewards good decision making and accurate shots.
For the PGA TOUR players at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the North Course stretched to 7, 334 yards, and played to a 75.0/115. This is somewhat different from the regular course, however, because the PGA TOUR “borrows” a hole from the South for the Rocket Mortgage Classic.
The North Course as the members play it is 7, 013 yards at the tips, playing to a 70/113. The middle tees measure 6, 245 and play to a 71.9/127.
My favorite hole was the one we played as the ninth, but ultimately was the second in the Rocket Mortgage Classic’s routing.
From the tips, the ninth is a 435 yard par 4. From the tees I played, it came in at 379. The fairway is tight, with bunkers on the right to catch slicers. A line of trees on the left will catch hookers (like myself). About two thirds of the way down, three bunkers slash across the fairway to catch those who hit the ball too far. The green is large, sloping toward the front, with bunkers on the flanks.
I think that the par threes at Detroit Golf Club also are notable. The seventh (number 9 at the Rocket Mortgage Classic) is one of a few holes on the course with natural elevation changes. The tees are on one knoll, and shots must carry 200 yards across a depression back uphill to the green on a knoll in the distance. Bunkers left and and right are easy to find.
The par three fifteenth was a marquee hole at the Rocket Mortgage Classic. It is short, at just 160 yards from the tips, but the small elevated green is treacherous. There are deep bunkers surrounding the postage stamp, waiting for even the slightest miscue.
The 167 yard par three third features another green on a plateau, surrounded by bunkers. These are among the toughest short par threes I have found.
In truth, I could go on, because I didn’t think that there was a bad — or even a mediocre — hole on the course. I truly enjoyed every shot.
Conditions on the day I played — as you might expect — were excellent. There was, however, quite a bit of construction going on for the tournament, and forgiveness was needed for several areas where the interests of good grooming collided with the necessity for hauling in building materials.
Detroit Golf Club is a great course, and if you get the chance to play, jump at it. For my part, I am hoping to one day get a chance to play the South Course (as well as a round on the North using its regular routing).
A course tour of Detroit Golf Club follows. As noted above, it’s a bit confusing. The day I played, it was set up for what was thought to be the Rocket Mortgage Classic — including borrowing a hole from the South Course — but the routing was later changed by the PGA TOUR once again.
The Detroit Golf Club Review And Appreciation was first published September 26, 2019, from photos and notes taken on a round in June 2019.